Author Big Year: A glimpse into how it’s done

It’s such a rarity for a writer to conscientiously write about the writing of a book while doing it. It’s even rarer when the book is in your field of interest. Well, a recent research book right on topic is Van Jackson’s “On the Brink: Trump, Kim, and the Threat of Nuclear War.” Jackson was tasked with producing his manuscript over the first six months of this year! What’s more, he blogged 92 times about it in a cheekily titled series “Nuke Your Darlings” on the geeky, wonky, feisty War on the Rocks website. The website actually sparkles in appearance but it’s not easy to navigate and I never did manage to get blog entries 2 to 6. Nonetheless, right now I’ve worked my way through to entry 40 in early February.
What a wonderful tale! He begins writing on December 14, 2017, with great excitement. Amazingly enough, almost as soon as he commences writing the book, Trump ratchets the world towards nuclear conflict by threatening to give North Korea a “bloody nose.” Jackson is sought after as an interviewee. He writes op-eds. On December 22: “Writing about all this at such a precarious time is catharsis. At least today.” Six days later: “The words came easy…” On January 1 of this year, he reports “a good start to the new year.” His January 4’s entry is titled: “A wonk’s love-hate relationship with Twitter.” Then comes a minor crash, on January 15: “I managed to write just over 600 words this weekend, which is no bueno” On January 22, he confesses to “my first potent feeling so self-doubt…” Two days later, “I got my groove back today… I decided to wall myself off from social media during my [two-hour] writing window.” At the end of January, he can boast of “a productive weekend – 1,800 words,” and on February 2: “This Obama chapter is pouring out of my fingertips onto the keyboard.” Three days later, he can write that “in terms of productivity I’m killing it.”
I’m not even halfway but the tension is holding me rapt. Of course I know he does finish his book, for I’m going through it right now on my Kindle, for research purposes, but somehow Jackson imbues drama into every day of writing about the writing. I commend “Nuke Your Darlings” to you.

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