The Manuscript is with the Publisher — but what did I learn?
This is Freedom Week for me as I’ve just delivered a 100,000 word manuscript to my US agent and publishers for a new nonfiction book (well encyclopedia actually) on witches, sorcerers and alchemists from ancient times through until the present day. Obviously suggested amendments, edits, corrections and proofs still await me but what did I learn from the writing process?
As writing projects go, this is the longest work I’ve ever had to produce to a deadline. I’ve written book-length fiction and nonfiction before but they have always been to my own timescales — and left to my own devices I will faff around forever fiddling with a manuscript.
I’m also used to writing to deadlines, as for much of my professional writing career I’ve been a journalist, at one point writing three weekly columns a week for three different publications and they all had strict deadlines (more about that later) which on some weeks meant me getting up at the crack of sparrow-fart/silly o’clock to drive around London’s South Circular road network before the morning rush-hour to deliver my copy by hand in the form of a printed manuscript and later on a floppy-disk. This, I should point out was not only before the days of the Internet (no Dropbox back then) but initially even before the era of wordprocessors, so my back-up tech was carbon-paper and flimsies. And please don't make me feel old by asking: what is a floppy disk?
The thing about magazine and newspaper strict deadlines, particularly those on a monthly publication cycle, is that although the editors make a big fuss about adherence to the deadlines, the deadlines they give you are never the ultimate final deadlines — they are always fluid so you can find yourself with perhaps an extra seven days before the final, final deadline. Unfortunately over time this results in you inevitably slipping into the habit of pushing your luck when it comes to deadlines and I now find I follow in the path of the late Douglas Adams (of Hitch Hikers Guide to the Universe fame, among other things) when he commented (and I actually have this on a sign on my wall in front of me even as I write)…
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they go by.