Friday, October 26, 2007

Writing Blogging Heroes, Part 1 (Getting Started)

(Note: Want to sample Blogging Heroes? You can read the chapter with video-blogger Steve Garfield's interview at Steve's blog, Also, Chris Anderson has posted his interview:

Blogging Heroes is complete. 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 Blogging Heroes.

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. This book is a good example. 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 was far more to it than that.

You can't go with bare Q and A. That's rarely attractive. More often than not, it’s boring—like reading a deposition. Interviews (one per chapter) require careful editing, to smooth out the hesitations, stutterings, repetitions, you know's, and the other little peculiarities of human speech that make transcriptions difficult to read. And each interview must read like a conversation. 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 the Introduction, and 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.

Before I finished, I would feel like the guy who said, "It's hard to remember that you started out to drain the swamp when you're up to your knees in alligators!"

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