What Will This Book Be Out in The World?
It’s just the very tippy top of Carnival season here in New Orleans. Next weekend is our first neighborhood parade, and this whole week the weather has been nice, sort of “walk around in light jacket at night with a smile on your face” weather, and people have been out, and in a good mood, and starting to have a little fun. Last night I went to a bonfire in the neighborhood and had one perfect bourbon with a big ice cube and a thin slice of King Cake and I walked home feeling warm and with my hair smelling like smoke. I find whatever is going on my life this time of year, no matter what, Carnival is always Carnival, and there are always at least a few nice moments to be had.
The rest of the time I’ve been working on the 1000 WORDS book, finalizing a new draft, working off notes from my editor and agent, both of whom have great big brains. Yesterday I slotted the last piece of content into place. While I still have major line edits to go on this round, it feels like at least I’ve said everything I need to say in this book. It’s not finished, but the thoughts are complete. I imagine I’ll be able to sign off on the text completely sometime in April after I finish working with the copy edits. As a reminder, I started working on this book in earnest in October. Now I can say I know how to crash a book. (Let me only do this once in my life.)
Slotting that last piece into place felt like a real moment of triumph. I have learned by now that the real wins come in the smaller successes. Solving a single complicated problem or even just writing a sentence that you know people are going to like, one that will stick around in people’s minds for a while — that is the real treasure we’re hunting for here. The book, the end product, it’s great, too, yes. But I ride higher off the accrual of small successes. That’s what keeps me afloat in my life.
While the text of the book is not finished, we have enough of an idea of what it could be to trigger other steps in the publishing process. This week, my editor, agent and I had a call about the book design, including its cover. It’s honestly one of the more fun calls you can have, to talk about art and design, at the beginning of the process. Anything can happen, and we all still have the biggest dreams for a book, nary a concession or a compromise has been made yet.
I was talking about how I wanted the book to be something you picked up at the store but also kept on your desk, too, as a resource, in case you ever needed a little pick me up or to feel less alone or just to have someone telling you that you can. It’s something that has to feel instantly relevant in the shop, but I’d also love it if the reader wanted to keep it close. So I wanted it to feel accessible, clean, minimal, available, but also kind of cool, a hint of a punkiness, or sparkiness. This is, after all, a book about getting your damn work done.
Whereas perhaps with a literary fiction cover design, the look of it might convince you to pick up in a store and feel like you needed to read it immediately. A certain kind of urgency. Or perhaps you would enjoy taking it with you to a cafe to show off that you’re reading it, like walking around with a piece of art in your hand, with the idea that when you’re done reading, it would look gorgeous on your shelf. And there needs to be more of a narrative obviously with fiction, a hint of the story contained within. Or maybe some intrigue or a vibe. The whole package should be consistent with the expression that this book is a complete piece of art.
I loved this attitude and idea a lot:
So positive and forward-thinking! What a great exercise when you need a little break from the writing. It’s another way to think about, talk about your work, these visual collections. Even just describing the books up above as I have, and thinking about the experience I want the reader to have with the final product, clarified some thoughts I have about what these books are. It’s a fun daydream, too. What will this book look like someday? What will this book be out in the world?
I hope everyone’s writing is going well out there. January is the new September as far as I’m concerned. Back to school, get sharp, be directed. A time, also, to be contemplative about your work and the kind of writer you want to be, the kind of book you want to write.
Have a good week,
You are reading Craft Talk, the home of #1000wordsofsummer and also a weekly newsletter about writing from Jami Attenberg. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can, which are open to paid subscribers. You can subscribe here or give a gift subscription here. (If you are a teacher let me know, and I will give you a free subscription.) Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to various cultural, educational, and social justice organizations in New Orleans (and sometimes elsewhere). This week’s donation went to House of Tulip.