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For those of you who’ve been wondering – I hope – the re-release of Say Uncle progresses.

Just for the record, on the overwhelming advice of those who had an opinion the last time I wrote about this here, I did not re-type the book.

For those who don’t remember or didn’t read the previous post:

Say Uncle, my first novel is no longer in print thanks to the evil machinations of publishing.  That is, the original editor moved to a different house.  His replacement, to prove that his was longer, cut my novel in favor of the nonfiction work of someone in the, at the time, unheard of profession of blogging! There was some pretense that they wanted to avoid “conflicting” titles on the same topic, but my editor’s replacement eventually manned up and alluded to things and staff changing.

Fast forward to today.  I’m experimenting with the emerging new world of electronic publishing.  Traditional publishing seems increasingly interested in only publishing books that relate to movies, TV, reactionary right wing politics or Oprah.  These subjects employ the strange modern technique called advertising as yet untried in the publishing field.  I mean, why try promoting your product when you can add sea monsters and zombies to the well known works of authors dead so long you don’t have to pay them? Right?

Since I’m still alive – just barely – and hope one day to be paid so I can eat and stuff, I’m striking out on my own and testing the ePublishing waters by re-releasing Say Uncle as an eBook.  The advantage is that Say Uncle is out of print and I’ve already written the sequel that my replacement editor passed on when he dumped me in favor of that blogger! Sniff. Sob.

The only problem with the Say Uncle Redux was that it was written in the before times way back in the 90’s and I have no final digital file.  I was planning to re-type it and said so here to the hue and cry of those who thought the endeavor madness.

“Scan, scan, you fool.  Have you not heard of OCR?” or words to that effect met my sentimental rhapsodizing over the experience of revisiting my own words from long ago Eric.  Well I’m nothing, if not lazy, so I figured what the hell, right?

My computer genius Brett could not cause the scanner I actually own to work with my computer despite the fact that both are manufactured by the same company.  Don’t computer and software companies just make you want to get some pitchforks, torches and villagers together for a little rampage?

Brett, or Sir Brett as he shall be heretofore known, pulled a Galahad and took a copy to some undisclosed scanner.  He returned in less than a day with the whole thing on a thumbnail drive.  And poof, my troubles began.

Delighted as I am that I did not have to re-type the bloody manuscript, scanning is not quite the miracle labor saving device it might at first appear.  True, the book is scanned.  Sadly, none of the formatting scanned with it.  No paragraph returns, no quote marks, and if e looks too much like c then Sean becomes Scan, and let’s not talk about seat.  Spell check can only go so far and it becomes all about editing.  But I didn’t have to re-type!

I’m working with an expert on formatting books for ePublication.   Next week I should have Say Uncle in a form that I can edit before I convert it to the form it needs to be in order to translate successfully to the eFormat.  Whew.

So, new book soon.  I’ll let you know.

 

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My favorite part of writing is editing.

I love the writing part.  Once I’m into a story, the words just pour out.  Writing offers me an escape from reality into a world of my own making; a world where I am in control.  It is an escape that no naturally occurring or man-made substance can enable – just take my word for it.

But editing is to writing what sculpting is to marble.

Writing is essential.  I cannot begin the work until the words and the story are on the page.  But it is editing that reveals the work.

My first book, Say Uncle, was just a little over three hundred pages when it was first published.  When it first arrived at the my publishers it weighed in at well over five hundred.  There was a part of the book that wasn’t working for me, somehow, but I couldn’t say why.  My wonderful editor Peter saw the problem at once.

The book is about the relationship between two members of a two member family.  In the part of the book that wasn’t working for me one of those two people was missing.  When Peter pointed it out, it was like a door being thrown open in a dark room.  Two hundred and fifty pages vanished.  They were fun and well written, they just didn’t belong in that book.  Under my editor’s watchful eye, I retold those excised aspects of the story.  I wrote a couple of the book’s best chapters and completely changed the ending.

Say Uncle was better and stronger than before.  Like Michelangelo, I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

That’s editing.

I mourn the increasing loss of this relationship.  I feel the absence in the hollow and incomplete works that are published more and more.  Most novels are all marble and no angel.

Publishing is floundering.  There are a lot of theories.  Most blame technology.  I think it’s because little or no value has been placed on writers by publishers.  Magazines, newspapers and books may or may not survive this technological tipping point that is upon us.  But the creators of content will be the same as always.  The writers, the storytellers, will endure as they did even before the written word, certainly before the printed one.  It seems to me that those trying to preserve publishing in its present form may have missed that.

I wrote a book for a famous person in the last few years.  She didn’t write a single word of it, beyond those of hers that I quoted.  That was the deal.  She was the selling point, but there was no book before there was me.  Still, I wasn’t kidding myself.  The crowds that were lining the streets days in advance of our signings were coming to see her.

Our first signing though was a private one, at the publisher.  I fully expected to be ignored at most of our signings, but this one I thought would be a little different.  These were publishers.  These people knew I had written the book.  This skyscraper had been built by writers.  I still didn’t expect to be the center of attention, but I was surprised that only one person present asked me to sign his book or expressed any interest in meeting me.

I’m still writing.  My “co-author”? Not so much.  Probably most of the people in attendance that day have been laid off since.

Publishing as we know it will not survive if it does not provide a place to nurture writers and to allow their work to flourish.  The environment has never been more hostile to writers than it is today.  Editing and the relationship between editors and writers seems lost.

But it is not my job to save publishing.  They’ve had a great run.  It’s been 570 years since the technological revolution brought about by the printing press.

Perhaps it’s time for the immediacy of the digital world to come to writing.  I celebrate that this new medium may at last empower writers.  I worry though about the loss of editing.  In our rush to get the work into the hands of consumers and our hands into their wallets, what is lost?

What of all those angels, trapped in the marble, never to be set free.

 

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