It's late at night in Las Vegas, a city I have come to to talk to a convocation of Borders Books managers. That's tomorrow night. Tonight I went to see Penn and Teller's show at the Rio (it was wonderful) and then went on a very brief excursion with them to a rave to see Ouchie the S&M clown (who was seen), and now back to my hotel room and bed.
Blogger, the thing that powers this journal, was down yesterday, so I didn't get to write about the good American Gods thing that happened. Which is, it's been picked up by the SF Book Club as the lead title for its month, and by the Book of the Month Club as an alternate pick, and they've paid real money for the rights, which is a good thing, on both counts.
Tomorrow's post will be all about the Borders talk and suchlike, I expect.
And so (as that nice Mr Pepys used to write) to bed.
posted by Neil Gaiman 12:32 AM
Tuesday, March 27, 2001
So we're edging from the editing (and copy editing) process into the promotional process here. This is the third stage of getting a book published. (The first stage is writing it. The second is editing the manuscript. The third is promoting the book to the trade. The fourth is promoting the book to the public. The fifth is having a good sit down when it's all over and contemplating a nice restful career as a lion tamer or a steeplejack.) (Which reminds me, I've still not yet written about the day of being photographed for the author photos. One day soon.)
And I know this (that we're moving into promoting the book to the trade) because this weekend I shall be in Las Vegas, talking to Borders Books people -- store managers and suchlike I guess, -- and telling them... actually I have no idea what I'm meant to be talking to them about -- whether I'm 'giving a talk' or making a speech, or just getting up there and affably winging it (something I quite enjoy doing from time to time). But I imagine that at the end of whatever it is we're going to be doing, they'll all know that American Gods exists.
They'll all have copies of the American Gods missing-the-last-chapter galleys as well, and I'll probably sign them. All I really hope is that they read themwhen they get home -- or give them to the people who work in the stores who want to read them -- rather than just stick them out on e-bay, unread.
posted by Neil Gaiman 5:13 PM
Another long post was just written, telling you all that I was hiding out and doing nothing else but trying to finish the Death movie script; and what happened at IAFA; and that yes, the beard went half-way through, so I look like me again; and then I wrote all about the tour and how the US signings were almost finalised and will be announced here the moment they are.
Then I said that the US tour would be June 19th to July 2nd; the UK tour July 5th to 12th; the Canadian bit from July 20th to 25th.
And I mentioned that I wasn't doing any other American Gods signing this year (although I'm meant to be in Brazil at the end of May and in Spain in August). And I talked about how I'd just had a request from an academic journal in Brazil to reprint the bit of this journal that talks about what editors do (I said yes).
And all in all it was a lot like this post, only twice as long, and really interesting. But then I put down my foot and knocked the phone cord out of the wall, and that was that.
posted by Neil Gaiman 11:15 AM
Thursday, March 22, 2001
I wrote an incredibly tired post last night, told it to publish, it zapped off temperamentally into the ether, and I went to bed.
At IAFA currently. Thrilled that so many people -- critics, authors and a couple of academics -- have already read American Gods. More thrilled that the ones who have start by telling me that, yes, they liked my other books, but this is really good. No, really good. Had several conversations about the dedication (it's dedicated to Roger Zelazny and Kathy Acker) which was odd and sad.
Favorite comment on the beard, an astonished "You look like a grown up!" from an old friend. Hah! It still dies tonight.
Meanwhile, Joe Fulgham, over at the Dreaming has done a lovely banner ad for American Gods. It has lightning on it and everything. (Go and take a look.) Please feel free to steal it and use it and link it to here, or to the countdown front page (www.americangods.com -- probably best as we will be putting more stuff up here soon than just the journal), or to Amazon.com or your favorite local or online bookseller or whoever.
