Repurposing Content, Revisited

The project that started as a paper last year is now making the slow transition into book format. Today I’ll chat a bit about that process. As I’m discovering, it’s not as straightforward as I’d hoped.


For new readers, last year I helped a space advocacy organization write a paper about their new proposal for a city on Mars. When I took a class with Kepler Space Institute about arts and recreation in space, I wrote a longer-than-necessary paper on that topic, discussing what might be required to establish arts and recreation opportunities in a city on Mars. That paper also got submitted with a few additions to the Interstellar Research Group conference and then was turned into a poster session. Now I’m trying to turn that rather lengthy paper into a book.

The Development Process

Identifying Missing Content

One thing that will change between paper and book will be the tone. Academic or business writing is a bit dry, which is fine for the context, but if I want to sell books, an engaging “voice” matters.

I want to beef the discussion about why human beings create’s not just for therapeutic or coping purposes, though that’s the primary emphasis of the paper. I want to get a little more inspirational…or aspirational.

Next: world-building. I used the Mars Foundation’s city as a starting point for infusing art and recreation into life on Mars. Am I tied to that model? Not necessarily. There have been lots of ideas written for how a city on Mars might come to be. Or I could design one of my own.

What to Write?

Another thing that’s been bugging me about the book is the setup. I wrote the original paper as a memo to the founders of this mythical city, urging them through my “report” to expand the opportunities for art and recreation in their new community. I could do that again, but I am not tied to it. I could write the book as a marketing brochure for the city (“Why You Should Want to Live on Mars”). Or I could write the book as a guide to prospective citizens of the city. “So You’re Coming to Mars…Here’s What You Can Expect”). This latter format might include testimonials from people who have already signed up for the voyage: painters, martial arts senseis, sculptors, swimmers, gymnasts, etc.

And then my imagination started tingling: “If you’re going to add imaginary people to your ‘guide,’ why don’t you just break down and write the whole thing as a novel?”

That still might happen. Or I might write a nonfiction and fiction book. Or write a hybrid. I go through this process when I’m writing novels, so it’s not the craziest conversation to have with myself.

Meanwhile, I have topics I treated with insufficient rigor or knowledge in the paper, so I’m educating myself to make myself and my product more informed about things like space tourism, ecotourism, art history, city planning, and other random topics that make sense to me.

Bottom Line

I have a lot more reading and thinking to do. I have no idea what I’m creating quite yet, how long it will be, or what form it will take. This is a major difference from my day-job writing, where the audience, situation, and outcome are usually understood.

Adventure awaits.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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