A Spin-Off

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.

22 thoughts on “A Spin-Off

  1. An awesome idea, John. Just think, I’m going to have 4 books of yours in my collection, which I think puts you in 2nd place, after JK Rowling and before Scott Adams.

  2. Good thinking. Your writing advice is what drew me to your blog. I’ve enjoyed the mix of topics here, but I’m far more likely to buy Utterly Useless than I am Hate Mail, with just one chapter on writing.

  3. Both sound good to me!

    I like Utterly Useless… but I could see an argument that it might not be a great title for those who are starting out unfamiliar with you and your work. OTOH are you guessing that it’ll sell more to people who have already been reading you? dunno

  4. Yay! I was looking forward to “Hate Mail,” but now I’m even more excited about “Utterly Useless.” Like many others, it was the “Utterly Useless” entries that got me here in the first place.

    For some reason, I keep reading “Utterly Useless” as “Utterly Ulysses.” I think I need some more coffee.

  5. John,

    I’m so glad you’re doing this! I love your writing advice, and have followed a lot of it in my slightly pitiful writing career. To have them all together in one place (well, one place that doesn’t require searching) would be a terrific tool to have.

  6. So, is there going to be any revision for the writing book? It seems like a book like that would work better if it were arranged with some method to it, rather than just presented as a sequence of blog posts. I have to admit, though (as someone who’s written a few writing books), I’ve always enjoyed your posts on writing, so I’m sure whatever you do will be great.

  7. I will undoubtedly do some re-sequencing for the writing pieces — generally speaking there’s no need to present them in chronological order.

  8. Screw Bill, we’re the readers! ;)

    Go with the title, even if I didn’t know you (lemme hide the binoculars), that would intrigue me enough to pick it up.

    But then I pick up shiny things from the floor of the bus.

  9. Taking another set of classes this quarter, I was asked to buy yet another set of “how to write!” books, which brings my total collection up to “really, really too big now.” I was never too interested in the genre and completely lost what interest I had after being asked to read 4 how to write poetry & 4 how to write fiction books at once before teaching a creative writing course to high school students. 99% of the material in 99% of the books is either identical or condescending or both.

    Which is why it’s really nice to hear about a book that will contain some sarcasm & style.

  10. John,

    I guess I meant more than just re-ordering. I was thinking more along the lines of revision — you know, combining and integrating posts. OTOH, I’ve been experimenting with the blog-to-book form (consolidating Cognitive Daily posts into a book proposal), and I find that while I tend to put a lot of connective tissue between posts, or cut out now-irrelevant material, I don’t do much revision of the posts themselves. So maybe that’ll be the sort of revision you’ll do as well.

  11. Being poor is a child learning adults tricks and excuses to hide his/ her poverty to themselves, never mind hiding it from others. In my case never getting one measly invite to a Birthday Party hurt, my sisters used to leave their boyfriends on the corner of a posh area in order to walk home to Happyville, then dash through the side streets to Dumpsville, poverty is putting carpets on the bed because your feet are freezing. Does poverty hurt, take it from me it does, its a blaze, a runaway fire, a disaster, it builds wary minds, ruins friendships, and leaves a bad taste for evermore. And you hate inside and count the pennies and never get a Xmas cake or a birthday cardm and yo claim “You never ever noticed the insults”.

  12. Looking forward to both books. Have a ton of title suggestions (writing titles much easier than writing books, dontchaknow)but am pruning it down to 3: kill your children as Hemingway advised.

    1. LOVE LETTERS TO A YOUNG MUSE – WRTING ON AND OFF THE INTERNET

    2. LOVE LETTERS: BUILDING A GOOD STORY

    3. WHATEVER WORKS: SCALZI ON WRITING

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