So, here’s some news: I’m no longer putting together a collection of Whatever entries. I’m putting together two. I’m spinning off the writing entries into their own book.
The details: I was compiling the chapter on writing for Hate Mail, adding various pieces just like I did with the rest of the chapters. After a little while, I thought to myself that the chapter looked a little long; I’m aiming for each chapter to be about 8,000 words, and this one seemed a bit longer than that. So I did a word count, and I was right: I had about 25,000 words. Which — I’m sure you’ll agree — is nowhere close to 8,000. And this was without actually adding my “Utterly Useless Writing Advice” entry, because it in itself was 8k words. There was no way I was going to be able to get all the writing pieces into the book that I would want or that you folks told me you wanted to see in the collection (The 120,000 word first draft estimate of Hate Mail I noted here is actually the book without the writing chapter in it).
So I thought, screw it, let’s see if I have enough good entries about writing to make an actual book. By the time I was through collecting I was up above 60,000 words, which is more than enough. So I sounded out Subterranean’s Bill Schafer about spinning off the writing entries into their own book. He liked the idea, so that’s what we’re going to do. I’m thinking of calling it Utterly Useless: Scalzi on Writing, but we’ll have to see what Bill thinks about that. It may be a little too arch for its own good. Naturally, I am open to suggestions from the peanut gallery as well.
The current plan is to release Hate Mail and Utterly Useless simultaneously over the summer, a la Use Your Illusion I & II (or, for those of you who know Axl Rose only as a creepy washed-up has-been who used to be in a band with the guys from Velvet Revolver, a la Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn). However, while the books are being released at the same time, the two will have different release philosophies. Hate Mail is a wide-release trade paperback aimed at a general book audience, with a limited-edition hardcover for collectors. Utterly Useless, on the other hand, will exist primarily as limited edition hardcover release for a select audience (Whatever readers and/or folks interested in the writing life seem like a good core audience here) but will also be released freely as an e-book for people to check out and share online. Basically, if you’re interested in one or both books, you can mix and match the formats to get a combination that fits your needs. Because I’m all about choice.
I’m very happy that we’re spinning off the writing material into its own book. Writing about writing is a little “inside pool” for a general audience, so the Whatever writing entries weren’t necessarily a good fit for Hate Mail. On the other hand, I think folks who are interested in the writing life don’t necessarily want to have to wade through entries on politics or parenting or whatever to get to what interests them. So now there’s a general collection for a general audience, and a specific collection for a specific audience. For me, it’s not substantially more work because the compiling has already been done, and now I have a book on writing to my credit, which is something I wanted to have before I died. So it’s the best of both worlds, both for me as an author, and, I suspect, for readers as well.
As always, I’ll provide more details when I have more details to share. But those of you who were hoping there would be a lot of writing entries in the book: You’re about to get your wish.