Or to create your own.
posted by Neil Gaiman 6:42 AM
Wednesday, March 21, 2001
Nothing exciting to report on American Gods today. I’m back writing the Death: The High Cost of Living movie, which is a) incredibly late – this is my fault, and the fault of American Gods being at least twice as long as I’d originally planned – and b) hard writing. In some ways the hardest thing I’ve had to write in an age.
The biggest problem I’m having with it is, I already wrote it once, as a comic. That was in the summer of 1992. One thing I knew that I’d do this time, was give the characters new dialogue – words you write to be read are not words you write to be spoken aloud. They do different things.
But the dialogue is really hard to write: I’ll squint, and I’ll squirm and I’ll rack my brains, and I’ll imagine, and then I’ll carefully type a line. And then, later, I’ll check, and find all too often I’ve just written the same line, often word for word, that I gave those characters in 1992.
So I’m worrying less about that, now, and more about just getting it onto the desks of the people who want to read it by the first of April.
Tonight, and until Sunday, I’ll be attending the international conference for the fantastic in the arts Wearing the kind of beard that caused friction between Bertie and Jeeves in the beginning of a Wodehouse novel ("But Jeeves, dash it, it makes me look distinguished!" "So you say, sir," etc), and was always shaved off following the return of the prize pig or the marriage of Bingo Little at the end of the last chapter, to everyone's relief.
posted by Neil Gaiman 12:25 PM
Monday, March 19, 2001
Hard work doing the US galleys. They were waiting for me when I got up Saturday morning, went off first thing this morning (Monday) and I didn’t do anything else over the weekend, except go and eat some nice sushi.
Someone’s done a lot of find and replaces -- NEVER a good idea in galleys. Dave Langford put something in Ansible recently about how on the galleys of my novel Neverwhere someone Found-and-Replaced all the flats to apartments. People said things apartmently, and believed the world was apartment.
None of these were quite that bad – they were subtler...
F’rinstance: All instances of the word round have become around. Fine for walking around the lake, less helpful for the around glasses, the around holes in the ice; blonde has uniformely become blond, and so blonder has become blondr; for ever has become, universally, forever, and for everything thus became foreverything, and we also got foreveryone, forevery time and so on. Each had to be found and caught.
Little things – the icelandic þú became bú, which won’t bother anyone who isn’t Icelandic. Blowjob had inexplicably become blow job again. (I think a blowjob is a unit of sexual currency, whereas a blow job is something you can get -- or indeed, give --instead of a wrist job, a sleeve job or a window job.) And once again every damn comma gets scrutinised. And I changed an Advertise to an advertize which was nice of me.
I changed the copyedited ‘vast hall of death’ back to ‘vasty hall of death’ which was what I’d originally written; it’s a quote from Matthew Arnold, which was in its turn quoted by Roger Zelazny, and I think that people can get the idea that vasty’s an archaic form of vast.
Not sure of the logic that has people talk about a “motel 6" or “drive down Highway 14" but also talk about “Comparative Religion One-oh-one”. But I just put a query next to it and left it.
I am, having read my book three times in three versions in the last three weeks, checking everything, finally feeling very done with it. Noticed some sloppy sentences this time through, ones that Fowler would have tutted at. If I could fix them with a word, I did; if they needed to be completely rewritten, I left them, figuring that perfection can wait. Maybe for the next book.
The first of the blurbs is in. It’s from Peter Straub, who says, in an e-mail to my editor, Jennifer Hershey...
Dear Jennifer --
Many thanks to both you and Neil for sending me the early galley of
AMERICAN GODS. I think it is a terrific book, clearly Neil's best to
date, and am very happy to offer the following quote:
From his first collection of short stories, Neil Gaiman has always been
a remarkable, remarkably gifted writer, but AMERICAN GODS is the first
of his fictions to match, even surpass, the breathtaking imaginative
sweep and suggestiveness of his classic SANDMAN series of graphic
novels. Here we have poignancy, terror, nobility, magic, sacrifice,
wisdom, mystery, heartbreak, and a hardearned sense of resolution - a
real emotional richness and grandeur that emerge from masterful
Will that do? It's a wonderful novel, and I congratulate both you and
Neil for bringing it into being.
