Thu 14 Jan 2010
After weeks of gloomy days and bitter cold, D.C. is once again sunny and (relatively) warm. It’s a great day to be outside—a not so great day to be sitting in a coffee shop. Today is one of those days where the last thing I want to do is to write. (Well, maybe not the last thing—it beats cleaning out septic tanks or working in a coal mine—but you get the idea.) On days like these, I think of what my high school football coach used to tell me: “When you don’t want to do the work, and you do it anyway, that’s when you get better. Think of the other players sitting at home on the couch while you’re out here busting your butt. Today, you took another step towards beating them.” So now, when I don’t want to write, I think of those other writers at home on their couches, and I attack the keyboard with renewed vigor.
Or, I do the next best thing and take out the proofs for Siege. Proofs are a mock-up showing what the printed version of the novel will look like. It’s my job to go through them, correct any errors that I find, and make cosmetic changes where necessary. I also have to check to make sure that I approve of any changes the copy editor has made. Since my publisher is British, the changes sometimes seem rather odd to me. For instance, I have learned that in British English “dead-end” is apparently not a verb. So instead of saying “the alley dead-ended,” the copy editor inserts, “the alley became a dead end.” Huh? That’s no good either, so it’s up to me to find a third option.
I find this sort of work therapeutic. It’s a kind of problem solving that exercises a completely different portion of my brain. It’s something to do when I don’t feel like writing. And luckily, it’s a never-ending process. After I send back the first set of proofs, the publisher sends me more proofs to look over, and then another set, and so on until the book is finally printed. Novels, I am learning, truly are never done until they finally end up on the bookstore shelf. I find this comforting. It’s nice to know that Siege is still there after all these years, ready for me to work on it whenever I want. I wonder what it will be like when it is finally gone? I suppose I’ll still have Eagle: Book One of the Saladin Trilogy. I finished draft two last week (hallelujah!). It’s looking good, and I have high hopes for avoiding the curse of the second novel (knock on wood).
Next time, I promise to get around to how authors get paid, aka Sorry, writing a novel is not a quick path to fame and fortune… For now, it’s back to writing. Those other writers are a bunch of lollygaggers, taking it easy on their couches. I’ve got to beat them! (Beat them at what? How? I don’t know. I just know I’m on the path to victory!)