Friday, September 14, 2007

The Fear Of The Incomplete Manuscript ... and a few other things.

from Jacqueline

The most scary thing about receiving galleys to check is knowing that Advance Review Copies are compiled from this version of the book, warts and all. And those same ARC’s go out to reviewers and all sorts of people. I finished going through galleys of my next novel (AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE, to be published in February ’08) on Wednesday and packed them off to my publisher. Just. In fact, I finished going through them on Monday, then as I was about to zip off to the post office, I changed my mind and asked my husband to have a quick read through (“Hey, Hon, got a minute – wanna read through four hundred pages in the next few hours?”). Thank heavens – I had read the thing so many times my eyes were seeing words that weren’t there and, more to the point, missing words that were there and shouldn’t be. So, I finally let it out of my sight yesterday and took today off. Sort of.

Two points here: First – it is soooooo hard to release the manuscript and let it out into the world. On the one hand, I have a sense of relief, and on the other, I think of all the things I’ve missed. Apparently, E.B White was known to have such remorse from the moment he took the final version of his manuscript to the post office. It is said that he forged an agreement with the postmaster to the effect that he would never give back the package containing that manuscript, no matter how many tantrums Mr. White threw after handing it over to be mailed. And apparently that postmaster stoically refused impassioned entreaties to return the manuscript and took all manner of abuse while keeping his side of the bargain.

That's E.B. as a young man.

Second, the issue of a day off. Writers, in general, do not have days off. I may be able to plan my own day, a gift if ever there was one, but as a writer with deadlines and contracts, I put in the hours. We all do. And I rarely have a whole day off from the business of writing – a business that consists of writing, research, emailing, telephoning, copywriting and all manner of tasks that go with the territory. But I tried to have that day off today, and I couldn’t do it. I ended up working on a couple of scenes to add to a new manuscript in progress, and then doing some preparatory reading for a visit to the Somme area of France next month. See, can’t leave the work alone, always got to be tinkering. We’re all like that.

So, I arrived back from Costco – the great expedition of my day off – and there was the ARC waiting for me. I know, it sounds biblical. But it was exciting, as it always is. When my first book was published, my husband told me to cherish every moment of it, because I would never publish my first book ever again. Wise words, however, I still experience that blend of fear and thrill when I have the first copy of a new book in my hot little hand – it’s sort of the lull before the storm, the time you have with the new baby before the visiting starts.

But time moves on apace, and I want to finish this other manuscript prior to starting my new academic venture in about ten days time, and before I know it November will be here and I have a goal to start the next book in my “Maisie Dobbs” series on November 1st. No days off on the horizon for me.

On to other things. I don’t think I’ve quite finished with the topic of life lists – you remember in my post a couple of weeks ago, I talked about that list of big to-dos we have (or don’t have, as the case may be) – going to Bhutan was one of mine, along with taking my parents on the QM2 across the Atlantic. As I was driving back from my little day-off jaunt today, I was thinking of the things we’d really like to do but know we couldn’t. I was listening to an Amy Winehouse album at the time – great big voice, great talent, just a pity she’s so messed up. I started thinking about my dream of having a really powerful voice and being able to stand on a stage and belt out a song – maybe I’ve already written about my inner Chrissy Hynde. I love listening to female vocalists with strong voices – from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, to Annie Lennox and Julia Fordham, and I have this dream of being able to have that kind of voice. Only one problem – I am completely tone deaf when it comes to my own voice. I could not hold a tune if my life depended upon it, and I even mime in church so that I don’t spoil the hymns. So, that’s my unrequited dream. What’s yours?

Not that I’m a big sports fan, but I wanted to draw attention to two truly international sporting events currently in progress that seem to have missed out on the big press: The FIFA Women’s World Cup football (soccer), and the Rugby World Cup – the latter played by men. Big men, many without their own teeth. I won’t give out scores because whatever is true at time of writing will be superceded by events by the time you read this. I think we should all try to take in a bit of the Women’s World Cup because there isn’t anyone called Beckham either on the field or sitting up on the stands in way too high heels, and we should at least try to catch a glimpse of the Fijian rugby team who always seem to make it look so easy, and of course, the pre-match Maori “Haka” dance performed by the New Zealand All Blacks. Go on, give it a whirl.

That’s my round up for the week – have a lovely weekend.


  1. Hi Jacqueline!

    Glad you finally let go of your manuscript: means we get to read it sooner. :-D Hmm. ARC? I review books (insert batting of eyelids). :-D

    I think I added a belated addition to the comments of your last 'life list' entry, so I won't repeat that here. I'd still like to swim with the dolphins, though. A guilty pleasure life list entry would be singing like you described or dancing latin or ballroom like a professional. Dancing the Vienna Waltz is something akin to flying. Sigh. I danced for two years, twelve years ago - and my beloved and I have been way to busy to look into lessons on this side of the pond. Sigh.

    Have a great weekend,

  2. Ooooh, unrequited dreams....mine are about music, and I have several of them.

    I'd love to be talented enough to:

    Sing like Judy Garland
    Play the piano like Vince Guaraldi
    Play the guitar like Joe Perry or Mark Knopfler
    Dance like Eleanor Powell

  3. Jackie,

    I highly recommend shower singing. Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" makes a great shower solo.

  4. Jackie,
    I feel the same way about ARCs. I also have a book coming out in Feb. Perhaps our paths will finally cross.


  5. from Jacqueline

    Louise, maybe we should duet "Rehab" though obviously not in the shower!

    To dance well is one of my dreams - and will probably go unrequited. My parents are such amazing dancers that my brother and I rebelled and neither of us can make our way across the floor to music with any elegance or ease.

    James - look forward to seeing you somewhere on the road!

  6. Hi Jacqueline,

    Two events that "seem to have missed out on the big press"?! A slightly (though I suppose understandably) US-centric view!

    Back here in the Mother Country, for once terrestrial TV is doing its job.

    It's great to see women's soccer getting some attention for once, and, as a rugby fan, I am currently on top of a cloud - who cares that the current World Champions are turning out to be a busted flush, when Georgia, Namibia and Japan are all playing their hearts out.

    Rob (yes, an England fan!)

  7. Love the cover for your next book!

    Unrequited dreams?

    I still regret not jumping up and saying, "Yes!" when a college professor entered my sedimentary geology class and asked for a volunteer to go to the South Pole for several months to look for meteorites on snowmobiles. Why I thought then finishing college in exactly four years, with no breaks for usch remote field work, was so important is still a mystery to me.

    Best line on this subject I've ever heard is from the movie "The Dish". Something about fears and how regret later is always worse than a present fear.

    Or as Edna Mode said in the movie, "The Incredibles", "I never look back. It distracts from da now!" She would not have regrets about the past.