An excellent post on resisting the urge to default to simple in writing outside the web. My favorite line: "But there is a growing trend of distilling writing down till it’s so lean that none of the fat that marbles a text with an author’s personality exists. What’s left is a dry piece of meat that has no flavor." Just click the pic to open the post.
Record Producers: Steven Leavitt and Stephen Dubner
Freakonomics modeled a new way to experience non-fiction by organizing the content in discrete, stand-alone chapters.
Taking nothing away from the jarring freshness of the material, Levitt and Dubner produced the book as they wrote it. Think record producers, and record producers have learned to live in a random access world. Some are even thriving. Like the title of track 3? Go there first.
With chapter titles like How is the Ku Klux Klan like a group of Real Estate Agents? and What makes a Perfect Parent? they are almost daring you to abandon the linear structure of sequential chapters and dive into what grabs you, in the order that it grabs you, and when nothing is grabbing you, let the book go and walk away smarter.
Leavitt and Dubner cop to their scatter shot attack on conventional wisdom.The targets are all over the cultural and demographic map.Yet, once you lock onto their approach that deftly delinks correlation and causality, it’s tempting to grab another chapter.Maybe it’s the next chapter, or maybe not, but you keep reading.And maybe you realize that you just read the book without “reading the book.”
So this is what I tell my author / clients: Let’s think about ways to organize the content so it rewards our readers even if they only read a few chapters, even if they don’t start at the beginning.Let’s produce this book as we write it.
Our job is to build a narrative thesis that arcs from the first page to the last, and if we build it right they may come.We’d like that, and we’ll work to earn it, but we shouldn’t insist on it.
Readers are busy and smart.Let’s give them credit for both, then hand them the remote.
Seth Godin’s idea of Tribes has entered the cultural conversation with the same insistence as Gladwell’s Tipping Point.If either hadn’t been written, they would have shown up anyway.
Now Godin has announced he’s leaving traditional publishing.He’s not walking away as much as he’s simply walking the walk of Brand Seth. No real news here.
That's why i was delighted to see that Publishing Perspectives gives most of this post to another Seth, Seth Harwood…a novelist, not a successful B2B author on his fourth self-published title. Harwood’s experience is a tutorial for all authors.He’s working harder but I’ll bet he’s having a lot more fun too.
UPDATE: Seth Harwood wrote to me with a kind note of confirmation...
Thanks for your comments on Mike Springer's Seth Godin article. You're absolutely right: I'm working harder but also having way more fun. Once I started connecting with an audience out there it turned things way around for me as an author, in much more important ways than financial.
Thanks too for the Tweet.
See you around, Seth
UPDATE II:Seth's site has a full library of good content, including his crime/mystery podio series "Jack Wakes Up." It's pretty good too.
I recently participated in a call with Howard Behar, the former president of Starbucks and author of It’s Not About the Coffee.Leading the call was Janet Goldstein, Howard’s ghostwriter.It was an energizing conversation on their collaboration, on how a community has formed around the book, and on the benefit of reading the manuscript aloud.You can download a mp3 of the call below.
We need more transparency in ghostwriting, not more squeamishness.
The ghostwriter label channels the collective unease of taking credit for a book in which every word didn’t flow from our own pen. So we cover it with a cloak of invisibility and make it vaguely mysterious.I’m fine with invisibility, it’s the mystery that irks me.
I help professionals transform their business model or viewpoints into a book.We work face-to-face, voice-to-voice, in detailed explorations of their ideas.
Then I retreat, absorb, and write from recorded transcripts that capture both the content and voice--not my voice, but my author/client’s voice.
With a working manuscript in front of us, we begin again--shaping the manuscript into a book.Fidelity to the ideas isn’t enough; the author/client’s voice must inhabit every word.
It’s never easy, and it getting it right can be hard as hell. But there’s nothing shadowy about it, and my author/clients talk about the details of our collaboration without apology.No secrets.No ghosts.
When I’ve written a book that makes a great read of an original idea, I don’t need my name on the cover.But I will keep clanking around here and there, making enough noise so that the honorable work of writing is visible under the ghost’s sheet.