Which has me happy as a sandboy. (What is a sandboy? Why are they so happy?) I guess because I really wanted American Gods to be a book that had the power and scale and resonance that Sandman did (and which, by their nature, and not necessarily to their detriment, neither Neverwhere nor Stardust could have had -- they were intrinsically smaller, lighter things). That it’s done that for one reader – and that that one reader is a writer of whose work I have been a fan since I read Shadowlands at about 16 – makes me feel like the last two years of hard writing really had a point.
The permission came in on the Tom Waits song Tango Till They’re Sore, and I got the first word from the Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood people, and I sent them the follow-up fax. Waiting on e.e. cummings still. But the permissions should be done VERY soon.
And an e-mail in from a correspondent who shall remain anonymous:
I've looked at some of your journal and I'd never realised the actual effort
and workload that goes into it AFTER the book is 'written'. Nor why it took
so long between concept and hardback appearance - until now that is. Is
your brain "American Godded Out' or still on an enthusiasm roll?
Dear Anonymous of New Zealand. I’m still enthusiastic. But I’m very pleased I don’t have to read it again this week.
And I’m pleased that some of the mechanics of taking a book to publication are coming out in the journal. People know that authors write books, and then books appear on the shelves. Some of them are bestsellers, and some aren’t. But that’s all most people know. One reason I liked the idea of doing this journal was being able to explain the stuff that happens between handing in the mss and publication. (That there are no authorial grumbles about either the UK or the US book covers is very unusual -- I’m happy with them both and they both look like covers for the book I wrote.)
Someone on The Well asked. Why don’t writers just edit their own books, kinda like musicians who produce themselves?
And the answer to that, Bill Clintonlike, is probably, it depends what you mean by Edit.
Edit means so many things. Editors do so many things.
In the US they like to get more involved. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. Michael Korda once told me it all dated back to Jacqueline Susanne, who wrote books that were readable, but all typed in upper case in something that didn’t have a lot to do with English; so editors began getting their feet wet and getting involved in the writing process, making suggestions for things to cut, rewriting where they had to, and so on.
It’s certainly true that UK editors tend much more to look at a manuscript, ask themselves “is this publishable?” and if the answer’s yes, they publish it.
(In my case, the best thing an editor can do while I’m writing something is to keep cheerful and encouraging, say nice things, and keep getting words out of me by hook or by crook. I’ll sort out the problems for the second draft.)
Then there are copyeditors. Most editors now are too busy to actually spend 30 plus hours reading a manuscript with a blue pencil scrutinising each wayward comma. But, they figure, somebody has to do it.
In each case, the main thing an editor is meant to do when they do their jobs is to make you look good. I think the analogy is much less a musician producing her own records, and a lot more like an actor doing his own make-up and wigs, or an actor in a one man show doing her own lighting. Sure, you can do it yourself, but it’s much easier, and you’ll get a better look, if you get another pair of eyes and hands in to do it.
Editors make you look good. That’s their job. Whether it’s by pointing out that the relationship between the lead character and his father was never satisfyingly resolved, or by pointing out you’ve changed the spelling of the name of the landlady between her two appearances. Like the lighting guy, they are another pair of eyes.
And I always like another pair of eyes. If I’m writing a short story I’ll send the first draft out to a bunch of friends for feedback; they may see things I’ve missed, or point out places I thought I’d got away with something that I hadn’t. Or tell me the title is crap. Or whatever. I listen, because it’s in my best interests to listen. I may listen and then decide that, no, I like my title, and the relationship between the protagonist and his father is just what I want it to be, or whatever, but I’ll still listen.
(Something I learned ages ago. When people tell you there’s something wrong with a story, they’re almost always right. When they tell what it is that’s wrong and how it can be fixed, they’re almost always wrong.)
