You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2009.

Date: Mon, 05 Jan 2009 08:34:17 +0000
Subject: The Whole World 6

Well, I’m the midst of my last “developmental” revision (meaning, the
last one where I write new scenes). After that will come a “line edit”
from my official editor (Randall), then a “copy edit” from, well, a copy
editor. “Copy edits” are the really picky ones, the ones that will catch
typos, grammar and spelling errors, but there should be very, very few
of those. No, the main point of a copy edit is much more nitpicky:
consistent and correct usage for acronyms and dates and stuff, and
things like “you used this word twice in one page; did you mean to or
would you like to consider an alternative?” Copy editors have special
brains to do such painstaking work!

Only after edits are complete and “accepted” does a book get a date for
launch, so disregard “Summer 2009”! It will probably be spring 2010, or
thereabouts. (Fall 2009 would be very bad for a launch, since so many
“big” books come out in autumn. Winter 2010 is a possibility, but winter
can be pretty dead for books. We’ll see what happens. (I haven’t changed
the date on my website because I’m waiting for a new date to change it to.)

In November, I got to have lunch at Random House in New York which was
so much FUN! The entrance is enormous and flanked by hundreds of
original editions of Random House books from the past century. (I’m told
that the original, intense lighting scheme accidentally made the books
smolder and had to be replaced, heh.) I had to get a special security
tag to get in. I met with Randall (my editor) and Kate (my acquiring
editor) in a private dining room with just one table. We had a dedicated
waiter who intimidated me into giving up my food before I was done–I
just couldn’t say no whenever he came by to see how I was doing! Never
mind; half a Caesar salad and half an entree and half a warm brownie are
all just fine with me 🙂

It was very nice meeting Randall. We got along really well, and I found
out that he too studied theater at college! *Bonding moment.* (Actually,
he and Kate were both very pleased when they found out about my actor
training–actors know how to take direction and interpret it and give it
back richer, which is exactly what a writer in revision needs to do.)

Speaking of revision: On the train home from NYC I read the terrific
book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. It explores the reasons why some
people succeed brilliantly and others with comparable intelligence and
talents don’t. One of the chapters is about authority and relationships
between pilots and co-pilots. Flying is much safer when the co-pilot is
ready to speak up against the pilot and even forcibly take over if
necessary. Subservient co-pilots are actually a terrible danger, as some
frightening crash transcripts attest (co-pilots who recognize that the
plane is going to crash but don’t insist on life-saving maneuvers
because they’re unwilling to contradict the pilot or “bother” air
traffic control!!). Whether you think of the editor or the author as the
pilot here, the point is that there needs to be mutual respect and a
willingness on both sides to speak up to one another in the editing
process. Randall has marked up my manuscript with lots of suggestions,
and I’m heeding most of them, but not all. Nor would he want me to
blindly follow all his “instructions”; in fact, thinking of them as
“instructions” would be a mistake. They’re ideas, suggestions,
sparks–and he’s hoping to get something back that’s much more
interesting than what he gave me.

Having gone through building our house is a reassuring precedent here.
We had lots of influence on the design, but in the end it is still very
much the house that Matthew first drew in March 2002. I have no fear
that my book is any less mine for going through some challenging edits.

Publishing news: You may have heard that lots of the big publishing
houses have had massive layoffs. Random House has had a major
restructuring, combining divisions. My division, Bantam Dell, is now an
imprint within the “Little Random” division (the division is actually
called “Random House” officially, but it’s referred to as “Little
Random” to distinguish it from Random House, the parent company). So far
this has little impact on me. Randall and Kate kept their jobs. I’m just
darned lucky that this book sold before this all happened–publishers
are being more cautious now about what books they invest in.

Lastly, I had my official “author photo” shoot. It’s in my contract that
I provide a photo of myself for promotional use, and how I obtain one is
up to me. I hired a terrific local photographer, Helen Bartlett, and
obtained permission to shoot at Magdalene College, which was a real
treat. The colleges are pretty protective of people making money off
images of their architecture, so getting permission was a real
cross-your-fingers situation. (Peterhouse college wouldn’t even
acknowledge my letter!)

I won’t be updating my website until have cover art, etc., so I don’t
have a proper “page” for the photos yet. But you can see them by
clicking these links:


Magdalene’s Assistant Bursar, College Marshall and Deputy have all been
generous about showing me around. I needed to see undergraduate rooms,
and Christmas is a great time to do that since the rooms are empty. I
also tried to see rooms at Peterhouse, but, as I said, the Bursar didn’t
even acknowledge my request. In the end I just sat on the wall in front
of St. Peter’s Terrace, waited for a resident to walk by, and begged her
to show me her room. She had two strapping guys with her, so had nothing
to fear by giving in to the request of a desperate author. It was
especially kind of her to do this considering she’d just flown in and
had half a dozen suitcases with her! (Hilarious side note: when we got
upstairs, she discovered that her bed was *gone*. I must use that in a
book someday!)

Back to work…
EWS

From “Envoy” by Billy Collins, a message to his just-published book:

"stay out as late as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can."