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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This week in book-writing advice

Time for another round of book-writing advice. These pieces of advice are never meant to be the word on book writing. Rather, I'm sharing some of the many things I learned while writing Post, and what I'm currently experiencing with When We Were the Kids.

An outline is a great thing
There's nothing more frustrating than a bunch of general ideas in your head and a blank page staring back at you. What's helped me is writing out a very, very loose outline. Instead of having the daunting task of writing lengthy paragraphs, it's OK to start out with single sentences or just words. More people are going to see the final results, so you can really do whatever you want that gets you to the end result.

In the case of the Braid chapter in Post, I thought off the top of my head a handful of things I wanted to explore and/or talk about in the chapter. Words like "Age of Octeen," "break-up," "reunion" were written out and filled in much later. I had an idea to start the chapter out with Bob Nanna's backstory, and when I did my interview with him, I came back to the chapter with the new information I got. The same went with all of the other band members. Over a few months of research, and after working on other chapters at the same time, I had the rough form of what looked like a complete chapter.

Now, with When We Were the Kids, the chapter rundown is a little vague. The rundown I've used since I started writing it is by year. Since 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997 (as well as a chapter about events taking place ten years later) are the main years I'm covering, I think it makes sense to cut up the chapters by year. Of course, this could all change. I could have a ton of sub-chapters, a la The Other Hollywood. I don't know, but that's part of the fun in writing. You just write and see how the material develops.

Books stick around
As I've said before, writing and publishing a book is making a document. Whether or not you wrote your book to be read for the future generations to come, it's probably going to be read by future generations to come. So, be aware that making bold statements about what's happening right now is bound to be different in the near future. A particular trend in music might be the coolest thing right now and might still be cool six months from now, but I wouldn't suggest writing about this trend like there is no tomorrow or there is no past. Write from your heart.

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