All week I’ve been humming the song “There’s Got To Be A Morning After” from The Poseidon Adventure but I couldn’t work out why, of all songs, that particular one would be running through my head on an annoyingly endless loop.
Then I figured it out: I’ve been living it. Not the whole disaster, just the scene when we see the size of the tidal wave that’s about to hit the New Year’s Eve revelers right in the champagne flutes. Let me explain.
Earlier this week I met with my editor, Meghan Pinson. (I love being able to say that. It sounds so New-York-Best-Seller, doesn’t it?) My manuscript spent September with her and her minutely-detailed eyeballs giving every single word the once-over and finally it was time to sit down with her and hear what she thought.
Fortunately she really liked it. She warned me there was now a lot of red ink splattered across my pages like a ten-car pileup on the 405 freeway but I was okay with that. It meant she’d done a professional and thorough job exorcising the excess wordage from my book. (Turns out there was a fair bit: between 20 and 25%…!) There was also a bunch of stuff that needed fixing but, she assured me, it was all fixable and I’d be good to go. She also gave me a hardcopy printout incorporating all her suggested edits so that I could see how the final product would read to a reader who was coming at the book without the 4+ years of researching, note-taking, outlining and drafting that I’ve poured into the book. “Promise me,” she instructed, “that you will read it first before you dive into the edits.”
I did as I was instructed and found that the story, which I thought moved along at a not-too-shabby pace, had broken into a run and hauled the reader on a much faster, smoother, slicker ride. It almost read like a whole new book! YAY!
So my next step was to go through the manuscript line by line, see what she’d deleted/inserted/re-written/re-arranged/suggested/had trouble with/really liked/downright hated. I knew it was going to be an intense process–the sample chapter she’d edited for me gave me a pretty good inkling of what I was in for–but I wasn’t quite prepared for the task that now lay before me.
I thought I was going to go through my new-and-improved manuscript and click either ‘Accept’ or ‘Reject’ on each of her choices. Now that it was down to around 80,000 words (from 101,000) I was going to be able to blow through this about ten days, two weeks tops.
Poor Martin. Poor sad, deluded, ignorant little Martin. By about the end of the third page, it had dawned on me that this is a process whereby each and every sentence is considered, analyzed and weighed. Is it active and compelling? Can a stronger/more appropriate/more direct/more interesting/more dynamic verb or noun be substituted? Can it be re-written so that it’s more vigorous? More straightforward? Less wordy? Is it essential? Does it forward the plot or expand a character? Or can it in be deleted altogether? Do I even agree with Meghan’s choice? Do I disagree with it? Do I agree with what she’s done in principle but not with how she’s fixed it?
Every. Single. Goddamned. Sentence.
My book has 47 chapters and by the end of chapter five I was already exhausted.
Somewhere along the line I’d decided that my book was going to be out in November. I’d kept it vague mainly because the actual release date is completely up to Amazon. But November suited me fine. That’d give me a month to go through the edits, get Bob to proofread it, fix the errors, make sure the formatting is 100% correct, upload the file to Amazon, order a proof copy, wait for the proof copy to arrive, read the proof copy s-l-o-w-l-y and c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y, make the necessary changes, re-upload to Amazon and wait for them to do whatever they need to do at their end and then release the book for sale.
WHAT WAS I THINKING!?!??!?!?!?
It didn’t take me long to figure out that I’d failed to take into consideration (a) how detailed, intense, and draining the edit process would be, (b) that I’d need to continue to blog, Facebook, Twitter, and email, (c) that the holiday season was coming up real soon and things would get very, very busy with our Disney memorabilia business, not to mention enjoying the social side of the holidays, and (d) what was the other thing again…? Oh yeah: have a life.
So this week I’ve been busting a gut to get all of this accomplished until I realized that I was doing it in order to satisfy a deadline which I’d arbitrarily decided should be November. Hence feeling like a tidal wave was looming over me, and hence the Poseidon Adventure love song circling my brain like a vulture suffering from an attack of the munchies.
Sooooo…November is out, and January is in. And by ‘January’ I mean “Whenever the book is ready without having to suffer a complete nervous breakdown.” Actually there’s a lot of appeal releasing the book in January. For starters, I won’t have to welcome the new year from inside an insane asylum. Also, Amazon are releasing their new Kindle Fire tablet (read: much cheaper iPad) in mid-November which, I’m predicting, means there will be a greatly expanded market for eBooks. (The vast majority of books by self-publishing authors are sold in e-format and the vast majority of those are sold as Kindle eBooks.) In addition to which I won’t get lost in the rush of Christmas product and social activity. And lastly, I turn 50 in January and there’s something comforting about embarking on a new phase of one’s life at the start of a new decade. I mean, if you have to turn 50, you may as well do it by realizing a life-long dream. Maybe there is a morning after, after all.