Hey all. Gerry Boyle here, just picking up around the study today. Notebooks, ripped sheets of paper, sticky notes, scrawled and illegible reminders, books held open with other books, wrinkled manuscript pages of my new McMorrow novel, ONCE BURNED.
Because it’s done, more or less. Versions 1, 2, and 3 have been worked over. Editor’s questions have been answered or at least addressed. I’ve fiddled and diddled and read and reread. I’ve reworked passages, deleted others. I’ve added a postscript and even a post postscript. Now it’s time to send this one out into the wide, wide world.
This is an odd moment in the life cycle of a book. You spend a year or more with the thing, starting with the seed of an idea. The seed grows, changes, turns into a few pages of hastily scribbled notes. The notes become sketches, outlines, stacks of legal pads, bookmarked pages in reference books, transcripts of interviews. Then there are outlines, which you print out and position carefully on the desk beside the computer screen. And then you start to write.
ONCE BURNED has a whole section of folders on my hard drive. It’s had three titles. Characters have had various aliases. Some characters auditioned for the book and, sadly, didn’t get a call back. I encouraged them to try again in the future. There was much about them to like.
In coming weeks and months it will be copyediting, cover design, marketing plans, galleys to reviewers. But today I’m in the midst of the bittersweet task of gathering up the stuff, stacking it in neat piles, taking the piles and moving them off the desk top. This one is done; on to the next.
It reminds me of walking through my kids’ rooms after they headed off to college. Some of their stuff was gone, and the remainder was neatened and put away and sanitized so that the rooms bore little resemblance to the place they’d lived all those years. It was time to move on.
Same way with the stuff that goes into a book. All of the things that were so useful for the last few months are suddenly irrelevant. The stacks move to the end of the work table. Then onto the floor. Then maybe out to the archives in the barn. Or just to the recycling.
It’s an interesting moment in the creative process, this house cleaning. It’s inevitable and totally expected but still, after doing it a dozen times or more, it still gives me pause. Because living with a book during the writing process is very different from seeing it realized. Huddling in the study vs. readings and signings and interviews. Two very different things.
So out with the old and in with the new. The sketches are already underway. The outlines. The small stack of stuff for the next one will grow quickly over coming months. The mess, I’m glad to say, will soon return.