For the past month or so my writing time has been focused on my current novel project. I will likely have a first draft finished in early October and will begin the process of revising and rewriting. It's a project I'm really enjoying working on and I'm hoping to unleash it on the world next summer.
My only regret is it's consuming nearly all of my writing time. I've been getting out my film reviews and did my column for Space and Time magazine, but very little else. I haven't written any short stories in weeks, and I have one in my head that I want to get out and submit. Fortunately the deadline is far off.
Then, out of the blue, I was asked to write the introduction to a movie book. It's only the second time this has happened, but it was a chance to do something not connected to the novel. Additionally -- and I don't know if readers necessarily know this -- this is a paying gig.
When you see a blurb from an author recommending another writer's book no money has (or should have) changed hands unless it's excerpt from a paid review that first appeared elsewhere. Introductions are paid for because they are essentially commissioned essays that, in theory, will help sell the book. I don't know that my name on someone else's book will actually help sales, but that's the idea.
Writing the introduction is a special form unto itself because it's written to appear with someone else's text and doesn't have much purpose by itself. Although some are interesting enough essays to stand on their own, it shouldn't overshadow the book. It's not like there's an aftermarket for "The Collected Introductions of..."
The introduction is sort of like the overture to a musical, picking up on some themes and making one eager get to the main work. If appropriate, one can personalize it, talking about one's relationship with or appreciation of the author of the book, but it shouldn't be so comprehensive that the reader feels that reading the book itself is no longer necessary. I try to turn the reader's attention to the book without being obvious about it.
There's a special kind of introduction -- call it an academic one -- that can go on at some length and in some detail about the main work. I'm slogging through one such introduction now that's getting in the way of my getting to the novel, but I suspect it's my focus on my own current work that's playing a part.
I don't suppose one can make a living writing introductions to other people's books, but it's an interesting exercise and this one came at a moment when I needed a break. Now back to work.