Of course, there are authors out there who are not edited. This is not necessarily a good thing. I read a bestselling book by a bestselling one of them. He had a flashback scene in which one of the neighborhood kids was wandering around, twelve years before he was born. An editor would have put a pencil mark beside it and said “Do you mean this?” and the embarrassed author would have admitted that, no, he wasn’t thinking, he just mentally thought of the names of some of the kids and forgot that one of them would have been minus twelve in that scene, and fixed it. So I don’t plan to become one of the great unedited.
I would say that when you find a good editor, you stick with them; and when you find a good copyeditor you stick with them as best you can.
(Often, in the US, they won’t tell you who the copyeditor is. They are more anonymous than taxmen. Apparently, there have been too many occasions in the history of publishing of overstressed authors ringing up copyeditors at 2:00am and screaming “I’m going to kill you, you bastard – how dare you change my noble and beautiful forgot to an inspid and lustreless forgotten?” that you are actively discouraged from talking to them before, during or after the copyediting process. This makes it hard to know when you got a good one, and harder still to keep them when you did.)
We’re very close to posting the details on the signing tour. Honest.
posted by Neil Gaiman 2:38 PM
Saturday, March 17, 2001
Ah, and another proof of American Gods has hit e-bay, I see. This time it's the US edition, so is missing the last chapter...
posted by Neil Gaiman 12:15 PM
So, I was just starting to get up to speed on the DEATH: THE HIGH COST OF LIVING script when this morning brought with it from Harper Collins the US Galleys. So I rolled up my sleeves, took out my pen (the instructions they send say pencil, but I don't have a pencil here) and started in on them. Now it's just little things, and occasionally, fixing things I was too tired to fix the last time they went through (Harper Collins hyphenates or doesn't hyphenate on a system all of their own... why, I wonder, would face up become one word faceup?) and sometimes fixing things I'm pretty sure I did fix last time around but that weren't acted upon (dammit, I like blond for boys and blonde for girls). The scary point in proofreading is that odd moment when suddenly, the marks on the paper become nothing more than marks on the paper. This is my cue to go and make a cup of tea. Normally they've fixed themselves and become marks that mean something when I get back. In this case, I decided that doing a journal entry (while the tea brews) might encourage them to head back into wordhood.
Not sure if I mentioned this before, but the Amazon.com entry for American Gods has the first draft of the jacket copy up. (It's at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0380973650) The one on the book jacket is, I think, a little more oblique.
Changing the subject, I keep thinking about the Coen brothers who proudly announced when they released the directors cut of Blood Simple that far from adding any new material, they had managed to cut several minutes from it. I keep thinking about this in context of the book, this blogger journal, and the American Gods website. There is stuff I'm very happy to have cut from the manuscript. One story stands alone (I sent it out as a Christmas card this year) but there are some oddments that I cut out because they interrupted the flow of the story, and it was just a little leaner and worked a little better without them. I can imagine in ten years' time rereading American Gods and proudly cutting out several paragraphs.
So I think I may post a few here and there. There's one lecture from a character who never really even made it into the first draft, I keep meaning to transcribe from my notes and put up. The rest of them are full scenes or bits...
Here's a little one.
“I suppose I need a library card,” he said. “And I want to know all about thunderbirds.”
The woman had him fill out a form, then she told him it would take a week until he could be issued with his card. Shadow wondered if they spent the week sending out despatches to ensure that he was not wanted in any other libraries across America for failure to return library books.
He had known a man in prison who had been imprisoned for stealing library books.
“Sounds kind of rough,” said Shadow, when the man told him why he was inside.
“Half a million dollars worth of books,” said the man, proudly. His name was Gary McGuire. “Mostly rare and antique books from libraries and universities. They found a whole storage locker filled with books from floor to ceiling. Open and shut case.”
“Why did you take them?” asked Shadow.
