A post for writers: Shifting GearsPosted November 23rd, 2011 by Thomas Norman DeWolf
This post is written for people interested in the publishing process; what writers experience in collaboration with a publisher (and, in our case, with each other). Whether you are someone who dreams of publishing your own book or you’re simply interested in some of the behind-the-scenes process, this one’s for you. Each author has different experiences, of course, depending on their publisher, editor and other factors. I’ve heard some horror stories from other authors about working through the publishing process. I’ll tell you one thing for sure. They weren’t working with Beacon Press. Our experience has been professional, respectful, exciting, and fun… and a lot of hard work.
October 24 was the day everything shifted for us.
Two years, two months and eighteen days after we first talked about writing together (I just love what you can figure out with Google these days), Sharon and I submitted our draft manuscript to Gayatri Patnaik, executive editor at Beacon Press, and we met over lunch with the editorial, marketing and publicity team. Sharon wrote about the experience a few days later in Special Delivery. It was indeed a special day.
For the past two-plus years Sharon and I have traveled. A lot. We’ve spent time with each other, with each others’ friends and with each others’ families. We’ve put thousands of miles on our Jeeps (mostly Sharon’s). We’ve done research together. We’ve laughed. We’ve cried. We’ve pondered. We’ve shared lots of meals. We’ve talked and talked. And we wrote.
And on October 24 everything shifted from a focus on the art and imagination of creating our journey and writing about it, to molding the draft manuscript into a book. There is still a lot of art and imagination going into the process, and there is also a new focus on forging words and sentences and paragraphs into a story that readers will find compelling, and into a package that booksellers, marketers, readers, and the media will pay attention to among the quarter-million-or-so books that will be published next year in the United States.
The stage we’re in now works like this. Gayatri reads our manuscript. She makes detailed recommendations for improvements; what we should cut, what needs to be expanded, sections to move, things that need clarification, and so on. We respond to those recommendations by accepting (almost all) or rejecting (very few) her suggestions. Then we make the changes.
We received the manuscript back from Gayatri on November 14. We were thrilled to read that she was “quite pleased” with the draft; that we had given her “such great material to work with.” Her confidence in us and our manuscript means a great deal to us. Our highest hope is that our readers will truly understand what we’ve experienced along this journey of healing, and will want to travel with us through each page.
Sharon and I spent three hours on the phone on November 15 talking through every “track changes” note Gayatri had written. We agreed to a process whereby we would each review the entire manuscript and make the changes that were most appropriate to one or the other of us and then pass it back and forth. I had it for a few long days, then Sharon did. The next pass took one day each. There were a few final issues to haggle through that we did by telephone, and that was it. Yesterday, November 22, we submitted Draft 2 (which is how there is finally time to write a blog post!)
We’ll get the manuscript back with final recommendations in a couple weeks. We’ll then have our last opportunity to make significant changes. When we send in our final submission, everything will shift once more. Many steps remain, including copy-editing, proof-reading, cover design, the creation of publicity and marketing plans, and more, all leading up to the publication of Gather at the Table in October 2012.
Then everything will shift again.
Eastern Mennonite University
Harlem Book Fair
Phillis Wheatley Book Award
Post Racial Society
Summer Peacebuilding Institute
Tulsa race riot
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