Here’s the almost-final cover of Booklife: Strategies & Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer, art and design by John Coulthart. I’m pleased to note that Juliet Ulman is doing the developmental edit. Thanks also to Ann, who read the manuscript in several iterations and helped me make major changes, as well as Matt Staggs, who contributed mightily (as did others I will talk about later). (Check out Coulthart’s post on the process to get to the final cover, including prior iterations; some of those ideas will be re-used for other books, where they’ll work better.)
Writing Booklife has been a really interesting experience, as certain sections provided me with an opportunity to test the ideal against the reality. In fact, the act of writing Booklife forced me to deviate from some of the advice in the book, which is something I then documented in the book. I’m also proud of the fact there are so many voices in the book–taken from this blog, from other writers, and from the classics. While it’s important to embrace the new, it’s also important to understand tradition–and not to rush blindly to accept new approaches without fully analyzing what their impact and effect.
In that context, I was frankly astonished by some of the statements that came out of the new media conference in New York City recently. I understand that some speakers are dealing in the theoretical, but some of it seemed completely divorced from the reality on the ground. Some of it also seemed to misunderstand the relationship between the electronic and the real world–and especially to misunderstand how that relationship continues to change among the next generation of writers and readers. You’re not seeing a straightforward abandonment of the physical world, for example. It’s more nuanced than that. I also think most people still aren’t thinking strategically, too wound up in the eye candy of the new, as well. It’s easy to mistake the tool for the goal. Finally, anybody who reflexively sounds the death knell of the book is guilty of creating a defeatist atmosphere in which perception becomes reality, and I reject that attitude entirely.
Anyway, here’s part of the rough draft (pre-developmental/copy edit) of the introduction to Booklife.
Are You Ready to Embrace a Booklife?
The world has changed, and with it the art and craft of writing. In addition to the traditional difficulties of putting pen to paper, writers must now consider and internalize a slew of â€œnew mediaâ€ opportunitiesâ€”blogs, social networks, mini-feeds, and podcasts, to name just a few. This has forever altered the relationship between writers and their readers, their publishers, and their work.
Booklife will provide you with strategic and tactical intel to thrive in this new environment. It will help you reach your full potential in both your writing goals and your career goals. Whether youâ€™re a beginning, intermediate, or advanced writer, self-published, published in the independent press or by large New York commercial conglomerates, this book will be of value to you. Full-time and part-time writers, fiction writers and nonfiction writers alike can leverage this information and advice. All you need to bring to Booklife is your own curiosity, openness to new ideas, willingness to work hard, and, of course, a passion for writing.
Further, the information in this book will help you to become more productive, focused, and savvyâ€”and less stressed or fragmented. You can balance writing and promotion, interact with the readers using new technologies and keep enough private space to be fulfilled in your creative life. No shortcuts can replace perseverance and hard work, but Booklife can significantly reduce your learning curve and give you new, energizing strategies.
Iâ€™ve used the metaphor of a book life because I believe in visualization to achieve goals. In addition to the traditional paper-pulp-glue versions, a â€œbookâ€ in the context of Booklife can be any creative project that requires text, including podcasts, e-books, and short stories posted online. And anything can contribute to your booklife in a positive and lasting way, from a series of blog posts to a short YouTube video adaptation of your novel. The term â€œbookâ€ is just the most potent, most concrete anchor a writer can visualize as the end result of his or her labor.
Booklife is also infused with the spirit of a love for writing and of community. Iâ€™m optimistic about the future of the written word, in whatever form it may take, and Booklife is a reflection of that optimism. Life is an amazing journey, and this book recognizes that creativity and personal growth are an important part of that journey.
How to Use this Book
Depending on your interests and experience, you can dip into this book at any point. Many of the topics covered are universalâ€”issues that creative people have faced for thousands of years, discussed in the context of our modern era, including new media.
However, to experience the full effect, I suggest you give Booklife a careful read from beginning to end. Iâ€™ve separated out career-oriented information from creativity by structuring this book around your Public Booklife and your Private Booklife. Iâ€™ve even included a Peace of Mind section between the two because I believe so strongly that you must have a partition between what you do â€œout in the worldâ€ and what you do while youâ€™re writing.
One of the prime tenants of Booklife is that your public and private book lives work in tandem, but also that you must think of them as completely separate. Writers get into trouble otherwise. The minute you start thinking about how to market or leverage something while writing, youâ€™ve lost the focus you need to make your work the best it can possibly be.
What constitutes â€œseparationâ€? Iâ€™d define it as both physical and mental. You must be able to set one aside, out of your mind, while engaged in the other. You must be able to create a mental space–even imagine a wall between the two if it helps. It also helps if you can create a physical separation, too, through creative use of time and space. Compartmentalizing the time spent on your private work and your public work, sticking to a schedule, will provide the necessary buffer. Physically doing one type of work in one location and the other type somewhere elseâ€”even if itâ€™s just across the room at a different deskâ€”will reinforce this barrier in your mind. (Many of the ideas in this book are ultimately about strengthening your ability to be two very different creatures at very different times.)
Please note that Booklife is not a technical guide on how to set up a blog, website, MySpace page or Facebook account. Such information quickly becomes dated due to the way even established web tools change and evolveâ€”within in days, weeks and months, not years. Booklife is also not a writing instruction book, although the Private Booklife section includes topics like how to recharge your creativity.