“I wanted them,” said Gary.
“Jesus. Half a million dollars worth of books.”
Gary flashed him a grin, lowered his voice and said, “That was just in the storage locker they found. They never found the garage in San Clemente with the really good stuff in it.”
Gary had died in prison, when what the infirmary had told him was just a malingering, feeling-lousy kind of day turned out to be a ruptured appendix. Now, here in the Lakeside library, Shadow found himself thinking about a garage in San Clemente with box after box of rare, strange and beautiful books in it rotting away, all of them browning and wilting and being eaten by mold and insects in the darkness, waiting for someone who would never come to set them free.
posted by Neil Gaiman 11:33 AM
Thursday, March 15, 2001
By the way, for those who read the archives (or just have good memories) and wondered what happened to the journal entry that turned into an essay on things like whether books have genders and how American Gods grew from a bean, I've tidied it up and given it to my editor at Harper Collins to pass on to Powells.com, who wanted an essay for their website. So, when it's up, you'll have to go there and read it.
posted by Neil Gaiman 1:12 PM
Wednesday, March 14, 2001
So I've spent the last two days doing the UK (Headline Books) galleys of
American Gods. (Galleys are the output pages of what will be typeset to form
the book that will be on sale. They are unbound, at this stage -- 500
numbered sheets of paper.) It was a strange and gently maddening
experience as I got to discover how inconsistent I am when I write.
Aging AND ageing, 10:00 am AND 10:00am AND 10:00 a.m., jeweller and
jeweler... and so on. And while I didn't mind my favourite version being in
there I found it most trying that I hadn't been consistent. So I reminded
myself that a something or other consistency is the hobgoblin of tiny minds
and went back to the galleys.
I am getting faster, though.
And I was pleasantly suprised that the book seemed to hold my interest as a
reader for the umpteenth time through it. Normally about this point in the
equation I cannot even look at it again.
(There was one edition of one of my books, quite some years ago, where the
galleys arrived for a paperback edition, and I looked at them and said "They
had better be right, for I don't think I can read past page one without
screaming". And for all I know, they were.)
So some time in the next few weeks it'll be time to do the US galleys. But for now the UK galleys have been inspected, corrected, several pages have been rescued from a swimming pool and dried out (it was windy), and I found a postal service place to UPS them -- all 7lbs of paper -- back to London.
The lady who ran the postal place was somewhat woozy. She spoke like Tracy
Ullmann's Ruby Romaine character, and had a great deal of trouble focussing
on things, like small print, or quite large print, or solid objects. She said
she'd been an exotic dancer until her back got bad, but that was some years
ago now. She told me it would cost $95 dollars to send the galleys to London.
I said that she was looking at the wrong page, and that I was not trying to
import anything to the US collect. She moved the book around and squinted a
lot. I asked if I could help, and took the book, and found the cost of
sending the package and the price and everything. I gave it back to her. She
decided that I had the wrong page. She phoned head office. They told her the
price code. It was the one that I'd found for her. She came back to tell me
about it.An ant started sauntering across the counter top. She kept hitting
it ("I know they're all god's creature's but that's a goddamn bug on my
counter") and kept missing it, her fist always slamming down just behind
where it had been. It wasn't walking that fast. Then the ant vanished
entirely. She looked around for it, muttering, "Where the hell did it go?" I
picked it off her forearm, and dropped it into the bin. She told me that
she'd be able to focus a lot better after her pharmaceutical break.
And I left her the galleys, hoping against hope that they will actually
arrive at the offices of Headline Books on Monday, and that she won't absent-
mindedly have sent them to India or somewhere.
Which reminds me...
Currently there's no real mechanism for sending questions about American Gods here yet. So if any of you do have questions for me about American Gods, go and take a look at the Well's inkwell.vue area (http://www.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/). You can e-mail Linda or Jon or any of the guys who run the inkwell (there's a link to them at the bottom of that first page) and they'll post the questions on the inkwell topic -- 104 -- and I'll answer them there and here.
