June 10th, 2008

ozarque figure

Writing nonfiction; moving right along...

Yesterday ... thank goodness ... I heard from my editor for the second edition of The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense. And I didn't hear any of the ghastly things I might have heard, like: "This is the worst excuse for a draft manuscript I have ever seen in my entire career as an editor! Every word of it -- including "the" and "a" -- has to be rewritten!"

Nothing like that has never happened to me [yet] with any of my nonfiction books, but the possibility is always hanging there; I always know that it could happen. I did once -- when writing a book for a religious publisher -- have to rewrite an entire chapter because the scenario I had chosen was judged too controversial; that's the closest I've come to that sort of thing. I like to think that it's because when I submit a book proposal I always include a very lengthy and detailed annotated Table Of Contents; on the other hand, I may be flattering myself -- it may just be blind luck.

My editor had already seen a printout of the draft, in standard separate-chapters format, and now wanted me to send the electronic file. Which meant that I had to create a compiled file that had all the chapters in it, translate it from MacWrite to Word, and -- in between thunderstorms -- send it as an attachment, with the usual cover e-mail explaining various odds and ends. The editor and I have already agreed on a few changes, mostly formatting matters, that will take me a while to get done; if there are other and more substantive changes to be made, and there may well be some of those, they haven't yet been mentioned.

However, I do still have to write the dreaded "Acknowledgments" section. There was a time when that was a simple and straightforward task. You acknowledged your gratitude to your editor(s), your agent, your family, any recognized authority on the topic of the book whose work you had consulted, and perhaps one of your university professors, and you were done. Today, that won't do it. The "Acknowledgments" section now has to be a sort of brief autobiography, where you thank your grandparents and your childhood friends and everybody you've ever dated, and your adult friends, and your elementary and high school teachers, and all your university professors, and your grocer and dentist and optometrist and editor and agent and book designer and publicist and florist and family and so on ad infinitum. There has to be lots of local color. Plus, you have to maintain a kind of Martha Stewart Tone throughout -- just charming enough, just elegant enough, just funny enough, just humble enough. It's one of the hardest parts of the book; I'd rather write a whole new chapter than write the "Acknowledgments."

Nevertheless, it has to be done, and I will find a way. And one of the sections will be a heartfelt acknowledgment of how much I owe to all of you here on LiveJournal. For putting up with my attempts to discuss verbal self-defense -- in speech and in written language and in e-language -- in this journal, and for participating in those discussions. For alerting me to the fact that the first edition had disappeared from the stores, something I hadn't been aware of until you brought it to my attention. For all your suggestions about what a second edition should and shouldn't be like. For all the help that you have so generously and graciously given me. Trite as it is to say so, it is the truth: I could not have done it without you. Thank you.