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Editing or Whatever

  I hadn’t intended on writing a blog post this week. I’m on vacation from school and my brain is presently just kind of stuck in neutral. I was very tempted to let it remain that way. But then I thought of you, my fan. Yes, you. I’m sure this has become a part of your Monday morning ritual as much as coffee and trying not to strangle yourself while you waste away in traffic. So this blog post is dedicated to you, loyal fan. Your dogged determination is an inspiration to us all.

  Aaaand this is roughly where the state prosecutor will stop reading when he’s trying to convince the jury of my megalomania in The People and One Horse v. Jonathan Bruce. It’s going to be a rough trial.

  Anyway, I recently (as in at 11:40 pm last night) just finished Washed Hands initial run through to put it in the hands of my editor. While it’s probably the shortest “big” thing I’ve written, it is definitely the shortest fictional work that I’ve turned into something episodic. Basically, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m really not used to being able to read an entire manuscript with an eye on editing in less than a day. That’s really weird to me.

  But what is less weird is the sense of satisfaction of getting something done. Washed Hands started as just a short story that was going to have a couple of chapters and that was about it. It obviously became something more than that. My first attempt at writing mystery appears to be pretty okay, and the good folks over at Booktrope agree. That’s code for “they will be publishing it later this year.”

  That’s the kind of thing that can make a guy’s ego inflate.

  You may be wondering why I went ahead and went forward with publishing something that I’m offering for free on my website. Well, that’s a very good question. The primary answer is the fact that not everyone has equal access to the internet and all of its attendant awesomeness. Other people don’t like the format I’ve put it in – their Adobe Flash Player may be out of date or the text may be too small or any number of things. And then there’s us luddites who actually just like owning books.

  Now, I have no problem with buying Kindle versions of books, as they tend to be cheaper. Plus I can cart around a zillion* of them at a time and never have to worry about my spinal column collapsing from the weight. But if I really like something, I want to own something physical. Besides, there’s just something so satisfying about whapping someone atop the head with an actual book that the plastic thump of a Kindle just can’t match.

  That doesn’t really seem to address the major question, which is why anyone would pay for something they can get for free. Well, then how come libraries haven’t driven bookstores out of business? Why do people still buy copies of books that are in the public domain when they can get it all for free? Every time someone brings up this question, it takes a fair amount of self-restraint to not point out that when they say “If people can get it for free,” what they mean is “If I can get it for free.” Not everyone is thrilled about the prospect of reading everything on a screen, and that’s what delicious, delicious physical copies are for.

  Plus, I do intend on adding a little bit of extra content for the published versions. Nothing much, but a prologue and epilogue that will help round out the characters and events. That may sound scummy, but the way I see it, the events have already played out completely in the already presented material. The extra stuff is for people who like to read and want to delve just a little further into the world I’ve created.

  In the end, this has never really about earning a ton of cash. Good lord, I’ve picked the worst possible career combo for that if I actually cared about that. No, this is about entertaining people – it has been up to now, and I hope to continue that in the future. I don’t want to sound too much like a wanky, self-important doofus, but as long as people enjoy what I’ve written, I’m content to eke on by. For now, anyway. If nothing else, I have a stack of Project Northwoods paperbacks that I can turn into a crude shelter if I’m ever kicked out of my apartment.

  Hey, on the topic of paperback editions of books, you know what else is pretty groovy? The physical copies of Northwoods. They’re all big bastards, weighing over two pounds apiece. My initial shipment of books came in at over 50 pounds, which I’m sure will fetch a high price down at the docks where I’m assured books are traded by weight.

  On slightly less absurdist tangents, at 570-ish pages, they take up a sizeable chunk of real estate. Due to a slight mix-up, there are actually two variants of the covers – one glossy, the other matte. Both look abso-fucking-lutely gorgeous. Especially when you give someone the death glare over your personal copy.

As pictured.
As pictured.

  And speaking of everyone’s favorite book about super heroes punching each other, as of today, I have six reviews for Project Northwoods on Amazon, and I’m looking forward to getting more. I’m standing at an overall score of 4.83/5, which isn’t the perfect 5 I was running for a couple of weeks there, but it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. I was prepared for the eventual downtick, anyway. I’ve long since stopped deluding myself into thinking that everyone was going to love everything I’ve written.

  If we are to return to the subject of editing, which at one point was what this entire post was supposed to be about, believe it or not, I’d just like to point out that it is the least fun part of the writing process. It also just so happens to be the most critical. While on the one hand you get to encounter all of your mistakes – plenty of typos, grammatical errors, and logistical nightmares to go around – you also do get to streamline your story.

  With something like Northwoods, where the actual editing process took several years and multiple partners (oh, dear, did it just get steamy in here?), it eventually got to the point where I couldn’t really polish it anymore without my brain taking a leave of absence. Although I did read it one last time before it left for the printers, it was such a slog. I wasn’t reading it for enjoyment at this point – not that I can really ever read anything I’ve written for enjoyment – it was a mechanical necessity, a close reading that was attempting to scrub out all aberrations.

  With Washed Hands, though, it was actually approaching fun. I had read the manuscript only in chunks, usually after I had completed a chapter or when I had to hunt for some piece of information hidden in an earlier conversation. Sitting down and reading it all at once was actually – gasp – enjoyable. Sure, it had its fair share of annoyances – I had a tendency to describe things in similar terms multiple times, my grammar flitted in and out of coherence after a while, one chapter had a major character misnamed three out of the six times she was mentioned – but it was still neat to see everything that I had forgotten up to that point.

  You may think it weird that an author would forget something they had committed to paper (or, in this case, a document file), but when I started writing Washed Hands, I was working 40 hours a week in an office. It was my first time in that kind of environment, and it was frankly a touch on the exhausting side. It may not seem like much, but my memory of that general time period was split between the daily grind and waiting for the new semester to arrive so I could start teaching.

  There are also some neat side effects of the editing process. For instance, I tend to write my blog posts in WordPerfect, while my manuscripts eventually get ported to MS Word. Sometimes weird things happen during the process, like learning that Microsoft thinks that trash mountain is a proper noun. And while I won’t deny that it is, it makes you feel for the programmer who had to go out of their way to make sure that the phrase “trash mountain” gets underlined in green squiggles every time.

  Huh. In retrospect, “neat” wasn’t the word for it.

* A metric zillion. Let’s not get silly here.

Purchase Project Northwoods at Amazon.com.   Purchase Washed Hands at Amazon.com   Purchase Improbables at Amazon.com.

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