And the US part of the signing tour is more or less decided. I'll post it as soon as it's set in stone. It'll be June 19th -29th. Then there will be a UK tour in early July and a short Canadian tour in late July.
And the first American Gods proof has surfaced on Ebay. It's one of the UK proofs, so it has a nice cover and isn't missing the final chapter. But I was saddened to see that it's "unread" -- there aren't many of these proofs (they're few enough that Headline is having to say "no" to people who want them now), and the whole point of sending them out is so that people -- booksellers or journalists -- can read them, not so that they can make a quick buck off them.
posted by Neil Gaiman 9:24 PM
Friday, March 09, 2001
The good news is that a box of quick and dirty proof copies of AMERICAN GODS arrived today. The bad news is that the last chapter is missing. And all I can say is thank heavens it's just these early proofs, where we can make sure anyone who gets them also gets a print out of the last chapter rather than the finished book on the shelves missing its last chapter. (It's happened, and worse, and weirder. For that matter I have on my shelves the only extant copies of a UK printing of The Sandman: Book of Dreams with Stephen King's name on the cover as author of one of the stories. Luckily I got my author copies before they left the warehouse to go anywhere else. And I called HC UK and said "But he doesn't have a story in the book. You printed it in hardback last year and he didn't have a story in there." And they said "Oops," and trashed the print run.)
posted by Neil Gaiman 11:49 AM
Thursday, March 08, 2001
Hey. I'm nominated for a Nebula, for best screenplay. Isn't that fun?
(I'm not sure that my part in Mononoke was screenplay-worthy, and if it did get it, Jack Fletcher, the English language voice director, deserves as much of it as I do. But still, it's always fun to be nominated for things.)
posted by Neil Gaiman 5:45 PM
Wednesday, March 07, 2001
One of the best things about finishing a book, is there are things you haven’t been able to read that now you are.
When I’m writing a book – or even, when I know that one day I’m going to be writing a book – any fiction in possibly a similar area becomes taboo.
If my next book were to be a fictional life of Marco Polo, I’d not read any fiction to do with Marco Polo or Kublai Khan (and would probably have stopped reading it about five years ago): partly because I don’t want to see how someone else did that idea, and partly because if someone did do the same thing that I was going to do, I don’t want that route closed off because someone else has taken it already. It just keeps things simple.
It doesn’t mean you won’t be accused of plagiarism. I’ve still never read Christopher Fowler’s Roofworld, although I love Chris Fowler as a writer, and have had a copy of Roofworld on my shelves since before it came out (they sent me a proof). But I knew I wanted to do a magic city under London novel, and Roofworld looked too close to what I planned to do for comfort. I left it unread, as I left Mike Moorcock’s Mother London, and several other good books. Books I know I’d like I haven’t read (and still haven’t, since I want to go back to London Below one day).
One of the joys of finishing American Gods is that there are books I can read, and books I can reread. John James’s Votan, for example. A book I read almost twenty years ago, and that I’ve wanted to reread for ages but didn’t dare to, as I knew it had a scene I was going to have to do in American Gods. And when I finally read it, last week, I was pleased that the two scenes didn’t resemble each other in any real way, and more pleased that twelve years spent getting as deeply into Norse stuff as anyone who doesn’t do it for a living had left me with an enormous appreciation for the brilliance of James’s novel. (It’s about a wily second century Greek trader in Germany who becomes Odin – Votan – and to whom all the Norse myths happen, or at least, the stories that will become the Norse Myths. Hilarious, moving and, along with its sequel, Not For all the Gold in Ireland, the best mythic-historical fiction out there, apart from Gene Wolfe’s Soldier in the Mist sequence, and maybe some Robert Graves.)
