I’m at the very tail end of editing my press’ March book, The Gods of Second Chances by Dan Berne. It’s amazing how a manuscript that has been read and revised multiple times can still need tweaks once it’s in bound book form. Suddenly I find myself questioning every detail and every comma, writing comments in the margins and over the text with a pencil, erasing, and rewriting, and erasing again.
That’s because a book laid out as a book feels real.
Much more real than the words on the screen, words that can be changed, added, or deleted. But on a 6 x 9 book page–the stark white background, the black type, the way a long paragraph suddenly sticks out–the stakes are higher. This is it. The moment before the story envisioned by the author–and then cared for as a breathing mutable document on the publisher’s hard drive–becomes a book. A real thing. Something other people can read. Something that can’t be taken back–or at least, not without an extreme cost and effort!
I’m standing here on that exciting precipice with Dan Berne’s debut novel. He’s a protege of Karen Karbo’s, the bestselling author of the Kick Ass Women series; her latest is Julia Child Rules. Dan owns his own marketing consultancy. And his book is the first novel Forest Avenue Press, my company, is publishing. It’s a fast-paced, relationship driven story about an Alaskan fisherman raising his granddaughter while battling storms, invasive species, and lawsuit-happy tourists. It’s full of lovely landscape writing and tense scenes between the fisherman and his daughter, who sends him a letter saying she’s coming home from prison to rebuild her life.
And it’s almost a book. A real, tangible thing, ready for reviewers.
Right now there are five print copies in existence. By early next week, we’ll have advance copies ready to pick up from the Espresso Book Machine at Powell’s so we can mail them to the media. If you’re a blogger or reviewer, and are interested in getting your hands on a copy, contact me through Forest Avenue Press. It’s the kind of literary fiction that’s fun to sink into–a strong story, lots of action, and at the core, this triangle of family members trying to figure each other out.
What my writer-self is taking away from this intensive pre-release editing process, now that I’ve gone through it with two of my authors, is that we get really used to our words–or others’ words–being in a certain spot on the page. And that makes it hard to question things. You can’t look at a piece of dialogue and evaluate its effectiveness if your brain thinks it’s supposed to be there, because it has been there, just in that form, through the previous few drafts.
Changing the font, the spacing (leading), or even the page size of your manuscript would be a great idea the next time you plan to print out a draft for editing. It might help you find those last few pesky mistakes, kill any leftover darlings–and perhaps sprinkle in a few more commas.