Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Editing Terror

I got my copy-edited manuscript today, along with a letter from Harcourt’s managing editor gently reminding me how expensive and risky it will be to change anything beyond this stage.

I started writing this novel in November 2003. I’ve revised it five times, three times since Harcourt bought it almost two years ago. That’s four years of waking up at 2 a.m., grabbing a pen, and writing something like “would they know about prunes?” on the pad of paper beside my pillow.

Now the former Medford and the Goatman is called The Unnameables and is in the Harcourt fall catalogue. Once I finish going over this manuscript, that’s it. If I wake up at 2 a.m. and realize that Medford could not possibly know about prunes, that thought is arriving too damn late.

He would know about prunes. His language is basically the English of 1705. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Shakespeare wrote about prunes in “Measure for Measure” in 1603. The word showed up in household accounts in the late 1400s. I know this. I looked it up twice.

At 2 a.m., though, who believes the Oxford English Dictionary?
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