And now I’m reading a book I’ve wanted to read for five years, Martin Millar’s Good Fairies of New York. I read the back jacket copy when I bought the book, and ruled it off limits as it might have strayed into American Gods territory. Reading it in the bath today, it doesn’t. It’s just delightful Martin Millar, as funny and wise and solidly written as he gets at his best.
posted by Neil Gaiman 7:15 PM
Let's see... well, the old entries are dropping off the bottom of the site, so we're setting up an archive. There are US quick&dirty proof copies of the book going out to booksellers and authors-for-blurbs right now; I'm doing as many cover letters as I can to them. (It'll be interesting to see how quickly they start showing up on ebay, and how much they go for.) We've finalised the jacket copy in the US, and got permission to use a line from an e-mail as a blurb on the back of the book. (It was something Teller, of Penn and Teller fame, and a very fine writer in his own right, wrote to me, when he read it, which, I thought, described the book I was trying to write perfectly.)
posted by Neil Gaiman 1:32 PM
Monday, March 05, 2001
Permissions... well, good news, bad news. According to the copyright office website:
Therefore, the U. S. copyright in any work published or copyrighted prior to January 1, 1923, has expired by operation of law, and the work has permanently fallen into the public domain in the United States. For example, on January 1, 1997, copyrights in works first published or copyrighted before January 1, 1922, have expired; on January 1, 1998, copyrights in works first published or copyrighted before January 1, 1923, have expired. Unless the copyright law is changed again, no works under protection on January 1, 1999 will fall into the public domain in the United States until January 1, 2019.Which means that two of the poems I needed to quote from are public domain.
The third, unfortunately, isn't... and the request originally went to the wrong people. So I've just re-sent it to the right people. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
So, today, apart from Permissions emergencies, is trying to fix the UK and the US blurbs. The UK blurb feels just right, but is factually wonky; the US one has all its facts right, but doesn't quite feel like the book yet (as someone who read it said, "It could be about a war between rival clans of elves in the US" -- which, I hasten to add, it isn't). So I need to try and get the UK jacket copy closer to the events of the book, and the US jacket copy closer to the weirdness of the book. And I ought to do it before close of play today...
posted by Neil Gaiman 1:31 PM
Friday, March 02, 2001
And in case you were wondering -- Permissions: still waiting to hear from Warner Chappell about Please Don't Let me Be Misunderstood, and from all the poets. Permissions in from Greg Brown (for his song In the Dark With You), agreement reached with Sondheim's people (for Old Friends)....
posted by Neil Gaiman 4:20 PM
So the post today brought a copy of American Gods -- a book, and a cover -- from the UK. It's the Hodder uncorrected proof, and it is lovely. I was completely thrilled, mostly I think by the bookness of it. I also really liked the back cover copy, although it doesn't bear a whole lot of resemblance to the book it describes, having been written from my original outline and not from the text. So some of the facts are off, but the mood and the pitch and the tone are just right.
You can see the cover image at http://images-eu.amazon.com/images/P/0747274231.02.LZZZZZZZ.jpg Although they've now put a lot more silver on my name, and distressed the title letters, and the whole looks smashing.
All of a sudden, it's starting to feel like something very real -- a book, not just something I've been writing for a few years.
posted by Neil Gaiman 3:05 PM
One longish, quite funny, entry on the mechanics of copy editing was eaten by Blogger a couple of days ago, and I was too busy copy editing the novel to re-enter it. And then February did that thing that February does, where it stops suddenly just as you were getting the hang of it, and the time alotted by the publisher to copy editing was done. I spent one last day trying to input all of the major and minor revisions to the computer, so I had a file that was more or less the same as the version that was to be printed, and then had to drive at silly speeds down icy country roads to make it to the FedEx drop-off in time, which (deep sigh of relief here) I did.
