Arriving back home from a reporting trip, I was delighted to find a FedEx package from Riverhead with my manuscript in it.
To extrapolate from the previous three drafts: I seem to turn around a new draft in one month, then to wait for three months to receive it back from my editor with comments.
This time, both processes might go faster: There are far fewer comments in the margins than in previous rounds.
But there will be one change:
I will finally bow to the pressure of the market (letting no side, neither the artistic nor the commercial, “win”, as Ed Catmull might say). I will drop my resistance and add a concluding chapter with …. lessons.
21 thoughts on “Ready for Round IV of the manuscript”
Since we, the glib children of 20th century and 21st century enlightenment with our impoverished imaginations, like to be spoon-fed and have everything spelled out to us, your acquiescing to having “Lessons” as your book’s last chapter sounds an excellent idea.
“Lessons” are good. Works especially well for people who read the last chapter first. 🙂
P.S. To ease your resistance or worry, you can have lessons, what the readers take away from the book (or not) is still up to us.
P.P.S. The presence of a “spoon” doesn’t necessary mean that I will eat/drink with it.
Don’t tell me you read the last chapter of books first. Do you?
First few pages, last few pages, then some random pages in the middle. I am applying my technique to read William Poundstone’s “Priceless” at the moment.
Lessons, yippeee—and after the final chapter with the lessons, you could add a little Reading Group Guide with questions about the lessons learned. And then on the last page put your phone number so that readers who still don’t get it can call you.
When you open a package from a publisher, aren’t you ever worried it might contain a poison gas grenade?
I don’t know. Just curious.
I know, I know. I didn’t exactly get to this point easily.
Reading Group Guide coming up.
From each of the stories you tell about success and failure, you need to have a lesson at the end of the book?
Obviously, the lesson is in the story, but perhaps a “sum-up” is what your publisher thinks will tie the stories together.
There is a lesson in this process for you as well, right? A long road of research and writing, writing and rewriting, and now the lesson?
Yeah, I guess. But I find that when committing any lesson to writing, it sounds banal.
Your challenge, I guess.
Somewhat frustrating, maybe. It would be for me. Your independent spirit must feel a bit restricted?
Long haul, this book writing and publishing. Not so sure I want to do it after following your saga.
Lessons as in:
or lessons as in:
As in morals, I regret to inform you. The market has spoken. We need them, apparently.
I think I could endure a chapter of moralising if it was how to approach the material rather than a reflection or retrospective. Seriously, I might find it engaging to discover what drives your enthusiasm.
Sorry for excessive posts here, but I am interested in how this last chapter will be structured.
Is is a summary, per se, of the strategies used for recovering from failure or sustaining success?
How will you shape the chapter on lessons without venturing into “self-help” category?
It’s funny, A, when I teach literary analysis, even to students reading non-fiction, I tell them that the best writing shows by way of story, dialogue, or symbol what the author may have intended for his/her reader.
I take it that your editor believes your readers need a summary of the lessons of Scipio, Amy Tan, Hannibal, Tiger Woods?
The good news is that you are almost done and the book will be out and you will be a published novelist. Exciting, to be sure.
I will tell you once I actually restructure the chapter.
My main objective is to make the lessons explicit without making them banal, which is very difficult.
This is something about America: Have you noticed that European movies just end at an appropriate moment whereas American movies must go on for another twenty minutes with a courtroom scene where the various parties sum it all up for us, in case we weren’t paying attention during the car chases? I guess it’s sort of like that.
Here’s an idea. Have your present manuscript translated into French, German, and the other European languages, with the intent that Europeans, not Americans, will be your readers.
You may find this translation route easier than having to write this tiresome, time-consuming, and (arguably) irritating “Lessons” chapter.
Well, as you know, all the translation and international “rights” are detailed in the contract.
In fact, I should remind all people here, in case there are potential authors among you, that an author gets to determine nothing about his book. Aside from the words in it, of course.
Ben Franklin in his autobiography uses a trick to punch up some “banal” advice. When he wants to say that it is the small things in life that really matter he first delivers an interminable lecture on how he helped reduce the mud and dust of Philadelphia. Only after he is sure the reader has tired of such bloviation does he then deliver his real point:
Some may think these trifling matters not worth minding or relating; but when they consider that tho’ dust blown into the eyes of a single person, or into a single shop on a windy day, is but of small importance, yet the great number of the instances in a populous city, and its frequent repetitions give it weight and consequence, perhaps they will not censure very severely those who bestow some attention to affairs of this seemingly low nature. Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.
This last sentence appears in countless books of quotations, and doesn’t seem — to me at least — banal at all, but isn’t it all in Ben’s delivery?
Explaining a lesson, or joke, just doesn’t work; the moral, or humor, is different for different people.
So, at the risk of sounding glib,
why don’t you just give ’em the
nuts and bolts
meat and potatoes
sum and substance
of the book?
Oh boy. You guys are reminding me 1) how sophisticated readers of The Hannibal Blog are and 2) that making “lessons” explicity could really, really irritate readers like you.
Rock, hard place, here I come….
That’s going to be a challenge especially for you who does not really believe in writing the “lessons” explicitly. But if I may take the liberty to suggest, lessons need not be didactic. You can add in your customary humor in each lesson. For instance, the last rule of Orwell on good writing is, “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.” What I mean is it can be tongue in cheek (a part of it at least).
Thanks, Abhishek. Will try to do exactly that.