Tag Archives: publishing

Today is the Day

Patrick Rothfuss

Many weeks have passed since I was at my top form as a researching-writing-editing machine.  I can blame/excuse/explain a certain amount of that, but the fact remains, as the handy clicker at the bottom of the screen shows, that time is passing and this sabbatical will come to an end and the project has got to, got to, got to get done.  I have tied off those distractions with a bow, as much as I can, or sent them to the corner with a time-out. This is the day, this is the week, to get back to it full-time.

What that return entails, and part of the reason it’s been hard to face, is the reduction of my manuscript by about one-third of its length.  This is no longer editing down the story to make a more compelling version of that story.  Drawing from some very important, indeed necessary, but still hard-to-take advice that I got from a senior colleague who has always been very nice to me, especially considering that he is a famous person in the field we share and I am not, is to find a shorter story.  That’s a simple thing to say, and a wise thing to say; it’s a freaky hard thing to do.  I’ve nursed one idea of what this book was about for a few years, but–especially after talks with potential publishers–it’s just not viable in its current heft.

The irony is, as explained by one potential editor, that the length would be fine if my architect was already well-known.  But I have to publish this thing to introduce him to a lot of folks.

I don’t like unleashing my turmoil on the world but maybe it will be useful for someone else to read, and also hopefully it will be important for me to commit to this new approach once I air it on the interwebs.  I need to find a smaller story and edit to that, ruthlessly casting aside what will be, no doubt, a lot of great stuff that I have toiled over.  BUT I WILL NOT GRIEVE for I am not casting out my baby to be eaten by a dingo.  A better metaphor is carving a smaller, but equally beautiful, sculpture out of one that was nearly complete, leaving enough stone intact for later work down the road.

This will work out, this will work out, this will work out.  But the first step is to face the digital files that have been collecting virtual dust for a while, and follow Patrick Rothfuss’ advice as pictured above.  More encouragement to come.  One day I will look back on this as the day I turned the barge, away from stormy seas and into the harbor of publication viability. YES THAT’S IT!

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The Worst & Best Thing

MF2-A006I am at work on my book proposal, specifically the part with short summaries for each chapter. I kind of pride myself on being able to communicate ideas in as few words or examples as possible.  That’s one thing for teaching a class, or writing a 20-minute conference paper, or a 1500-word book review, or a tweet.  It’s another thing to condense the massive Great Work For The Ages that I have been tending now for all these years.  That thing started well over 250,000 words, has been cut down to a not-too-slim 150,000, and now it has to get stuffed into a series of 30 short paragraphs?  That’s nuts.  It’s awful.  I hate it.

BUT it’s also a great exercise, painful as it is.  It’s the literary equivalent of those identical nesting Russian dolls: same thing, over and over, smaller and smaller. I’m finding that as I try to winnow my 5,000-word chapters into just a few sentences, the stuff that is really truly important rises to the top, which is going to have the great advantage of helping me slash the main text, once again, as I try to reduce it to be even briefer, tighter, generally more awesome.

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How to Write a Book Proposal


Just when you thought the hard part–actually writing the stupid thing–was over, you have to face the proposal.  I know some folks do this much earlier in the process but for me it’s during the writing/editing process that I honed my story and really figured out what the book was about.  I thought that was much more important than trying to get a contract in hand, and then trying to live up to its deadlines.  So it’s now to the proposal, which is a whole new kettle of fish.

I have some publications under my belt but have never had to go through the submit-to-invisible-editor-at-Intimidating-University-Press experience before now.  Going through this process makes me reflect on all that editing work I’ve been doing as a walk in the park.  I have found guidance from a few articles that I recommend:

This is a dizzying process.  It feels a lot like writing grant proposals, except that the it’s a much, much bigger deal, and there’s only one outcome: yes or no.  It’s not like you can apply for a bunch of grants and be happy if you get one or two.  There’s only one prize here.

To keep from despairing at the largeness of the task, and the humongousness of its implications, I am trying to tackle it part by part, systematically, taking breaks to eat cheese and walk the dog, both of which are highly therapeutic.  And I remind myself that even a great proposal might not be great for all publishers.  And I  chant this (slightly altered) bon mot (which I read in Vitae) from editor Jon Otter: if your [proposal] isn’t rejected at least once, you’ve started too low on the food chain. I may carve that into the window frame in front of my desk.  Or tattoo it on my hands or something.

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