And the manuscript is safely at Harper Collins, and now I just have to figure out the best way of doing the UK copy edit for the Hodder edition (as I discovered when they sent me their list of queries, the biggest problem with sending electronic files of books around the world rather than printouts is that page numbers change depending on things like your default font size and the type of paper you're using -- so my sending them a list of changes of the "delete comma after the word of on page 16 line 12" variety would be somewhere beyond useless).
The strangest thing about doing a copyedit is how much you learn. About the world, and about writing. Before I start I grab a pile of dictionaries, English and American, and a bunch of books on usage -- Fowler's, and the Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage, and Bill Bryson's lovely Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words -- and the Chicago Manual of Style, and wade in.
Is blowjob one word or two? Judgement or judgment? Wintry or wintery? Why has the copy editor crossed out 'hessian' and replaced it with 'burlap'? Aren't they two different fabrics? -- twenty minutes of research and I figure out that they may be two different fabrics in the UK, but they stopped using the word hessian for rough hairy sack-type jute or hemp cloth in the US about two hundred years ago. Good...
I'd written "none of the passengers were hurt" and the copy editor's changed it to "none of the passengers was hurt" -- Fowler's English Usage, the American English Usage, Harpers and Bill Bryson all agree that the idea that 'None' is a singular noun is based on the misconception that it's a contraction of no one, which it isn't, and tell me it's plural if I want it to be. Good. I do.
Now, when I write dialogue I try and punctuate it to give some kind of indication of the rhythms of speech. As far as I'm concerned "Hi, Mike" and "Hi Mike" are two different things. The copy editor likes the first, and assumes that wherever I've put the second, it's because I've forgotten the comma. And I like to spell out "mister" if it occurs in dialogue. I just do. He's replaced them all with "Mr." and I stet each one back the way it was, and fix a few that I've forgotten...
He's changed dumpster to Dumpster. Check. Yup, it's a trade-mark. Good call. Okay. He's changed the one ocurrence of 'whisky' to 'whiskey'. Nope, it's a good scotch (Laphroaig), and that's how they spell it. Leave it. And here's Diet Coke changed to diet Coke. Is that right? Yup. Good man.
He's changed a sixteen wheeler to an eighteen wheeler in a metaphor but not when there are a cluster of them parked outside a strip club. I add another two wheels to the ones parked outside the Best Peap Show In Town...
Why has the copy editor changed "it's the objective case" to "it's the dative case" in a (very) short conversation about 'who' vs 'whom'? Do we even have a dative case in English? My schoolboy Latin, Greek and German are of little use, but none of the refence books seems to think that there's anything other than subject and object going on here, and I write STET.
And on, and on, for six hundred and fifty pages. And if all this seems pedantic, on the copy editor's part or on mine... well, yes. That's the point. He's paid not to see the wood for the trees. Actually he's paid to look up at the wood now and again, but mostly to keep track of all the leaves, and especially to make sure that Missy Gunther on page 253 isn't Missie Gunther when she returns on page 400.
(And as I type this, looking down to my assistant Lorraine's Xena mouse pad, I've just noticed that the copy editor corrected Xena: Warrior Princess to Xena the Warrior Princess, and I let it pass as I assumed that was the official trademark, but nope, I was right originally -- quick phone call to Harper Collins "in chapter five, just before the bank robbery, there's a Xena: Warrior Princess harem doll in the bankrupt stock store -- can you fix it back the way it was?")
Meanwhile, there's a list of queries in from the UK, only one of which is the same as the US copy edits (a twenty-five minute long half an hour I'd managed to create. Don't ask.)
I decide to lose the quote from a Blur song (Magic America) (which doesn't say very much, but which was in my head when I started the book, along with Elvis Costello's American Without Tears) and replace it with a quote from Lord Carlisle written just after the War of Independence about the hugeness of America and the way even their losses and disasters occurred on a massive scale....
And now it's over and done. For three weeks, anyway, when the galleys will come back and I'll read it through a microscope for the second time, making sure that every comma is where it's meant to be...
posted by Neil Gaiman 7:35 AM