Whew. What a week. After a balmy weekend, we actually got a glimpse of the back lawn. So that’s what grass looks like.
And then on President’s Day (Monday), things went back to normal:
I’ve had a lot to deal with.
On Friday I got the first round of edits for the Damn France Book from my publisher,
so all this week I’ve spent 8 – 10 hours a day making the fixes.
Plus, I finally trapped the feral cat that I call Bibs, who’s had a bad head wound for a week, and I had to schlepp him to the veterinary hospital for surgery.
He’s spending at least another week in my kitchen, in his cat condo, which is two largish holding cages linked together so he gets exercise room. I hoped he would use at least one of the cages as his salle de bain but nope, Bibs is firmly and proudly not housebroken.
And of course we all know how important Vitamin D is to the healing process, so I move him from the kitchen into whatever room is getting the rays so he can take his sun bath.
(In case you’re wondering, draping the cage on three sides, gives a feral cat the feeling that he’s protected, as if in cave, and is the best way to keep them calm. It looks like hell but it does the trick.)
And as if I didn’t have enough to deal with, with the book edits and the sick cat who needs his cage linens changed twice-three times a day, Top Cat decided to grow a goatee.
So it’s been a busy week.
Now, you might think that making the tiny edits of punctuation and the occasional word change might be a breeze at this point in the book writing process — after all, the hard part is getting all those words down on all those blank sheets of paper, right?
But no. Edits are a very heartbreaking phase of book writin’. Here’s why:
This is my editing set-up. That’s my original manuscript of the Damn France Book balancing on the back of the couch in the den. That’s the editor’s black and white photo copy of the manuscript on the little table to the right. It contains all her edit marks on it, in blue ink. (Yeah, I thought red ink was de rigueur, but times have changed.)
About 80% of the editor’s pages have some kind of mark on them — punctuation notes, delete marks when I’ve repeated a word needlessly, carrots when I’ve forgotten a word, once in a while a question mark on a whole paragraph that means I need to re-write it in better English.
But even adding the tiniest punctuation marks shifts the whole text, meaning that each change necessitates a whole new lay-out of text on the page, in order to accommodate the illustration and the newly configured wordy stuff. That’s where the light box (on the small table to the left) comes in. I put the original page of my manuscript on it, using a specially rules guide that I made myself, to be sure that the new work is centered and within the trim size of my book (which will be 8″ x 9″ when the book is published, but allowing for the printing process margins means I have to keep everything within 7 1/4 ” and 8 1/4 “, being sure to add extra space on the bottom so the optical effect isn’t bottom-heavy).
I don’t mind telling you that it is heartbreaking to have to re-do an entire page of text all because I forgot to use quotation marks in the second line. (And I have a habit of forgetting to use quotation marks.) It’s a little better when I have to re-write a whole paragraph — that makes the new lay-out worth the trouble; but often as not it’s only a word or two that needs to be changed and it’s as much bother as if it were a whole paragraph.
And oh, yeah: it seems that every one of those pages that you find in the front of a book, the ones with copyright and title and author and dedication stuff on it — every one of those pages has a name, and they go in a certain order, which I didn’t know. So I had to shift the page order in the front of the book, which also screwed up all the subsequent page numbers, which meant that I had to re-paginate 208 pages by hand. Which is why the page numbers are on Post ‘Em notes but still; I had to shift 208 Post ‘Em notes and I’m pretty sure that regular word-writers don’t have to deal with manual page counts ever.
It’s heartbreaking because this is just the first round of edits: when I make all these corrections, it will go to a proofreader who will be looking at every little thing to make sure I made the corrections correctly and will nail me if there’s any thing the least bit wonky about my spacing, my commas, or my spelling. And of course she’s going to bitch about all names of the seasons that I capitalize.
But it’s this persnickety editing that makes the difference between a real book and a self-published book. Although typos still sneak into a real book, the self-published books that I’ve seen are infested with them and they drive a reader — even one as lax as me — crazy. (You know how awful it is when I don’t spell-checkt his blog, right? Imagine that multiplied by 200 pages….ewwwwwwwww.) So in order to give my readers as smooth, as calming, as trouble-free a reading experience as possible, I will gladly drive myself crazy with these edits. It’s what I fork over 80% of the cover price of the book for.
Speaking of covers, I must say that I LOVED reading all your comments about covers. Smart, smart, smart — you people are outstanding! I don’t have access to such a breadth of knowledge and interpretation when I’m sitting here all by myself so I need your input. I looked up all your recommendations on books that had fabulous covers, but so far I haven’t found anything that I can steal. Yet.
But I appreciated reading what you thought of the cover for When Wanderers Cease to Roam, because getting my own art work on the cover was a battle and I’m glad I made myself unpleasant in order to get what I believed in.
And in case you were wondering, Yes, those are my own suitcases on the cover, just a small part of my collection of vintage luggage. I still have them, and I got them out last weekend to show you:
I tried to get one of the cats to do the Slumbering Cat pose for you but nooooo. They were all too busy.
(This is Taffy, one of the allegedly feral cats from my backyard, who is Wintering in my basement, who has decided that he likes to keep us company from time to time. Make yourself at home, fella.)
I also started googling “Best Book Covers of All Time” and, with Joan‘s comment about how a chair on a book cover always appeals to her, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find this:
So now that the first round of edits are done, I’ll mail a new black and white photo copy of the manuscript of the Damn France Book back to Bloomsbury this weekend, and I’ll spend the next week figuring out what to do about the cover.
And when I get some ideas sketched out, I hope to bore you all with them. Please?
Do I have any volunteers to be my focus group?