Book update #2: I have a (very rough) draft!

Here’s a celebratory screencap! I thought of printing off the pages and taking a photo of them all stacked up for the sake of ~aesthetic, but 248 pages is an awful lot of paper just for a photo, especially since I’m at a stage where the next step is more typing, not writing stuff in red ink in the margins. So you’re getting a screencap and some thoughts about writing instead.

(Previously: Book update #1: I’m writing a book about internet language!)

To put this achievement into context, my target wordcount is 80k words, which is a typical length for a book in the pop science genre (and in fact, pretty typical for fiction as well). For example, that’s halfway between the lengths of the first and second Harry Potter books. So 100k words is exciting because it means I definitely have at least enough to say about internet language to fill a book! I mean, I thought I did, that’s why I signed a contract to write it, and Penguin thought I did, or they wouldn’t have offered it to me. But it’s nice to know for sure.

However, these are not final words — I still have a lot of work to do on them. The way I’m going about drafting is that I first created a document with all the chapter divisions that were in my book proposal, and then I started throwing in rough thoughts and freewriting and snippets from various blog posts and my research document in under their appropriate chapters, making further subheadings as I went along. This let me see how much material there was in each chapter, so I ended up splitting one chapter in half, recombining a couple others, and changing the ordering several times. I had a daily wordcount goal, NaNoWriMo-style, to keep myself focussed on getting ideas down on the page, and so I wouldn’t get distracted about things like precise wording or capitalization and punctuation.

The next step, what I’m working on now, is to do the part where I take all these assorted thoughts and sort them out into real paragraphs that follow each other in a logical sequence — in the process hopefully cutting at least 20k words. After that, I can start showing the draft to my editor and various beta readers, since at the moment there’s no point in someone telling me “um this is not how you paragraph.” It also doesn’t make sense to use wordcount as a target anymore, so I’ve switched to keeping track of pomodoros and sections instead.

Content-wise, I can’t say much yet, but a big overarching issue that I’ve been working on is how to write a book about the internet that won’t be out of date before it’s even published. One way I’m addressing this is by making the chapters about the themes and the problems we’re trying to solve in internet language, rather than the particular ways that we’re currently solving them.

For example, I’ve talked a lot about emoji, so several people have (very reasonably) asked if there’s going to be an emoji chapter. But just like emoji are currently displacing emoticons, emoji themselves might get replaced by some newer thing in a few years. So instead of an emoji chapter, I have an emotions chapter. Of course it’s going to include emoji, but it’s going to put them in a broader context of other ways that we convey emotion online. Emoji might just be a trend, but emotions have been around for all of recorded history and presumably earlier — I feel like they’re a pretty safe bet.

Here’s a distinctly uninformative ~sneak peek~ of some things that will definitely not be in the next draft:

“idk” 32 times
“lol” 122 times
“wtf” 25 times

“so maybe i’m just swapping the order of chapters 9 and 10? idk [cut for spoilery discussion] hm k i buy that for now, done, moved. k battery officially dead”

(Some of the idk/lol/wtf instances are examples and will stay in, but since one of the ways I deal with writer’s block is by codeswitching into internet slang, well…there are definitely more of these than necessary at the moment. 10/10 would recommend codeswitching as a writer’s block strategy though.)

The writing advice I’ve found most useful as I’ve been working on this is from a quote that I saw on tumblr but of course I can’t find it now (it might have been by Neil Gaiman?). Anyway, it goes something like: “How do you write a book? Well, I don’t sit down each day and think ‘I need to write a book.’ I think ‘I need to finish chapter three’ or ‘I need to figure out what’s going on in this section.’ And when I add all those tasks up together, I’ve written a book.” If anyone can find the original version of this quote, do let me know! In the meantime, perhaps this paraphrased version will be helpful to someone.

I’ve also made a book update email list, so you can put your email here for very occasional book updates if you want to make sure that you don’t miss it on social media. (The signup link is embedded on the All Things Linguistic facebook page, but that was just the easiest way to host a MailChimp signup form if I didn’t want to inflict annoying popups on you all — it’s not actually a facebook thing.) Also, I won’t spam you or do other nefarious things with your email, it’s just for a couple book updates.

While we’re at it, the regular kinds of updates, as usual, can be had as daily blog posts via rss, tumblr, twitter, facebook, or google+; as monthly summaries via wordpress/email; and as mostly but not entirely linguistic thoughts at unpredictable intervals on my personal twitter (I made a great garden path joke there yesterday, so you should definitely check that out).


Good continued booking!

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