Monday, June 13, 2011

a guide to writers in the 21st century

Book Life, by Jeff Vandermere (San Francisco, Tachyon, ISBN 1-892391-90-2), subtitled "Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century," is well worthwhile for any writer. It is neither a how-to-write book nor an inspirational work of the Julia Cameron variety. Rather, it advises writers as to how to conduct themselves when using the new media, and how to plan for the long haul.

Vander Meer believes in setting goals in writing, assessing ones strengths and weaknesses, and formulating a five year plan, a one year plan, and monthly and weekly task lists. To operate from a to-do list made daily is to think tactically rather than strategically, he says.

"Be yourself" is another key piece of advice. Choose the type of internet presence that feels right for you, and consider the kinds of information you are willing to share with the world. When it comes to publicizing your books, "define your level of effort", he advises, and don't feel that you have to follow a certain course just because others are doing it.

His statement that "it requires effort to re-brand yourself" struck a chord with me. Earlier in my writing life I taught courses on memoir-writing, and although I have been publishing fiction for many years now and have won awards for my fiction, people still ask me to teach courses in life writing.

Vander Meer tells new writers that "there is not always a link between improved technology and greater efficiency" and that "new media breed a sense of swift entitlement and accomplishment." This is definitely food for thought, as is the remark, which he quotes from Nathan Ballingrud, that "What will stunt your writing is a lack of emotional and cultural experience.'

The items I have quoted or paraphrased above are only a small sample of the helpful information in Book Life. Read it for yourself.

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