Friday, February 20, 2015

Let Me Go

Let me go ye gods of manuscripts. Take this book off my mind. Shoo! Get out of my writing room.

I sent off my non-fiction book this week. It's for University of Oklahoma Press. Right now the working title is Nicodemus: Race and Culture on the Kansas Frontier. The moment I put it in the mail I wanted it back. I instantly thought of things I wish I had said, or shouldn't have said. When I worried that the paper was too cheap or not the right weight or the right degree of brightness, I knew I had passed over the line into a new kind of craziness.

Did I remember everyone I wanted to thank in the acknowledgements? Were all the names spelled correctly. Was I wrong on just about everything? Was there some crucial resource that I left out? Was the epilogue too short? It took a long time to finish this project. Academic books require extensive documentation. I've read so many microfilmed newspaper that I'm lucky I still can see.

Non-fiction books have their own protocol. For one thing, I had so send this manuscript in both print and digital formats, with each chapter in a separate digital file. Poisoned Pen Press wants everything in a single digital file. In fact that's true of most fiction publishers nowadays. Each method has it's own merits.

Single large files are a dream to edit. For that matter I can change a name instantly throughout the whole book. We had to do that in Hidden Heritage when I read two days before I sent in the final manuscript that a family in New Mexico was suing the government over the same issue that was the linchpin of my mystery.

When I got home from FedEx, I realized I had left out the checklist. See? I told myself I would leave out something that was critical. I'll scan it and email it to my editor.

I have a couple of things left to do. This kind of book has a lot of pictures and acquiring permission to print them is quite tedious. The first step is to determine who owns the copyright. The next step is  writing to the owner and getting signed permission to publish. The stipulations are very restrictive. I only have one more picture to collect. I don't want to take a chance on it getting lost in the mail and will go to LaJunta, CO to scan it. It's a priceless picture of Lulu Craig, whom I quote throughout the book.

I have to do my own indexing. The process is quite precise. However, one of the things I appreciate about OU Press is detailed instructions. There are professional indexers, but the price would come out of my own pocket and it would be really hard for someone else to pick out the sub-headings I have in mind.

This is a learning process. Right now, I'm maxed out on integrating new information. And I want the book off my mind while I finish my fourth mystery.

You can bet I'll let everyone know when the academic book is published.


4 comments:

amreade said...

I'm exhausted just reading about the process of writing and editing a non-fiction book. Good luck!

Charlotte Hinger said...

Amreade? It's really scary because I don't know what I'm doing. New processes are always more frightening that the old and familiar. Plus the whole field of African American history is just huge.

Thanks for the comment.

Sybil Johnson said...

Congrats on getting the book done. Nonfiction seems very scary to me.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Sybil, it's the "academic" that's scary. If you say a day back in 1880 was sunny, you have to be able to document it. Also this kind of writing gives "reliable sources" a whole new meaning.

Thanks for the comment