I have a confession to make.
It wasn’t just my computer that was flaking out these past few weeks. My raison d’etre also took a powder.
Yes, I had to stop hammering on my damn Dell and start backing up ALL my files, and yes, I HAVE had serious discussions with people about new hardware and yes, I HAVE wanted to poke my ears out with my elbows just to make them STOP TALKING ABOUT MY DAMN OPTIONS.
But also I have been going through a morose phase of life, the one where I make midnight calls to Alfie to plead, What’s it all about?
What’s it all about when I wake up everyday and I’m not:
A. Still in the Great Pacific Great Northwest;
B. Heading to the Great Pacific Great Northwest;
C. Running at top speed back to the Great Pacific Great Northwest.
They should make warning stickers for every plane ticket to Seattle/Portland: Travel to the Pacific Northwest Can Cause Serious, and I Mean Catatonic, Lifestyle Envy.
But I’m back today, fully integrated into my old status quo, and today I am going to share with you another peek into my fabulously glamorous life of professional book writin’ .
For the past htree weeks I have been a veritable factory of FINALIZING THE FINAL BITS. Four editors have gone over the text, two editors have given me contradictory mandates (yes, I had to change stuff, and then change it back), and another editor has told me to stop saying that the other editors suck, and now all I have to do is prepare the manuscript for final production.
Now, if I were a sane writer, I would have by now an electronic file that Iwould, at the push of a button, SEND to my publisher . End of story, finis,all done, do that smacking of hands thing that people do when they wash their hands of a thing well and done.
But nooooooo, I have to be a crank, have to make my books by hand, have to be in total control, and get all medieval on my manuscript. Here’s how I get my original art work and original hand-set type into a format that can be turned into a book-shaped object:
Step One: Move all my crap from my workroom onto the biggest table in the house, in this case, the Dining Room.
Clockwise, top left: binder containing original manuscript; packet of vellum to cover finished mounted page with,;Elmer’s Glue with which pages are mounted; various rough drafts that I might need as fall-back if I screw up something in this process; 11-inch by 14-inch sheets sent to me by my publisher Bloomsbury with position marks for each page, numbered from 1 – 215 [includes extra pages for mishaps]; paper cutter to trim these out-sized sheets down to a more manageable 11-inch by 11-inch square (something I learned the hard way after doing my first book); pile of already-trimmed sheets.
This is my light box, on which I have taped (Scotch tape is crucial to the whole process) a guide: this represents the true dimensions of the final trim of the book, with lines and markings to show me where the center lines of the page are, both vertically and horizontally. I have to place every single page of my manuscript onto this guide and position it so that all the art work and text is straight, aligned, and mounted with the proper margins for top and bottom AND with extra allowances for the “gutter”…that is, the edge that is going to be bound (left side for all odd-numbered pages, right side for all even-numbered pages). Yes, I have to do this manually for each and every goddamn page, all 208 of them.
This is what an odd-numbered page looks like at this stage, mounted on my light box and adjusted so that it is not dead-center, but instead shifted towards the right edge so compensate for the visual equilibrium that will be lost due to the “gutter” on the left hand edge.
For reasons that have to due with the fact that during this scrutiny I still find shit that three editors missed (every editor except my French editor, who was the best) and rectifying it takes research and materials i.e. glue, scissors, tape, white-out, mucho cursing; and I also have to keep all these loose, mounted pages in order and, well, it gets messy.
I got the bright idea to tape pages onto the walls of my dining room so they could dry — remember, I am gluing the art work, and taping the text into place. I took this photo while I was still young and gay (I see the Normandy pages, around 95 – 114). This is true: I sprained my left hand with repetitive motion somewhere around page 135 and had to tape up my favorite index and middle finger to prevent further injury which meant that I was, for all accounts and purposes, left totally right-handed … and still I had to keep turning out pages, and pages, and pages…
Today I am happy to announce that I have finished all the mounting, the last-minute editing, the last-last-minute patching up, and the last-last-last-minute re-writes/re-paints (yes, I did re-paint two whole pages)/re-edits.
After one last look-over, I’m sending this whole pile off to the production dept. at Bloomsbury, and from now until pub date May 2012 it’s their baby.
And now –
and now –
and now –
I’m in the wilderness, mapping out my next project.
It’s a life saver to know that you, dear readers, are here with me, making sure I don’t get toooooo far off track. Thank you for all your emails and good wishes — I nominate you all for Best Readers on the Interwebsnet!