Evolution Of A Book, Part 2

By | Wednesday, November 11, 2009 Leave a Comment
Of course, deciding to write a book is pretty different than actually sitting down and writing one. So how did I go about writing Comic Book Fanthropology, never having written a book before?

The first thing I did was take inventory of what I have already written. Not so much the content of individual pieces, but the styles, themes and structures that I know I can work with. If I was going to attempt something new, I should use as much as I can built off what I know. Similarly, I wanted to make a conscious note of things I'm uncomfortable with, so I could avoid any major problems that might come with them.

One of the "concerns" (for lack of a better word) I had was that I'm not very good at formally structuring and outlining my work in advance. My tendency as a writer is to determine my start and end points, roll around some ideas in my head for a while, and then just start writing. I let the words flow out as naturally as I can, and just try to ensure that each sentence takes me a step closer to where I want to end up. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this approach, but it does seem to work for me. I actually developed this in high school, doing those classic five-paragraph essays, and I'm usually able to extrapolate longer ideas well enough that I can bang out a 10-20 page essay with little difficulty. But something as broad in scope as a whole book? Maybe I could do that, too, but I didn't want to chance it.

So my first order of business was to develop a structure for my book that took advantage of my typical writing process. Well, I say "structure" but it was barely that formal. What I did was basically divide the overall topic (comic book fandom) into a series of smaller sub-topics. Some were concise and definable ideas (e.g. defining fandom or a brief history of fandom) but some were a little more abstract (e.g. I wanted to spend some time speaking to the notion of fans feeling a sense of ownership of the characters they read about). I wrote down a couple of words to remind myself what that sub-topic was, and ordered them in a way that seemed to make the most sense.

What that did for me was effectively eliminate the need to write a whole book. Really, all I had to do at that point was write a series of 10-20 page essays. I had specifically designed the way the book was laid out to cater to what I consider my writing strengths. Once I had these sub-topics to focus on, I could just roll around ideas about, for example, defining fandom for a while and then just start writing. Once I'd finished that, I'd roll around ideas for my next topic and start writing that. In theory, it would end up not unlike University Press books which have a number of authors contributing individual essays on a general subject. Just throw an "Introduction" and "Conclusion" at either end, and I've got my Table of Contents.

As for the actual writing itself, I opted to do that in Google Docs. I wanted to write the book outside of anything I might use to lay the book out to ensure that I would not be worrying myself about line breaks and page count and whatnot. I wanted to write whatever I needed to write and focus on getting my points across more than how it might look when it was formatted. Using Google Docs, as opposed to OpenOffice or Word or whatever, also allowed me to write from any location with an Internet connection. Any time I had an idea or note I wanted to add, I could drop that in place regardless of where I happened to be, and I didn't need to worry about making sure I had the right version copied to the right drive or anything.

So my original document looked something like this...
Defining Fandom
A Brief History
Us vs. Them
Circles of Tribalism
I Yam What I Yam
Promoted from Captain Marvel to Major Victory
What's Yours Is Mine
Participatory Culture
Blurring the Lines

Up next: research!
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