Monday, October 01, 2007

When Completing a Book Depends on Someone Else

As noted a few posts back, Blogging Heroes is complete, as far as I know. I spent part of September going over the galleys and answering a few last-minute editorial and production questions. The cover looks good, and I assume the whole package will be sent to the printer any time now.
While we're waiting for copies, I'd like to talk about writing the book.

As a rule, projects that are simple in appearance turn out to have all sorts of complications. If you’ve ever built a deck or planned a cross-country trip, you know that. So it was with this book. Asking a bunch of bloggers questions about blogging, and putting the questions and answers into a book seems simple enough. But, as I knew going in, there would be far more to it than that.

For one thing, the interviews would have to be edited, reviewed by the subjects, and edited again. You can't go with straight transcription in a book--it ends up reading a deposition, like the Warren Commission's report. You have to smooth out the hesitations, stutterings, repetitions, you know's, and al the other little peculiarities of human speech that don't translate well to print. Each interview should be conducted like a conversation, and be written to read like a conversation--while retaining the original meaning of the interview subjects' words.

Beyond that, the chapters would need an introduction, with background about the blog and relevant biographical material on the blogger. I felt confident enough about that part (the last biography I wrote made The New York Times bestseller list). Then there would be a Preface and Introduction to write, plus various other front matter and back matter elements. (The publisher would find an indexer to create the Index. That was just as well; indexing is a specialized skill. Check out a book titled Indexing Books, by Nancy C. Mulvany, to see what I mean.)

That gave me the skeleton. I knew that the really difficult parts would come later, in the form of a seemingly endless series of complications, unforeseen events, and peculiar little problems that accompany the writing of just about any book.

This one would turn out to have some peculiar problems, indeed--largely because writing it depended on other people. The more people you add to anything, the greater the chances of things going wrong--or at least in unforeseeable directions. And I had several dozen people to deal with in writing this book. (I should note that the editors didn't generate problems; they're always a factor in writing a book, and they are there to help solve problems.) Equipment problems figured in the mix, too.

Before I finished writng the book, I would feel a lot like the guy who said, "It's hard to remember that you started out to drain the swamp when you're up to your ass in alligators!"
Stay tuned for more.


Mike Drips said...

I'm not sure if you should title your book "Blogging Heros" or "Blogging Egos". I would choose the latter title, and writing a calling them "Heros" just adds to their entire world of name dropping "A-list" folks, who at the end of the day truly contribute very little to the real world.

Michael A. Banks said...

Good point, Mike. But someone else came up with the title. Interstingly, few of my non-fiction books have come out with my working titles, though my novels and short stories are always published with the titles I gave them.