Thursday, December 16, 2010

Deja vu all over again

I am in the final stages of preparing a manuscript for publication. This book is Henry Ford's War: Law, Antisemitism and Speech in the Tribal 1920s (title subject to complete revision by publisher). Stanford University Press has it, and I'm trying to meet a Dec. 31 submission deadline so that the book will appear before the end of 2011. (Why it still takes so long to produce books in the digital age is a question for another post.)

Here's my beef for today. Before I turn in this manuscript, I am checking every single footnote, every last citation, primary and secondary sources alike. And I am shocked, just shocked, at how many times I can't find the documents I had at my fingertips when I wrote the book. Admittedly, pieces of the prose date back to 2002, but I wrote most of the text in the past 2 years.

Eventually, I find most of what I'm looking for. But there's always the odd document or two that simply refuses to surface, forcing a rewrite or other workaround. Here's my real worry: I don't know if I'm being overly fastidious or if this exercise reveals just how poor my technique is. After all, who's to know what would happen if I took a third pass through this thing? Pinpoint accuracy in footnotes matters to the point of obsessiveness, but I'm particularly inspired to get everything right in this book because of the messy state of affairs in the Ford historiography. So maybe I'm just carrying extra baggage here. Comments, reactions, tranquillizer suggestions all welcome.

1 comment:

Mary L. Dudziak said...

Hi, Vicky, congratulations on the book! Checking notes is great to do, though challenging. One thing to consider as you face your deadline is whether some tasks can be revisited between turning in the mss. and getting your copy-editing. If you are certain that a couple of sources exist, but they're escaping you right now, you can flag them and track them down during that in-between time. If your cite turns out to be unverifiable, you can tweak the text and change the cite during copy-editing.

It's deadline time in my household as well, and at this sort of point I triage things (having once participated in a medical triage drill long ago in high school). I have three categories: what's dead on arrival, and so not worth any time at all; what's going to survive whether or not I give it my attention right now; and what's in that middle category of things that immediately require my attention. At book deadline time, here's what goes in the categories:
1. dead on arrival: all my ambitious plans that I wish I had pursued but no longer have time for. Save for the next book.
2. will survive without my immediate attention: here I put little things, like maybe a paragraph that still isn't right that's in the middle of a middle chapter but isn't in the intro or someplace prominent. I can get that right and edit during copyediting.
3. Requiring my immediate attention: any changes that might affect reviews if the press still needs to send it out, including being sure to clarify arguments and have all citations to secondary works in order. And any changes that would significantly affect the text, including moving sections around.

An editor once told me: the first 40 pages are the most important. After that point the reader is committed to the book. So any extra time goes toward getting the beginning of the book just right.

Best of luck!!