Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Foreword March! – How to Write a Fantastic Foreword

So, you’ve been asked to write a foreword to a book, hmm? To begin with, kudos and congratulations are in order. Forewords aren’t written by just anyone, you know. Generally, the only people who are asked to write such things are Those Who Matter.

The foreword serves to introduce the author and the book to the world at large. You have been asked to write it because you have paid your dues in some manner. Maybe you are a recognizable name within a certain field. Perhaps you have distinguished yourself in a way that is relevant to the book’s subject. Perchance you’re just the most famous person the author knows and he or she is calling in a favor.

So – yay, you! Now what do you do?

First, read yesterday’s blog. It explains what a foreword is, what purpose it serves, and why it’s good for you to write one. Go ahead. It’ll take you three minutes. It took me longer than that to write it, and it may help shave hours of painful head banging against whatever wall may be nearby. I’ll wait…

Next, if possible, get your hands on the manuscript you’ll be forewording. If you are the conscientious sort, and if it interests you, read it. If you’re not (or it doesn’t), at least skim the Table of Contents or read a random chapter on something you find worthwhile.

Then, write out a short anecdote about something that happened in your life that has some bearing – no matter how far-fetched – on what the book is about. If you’re not sure of the book’s purpose, write about something that relates to the chapter you just read.

Feel free to name-drop shamelessly here. If you won an Olympic medal, reference an Olympic event. If you defended a famous celebrity in a murder trial, mention it. Don’t hesitate to remind people why you are well-known in the first place – just in case they can’t remember why they know you. (The public is notoriously dim-witted, with a frighteningly short attention span.)

Now, tell me something about the author. Have you met? How long have you known each other (or known OF each other)? Can you relate a personal, non-humiliating anecdote about the author? What about telling of something the author did that affected you?

Remember, part of your job is to introduce the author to the world. Do your job as well as possible.

If you don’t know the author, rather than admitting that you’re writing for a total stranger, talk about the relevance of the project and rave about how much you believe in its validity. If you can’t do that, perhaps you’re not the one to be writing this particular piece of prose…

Finally, you will appear veddy literary and oh-so-clever if you can reference an idea from your opening paragraph again at the end. Think of it as bringing the whole foreword full circle.

If, for instance, you related a story that involves your mother, something as simple as “I know Mom would approve” will do the trick. If you talked about a particularly odious elementary school teacher, you might try something like “If you see Mrs. Schaffer, tell her I know who put the tack on her chair… and I ain’t telling!”

Remember, a foreword is like a letter of introduction from one friend to another. It’s best if it’s a bit chatty, engaging, and personal. Tell tales. Spin a yarn or two. Open a tiny little window into a personal moment. The more readable you make it, the more people will read it, rather than skipping it entirely and diving straight into the book. And that, of course, is the whole point!

Waiting for the Phone to Ring

First thing yesterday morning, I sent an e-mail to He Who Will Not Call, telling him that since I’ve been waiting over a month to hear anything of note from him, since the end of the month was approaching, and since I had put a few too many projects on hold for him which were now coming due, I was going to bump him from my list of Things to Do. I asked him to contact me at his earliest convenience so we could reschedule time for me to work with him on his edit.

It worked! I must have hit a nerve. After weeks of blowing me off, ignoring my e-mails and phone calls, and disregarding the publisher’s attempts to contact him, I heard from him in less than 20 minutes!

He’s been busy. (!) He’s sorry. He’d have some time free at the beginning of this week. Would it be all right if he called so we could work on the one question I needed for a particular chapter?

Well, it would have been all right if he’d called – which he didn’t. But I suggested that since he had two and a half days free, it would be best for his project if he got to work writing the major missing pieces rather than worrying about a single shortfall.

I wonder if he’ll take my advice.

I wonder if he’ll call.

I wonder if he knows how much his behavior reminds me of high school…

In Other News

I learned this weekend that Sharie's newest CD release, Let’s Talk About Heaven, which includes "Carol of the Horse," is getting airplay on some independent Christian stations. She's already had several calls from DJ's asking for autographed CD's to give away, and the project was just released a few weeks ago! Cool, huh?

On a purely "nifty" note, I went shopping in South Bend with a friend of mine on Friday. We went to Barnes & Noble and PetSmart. Both places had copies of Clinton's book in stock. I must admit, it was perversely gratifying to see! (One looks for excitement where one can find it.)

I’m on page 71 of the “challenge screenplay,” with less than a week to go to finish it. (It has to be at least 90 pages.) Rrrrrr! I will not watch “Batman Begins” until this screenplay is finished. I will not watch “Batman Begins” until this screenplay is finished… Ah, now THAT’s motivation!