November 10th, 2007

ozarque figure

Personal note; scheduling, and human weakness...

I spent almost all of yesterday preparing the revised Table of Contents for the planned second edition of The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense, translating it into a Word e-file, and sending it off to my editor at Barnes & Noble. [Where, saints be praised, said editor was able to open the file without difficulty, and it still had all its indentations and italics and boldface and similar bells and whistles with it -- which is what is supposed to happen. It's a good omen.]

My word on it: When you're writing a nonfiction book for the general public, it's almost impossible to spend too much time and effort perfecting the Table of Contents. You'll always send it to the editor with the word "Preliminary" before "Table of Contents," but all those chapter titles and subhead titles are like the blueprints for a building, and they make an enduring first impression, and they matter. It's not something you do in a hurry -- not even when it's for a book you've already written once and know as well as you know your own elbows.

My plan was that after dinner I'd go back to my revision resource files and get started on updating the bibliography, which is a task it's possible to do even when you're tired; it doesn't require any creativity, just carefulness. But I had worked really hard all day, and it seemed to me that I'd earned a brief break, and so I decided that I'd take just half an hour off to start reading Jay Lake's new novel, Mainspring.

I'm ordinarily a very disciplined person; I have a schedule, and I keep it. When I decide I'm going to take a half-hour break and then get back to work, that's what I do.

Well... Not this time.

When it got to be ten o'clock, the hour on my schedule when I get ready for bed, I was reading page 115 of Mainspring and hadn't done one lick of work on that bibliography. I couldn't put that book down, and I was sorely tempted to go right on reading it till I finished it. I did manage to resist that temptation -- I'm not that undisciplined, and I had to be up again at six this morning -- but it wasn't easy. [Ten years ago I could stay up all night and still get up at six and get right back to work; I could even stay up all night and not go to bed at all and still get right back to work. At seventy-one, I can't do that anymore.] But if I could have just waved a magic wand and eliminated all those tiresome encumbrances I would have read Mainspring straight through without stopping.

Mercy, that's a splendid novel! I recommend it. And maybe when I finish it I'll review it here. I say maybe because I'm not sure I'm a good enough writer to review it. We'll see.

Today there's laundry to do, and a stack of saved-up offline clerical stuff to deal with, and a floor to wax, and company coming for dinner, and that aforementioned bibliography to tackle. Not to mention the line-by-line revision and updating of the GAVSD -- only fourteen pages of which have been completed. I'm a slow and meticulous reviser; I can spend forty-five minutes deciding which of two roughly-synonymous words is the better choice in a particular line.

Busy, it's called. And blessed.