At the beginning of any book project, we put together a calendar with a timeline of all the stages, tasks, and processes that need to happen and the dates they need to be completed in order to keep to the production schedule. Ideally, all these things will happen as planned, in order, by their deadlines.
Of course, it doesn’t ever work that way.
I knew that since The Ghosts Who Travel with Me cites quite a few other works, we would need to get on the permissions train early. In fact, it was one of the first things we did once we had the manuscript in hand, way back in summer. We combed the manuscript for citations. Allison wrote letters. Some permissions were granted; others were not. The ones that were not were written out of the manuscript. We had one major set of permissions that Allison had been trying to obtain, to no avail, since October. If we couldn’t get them, significant portions of the manuscript would have to be rewritten. She contacted them again, and again, but we heard nothing. We were stressing out. I told Allison she’d better begin on the rewrites and decided that if we heard nothing by March 1st, we’d give up.
On February 28th, a letter came in saying that permission had been granted.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned working on this book is that you just never know what’s going to come up. You hope your original plan will work, but you have to have a back-up plan; you hope your back-up plan will go without a hitch, but you should probably have a back-up-back-up plan just in case; you think the back-up-back-up plan is going to be the way to go, and suddenly you’re back to the original plan. All you can do is enjoy the ride.
Lots of exciting developments in the past few weeks! Allison has been working diligently on a variety of projects, and making great progress. It’s the author’s responsibility to contact the owners of intellectual property that he or she has put in the manuscript (direct quotes, for example) in order to gain permission to use it. Allison has been working her way through the list we made her of all the instances in the manuscript that require permissions, and, as I said, she’s made a lot of headway.
The other thing she’s been working on is a second revision of the manuscript itself; we sent her an outline of possible edits we thought would benefit the manuscript, and she was so on it that she incorporated all of those edits, plus some more of her own, and got it back to us ahead of schedule! I’m confident that both the edits we suggested and the ones she added herself will take us a long way in refining this (already very good) manuscript into a bright, shiny, publishable diamond.
Now that we have Allison’s revisions back, we’re going to dig into the process of reviewing the whole manuscript again, to see if there are any more areas we can identify that might benefit from changes. This stage of the editing process is a slow, deliberate push-and-pull, and it requires an acute sense of the goal of the story and a willingness to tweak it, twist it, and whittle it down to achieve that goal in the best possible way. It can be challenging work, but we’re here because we love it.
Trout Frying in America is on a super fast publication track, so we’re making the most of the time we have while Allison is working on the developmental edits we suggested. As soon as our developmental letter was sent, we started thinking about other logistics we could take care of in the meantime. One of these is permissions. Trout Frying in America includes quite a few literary references and references to literary criticism, all of which need to be catalogued, the owners contacted, payment sent (if necessary), and permission obtained. Permissions can be a bit of a sticky process, and it is very dependent upon the responsiveness of other people, so I decided the sooner we started working on it, the better. Being down to the wire and still waiting to hear whether we have permission for that one last totally-not-optional quotation sounds like the stuff of nightmares, so I’m determined to prevent it from happening! Here’s hoping that the process goes smoothly.