What do I want my book to be

Marcin Wichary
4 min readAug 29, 2017

Written down before writing a single word, revised a few times since. Last updated in June 2018.

I want my book to be uniquely mine. I am excited about writing my book because I don’t think anyone else can write it. I’ll be happy to share my big research database with other people (and already have), because those are just ingredients. My voice, my approach, my enthusiasm for the subject should be all there and make it unique.

I don’t want my book to feel cheap. Not literally inexpensive, but cheap in spirit. There are quite a few books about typewriters and keyboards whose m.o. is “haha, look at this old technology, how stupid.” My book has to be better than that.

I want my book to be about more than just nostalgia. Nostalgia is nice and warm. Those old keyboards, computers, typewriters, were wonderful and many people remember them fondly. It will be a component of the book — but it can’t be the only thing.

I want this book to be not just for keyboard nerds. There are many of them, and they’re quite wonderful people, but I want to go much deeper: I want this book to be interesting to any kind of a nerd, whether it’s tech, design, history, or type.

I want my book to say something. I hope you’re entertained reading it, but I also hope it makes you ponder, or changes your mind, or teaches you something, or makes you look at the world in a different way, or makes you more curious, or helps you in navigating the world of technology in the future.

I want to contribute something new. Writing about all this from my standpoint, seeing new connections, explaining things never explained before, new or better context, personal stories, and new interviews with people.

I want my book to be swift. I hate books that take forever to start, or books that outstay their welcome. That intro chapter that walks you through all the other chapters? Acknowledgements awkwardly in front of the book? The last chapter where it’s obvious that the book ran out of steam, but it’s so annoying to put it away 20 pages from the end? All gone. I’m thinking in medias res, William Langewiesche kind of ending that makes you want more. I have ideas. (Note: This doesn’t mean the book has to be short.)

I want my book to read well. I mean, that’s kind of a given — and the upper bound of this is my skills as a writer. But some ground rules: everything is tied together in one narrative, and no goofy callouts saying “did you know” that are unrelated to the main thread.

I don’t want my book to be a coffee table book. I have a certain, perhaps unfair definition of a coffee table book as something that’s pretty, but vapid. Gorgeous, but soulless. If there are two apocalypses to choose from — one that takes away all the words, another that vaporizes every single picture on earth — my book would choose the latter. The words, the stories, are all that it’s about.

But, I want my book to be wonderfully illustrated. Images and visuals matter. They entertain, they educate, they contextualize. There will be beautiful photos and drawings, many/most I want to create just for this. (I wish there was a way to add a few interactive pieces, too!)

I want my book’s exterior to mirror its interior. I don’t want it to be yet another generic template. I want the typesetting, the cover, and the visual style to be custom for my book, and to stay true to what the book talks about.

I want my book to be portable. Take it on a train, grab for a long flight, bring it with you on a date for which you nervously arrive much too early because she seems interesting, and you haven’t done this in a while. Books are there to be read, not confined to your living room and guests with extraordinary upper body strength.

I want my book to be timeless. Nothing’s timeless, of course, but five, ten, fifteen years from now, my book should still be readable. No pointless predictions, no anchoring in recent events, no Touch Bar on the cover.

I want my book to not just be about white men in America. This will be hard, but I want to try hard for my book to have women, people of colour, keyboards from other countries.

I want my book to make someone cry. This is a bad shorthand for: it’s not just about technology. It’s also about people, emotions, stories, connections, meaning. It’s awesome and important to nerd out, but there’s more.

I want my book to be successful. I don’t quite know what “success” means, yet, but let’s say finishing the book, and finishing it in a way I feel happy about and proud of, would be a start. (Those are two tall orders, as a Starbucks barista once said.)

Wish me luck!