The manuscript is in a pouch to me

Things are about to get really interesting: My editor at Riverhead just emailed to say that he has finished putting his comments into my book manuscript and will send me (the old-fashioned way, this being the book industry) the pages next week.

That’s when I begin my favorite part of writing: the re-writing. Research, whether for The Economist or my book, can be a hard slog, and filled with anxiety. The first draft is then a way of cleansing the anxiety by letting it out and giving it shape. But beauty happens in the re-writing, as Khaled Hosseini (also with Riverhead) said so well.

I sent off the manuscript a few months ago, and have since (deliberately) not even looked at it. In my mind and memory, the text has settled. Parts have receded, parts have become amplified. When I look at it fresh next week, things will jump out that I was blind to in February.

When I talked to my editor a couple of weeks ago, he sounded very happy with the book. My agent is happy too. That’s a good reaction, if it is half of the reaction. The other half must be the assumption that it can be made even better. That’s what I’m going to do in the coming weeks.

Then, after I send it back to Riverhead again, we will find the best title, and the date of publication.

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8 thoughts on “The manuscript is in a pouch to me

  1. “……My editor……will send me (the old-fashioned way, this being the book industry) the pages next week…….”

    May I assume this’ll be by post? If so, I hope for your sake that your editor has Zerox copies of these pages, since wouldn’t it be awful were your draft to become lost in the post and there are no copies.

    One can only imagine how TE Lawrence felt when he lost his entire draft of “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” at a railway station (I think Reading Station, in England) and he had to rewrite the whole thing because there were no carbon copies.

    There’s an instance of another famous writer (I don’t recall who) losing a just-completed draft of something which has become a classic (I don’t recall what), which he re-wrote from scratch.

    “….we will find the best title….”. A comment in of your posts mentioned “Hannibal and Me”. I think this would be perfect.

    • Oh boy. I hadn’t even thought of that. I guess he’s FedExing it, so it should be alright. If it does get lost, only his comments get lost, since I still have my electronic copy.

      Also, ironically, when writers lose their manuscripts and have to do it over, the result is often …. better. πŸ˜‰

      (I wonder how that happens. Something about the brain filtering perhaps.)

      I’ll take your thumbs-up about “Hannibal and Me” on board.

  2. I look forward to following this next stage in the evolution of your book and am so curious about your reactions to your editor’s suggestions.

    I loved reading Maxwell Perkins’ notes to Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

    Any thoughts you have about writing and rewriting are of great interest to me.

  3. Love this subject, writing and re-writing, and relate to your mention of the “anxiety” in capturing that first draft. The Australian novelist, Patrick White, used to liken the process of the first draft to “oxywelding.” One of my favourite passages on the subject is by W. G. Sebald in The Rings of Saturn where he sees similarities between writers, and the weavers of the Industrial Age:

    “That weavers in particular, together with scholars and writers with whom they had much in common, tended to suffer from melancholy … is understandable given the nature of their work, which forced them to sit bent over, day after day, straining to keep their eye on the complex patterns they created. It is difficult to imagine the depths of despair into which those can be driven who, even after the end of the working day, are engrossed in their intricate designs and who are pursued, into their dreams, by the feeling that they have got hold of the wrong thread.”

    • Love it. Great quote.

      Presumably the weavers had even more anxiety, since they don’t get to do second drafts, nor to “cut”. DEL, CTRL-C and CTRL-V help a lot.

      BTW, am I right that Aussies and Kiwis use British spelling?

    • To repeat a small joke I’ve used on this blog before…
      As a matter of honoUr my favoUrite spelling is coloUr.
      Irritable Vowel Syndrome – to rub in the correct way…

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