As someone who’s written several books on Fortean phenomena, I occasionally receive emails from people wanting to do the same, usually requesting advice on how to get started. In this two part article, we’ll look at what it takes to write a Fortean book. We’ll also discuss such vital questions as: Is writing a book profitable?
I wrote countless articles before I tried my hand at writing a book. There are only a handful of magazines around that publish Fortean material. The best-known are FATE, Fortean Times, Nexus, and New Dawn. If your work hasn’t already appeared in one or more of these publications, it’s doubtful you have the necessary experience as a writer to tackle a book project.
Obviously, writing a book is far more challenging than writing an article. The average length of a magazine article is 3,500 words. A typical non-fiction book, on the other hand, is approximately 100,000 words. My last book was 88,000 words. Completing a project of such length requires an enormous amount of time, energy, commitment, and passion.
It takes me nine months to a year to write a book. I know of several Fortean authors who can complete a book in three to six months. The reason they’re so prolific is simple: money. In order to make a living as a writer, you need to churn out a lot of work. Certainly you need to write every day. I know plenty of writers who spend more time talking about writing than actually writing. Let’s face it: writing is hard work.
Writing and research go hand in hand. Some authors spend years researching their chosen topic before advancing to the writing stage of the project. You can never do too much research. However, due to the fact that time is money, it’s common for an author to spend no more than a few months on the research stage of a project.
There are many different methods of research. Using the internet, reading books and articles, and interviewing people are among the most common. Sadly, I’ve noticed, a lot of books being published these days, particularly on Fortean topics, are the product of internet research alone. A book could hardly be considered well-researched if most of the information within it originated from Wikipedia articles.
Before you sit down to write (or do research for) your book, you need to ask whether your chosen topic will attract sufficient interest from readers. After all, the primary purpose of a book is to be read and enjoyed by others. What’s the point of writing a book that very few people are going to want to read (or indeed buy)? Perhaps your chosen topic is one that’s been covered exhaustively in other books. Or perhaps it’s simply dull.
The biggest mistake, in my opinion, that a potential book author can make is to approach his or her project in an overly subjective manner. I know a young woman who wrote an entire book on her perspective of the paranormal. Her book, although not without merit, was subjective to the point of being a kind of diary. It’s almost as if she wrote it for herself. It’s okay to write for yourself, of course, but not if you want others to read your work. Not surprisingly, the author in question was unable to find a publisher for her book, so ended up having it self-published.
In part two of this article, we’ll delve deeper into what it takes to write a Fortean book. If you have attempted, or are currently attempting, to write a Fortean book and would like to share your experience of this, I encourage you to post a comment below.