Beware the gray cells mutiny! Or: details do matter

Six weeks after the second day of the new year

This post is in its entirety a tip of sorts, experience to be shared in the hope that it is useful to those among you who write, and to give another glimpse into Author’s writing process for those of you who read.

Author is doing those endless—and endlessly important—tasks that characterize the final preparations of a book, those tasks that make up the transition from laptop screen and papers haphazardly scattered on her desk to a tangible print book that will stand on your bookshelf or an organized ebook that will be viewed on the screen of your choice. She is accepting changes and making some more, those last ones that make her feel her work will be that much closer to the perfection she seeks if she makes them, even though she hasn’t planned on making any changes by now. She is also typesetting, checking indents and paragraph spaces, and examining the readability of sentences that seem just a bit too tight or a bit too spaced—something Sister says bothers her when she reads. Those and countless other tasks, all being gradually marked in a checklist that is still being formed (it is after all only her second book) and will be amended with each book Author and Sister will put out there for you.

Unlike for Author and Sister’s first book, The First, this time they decided to publish both the ebook and the print at the same time (The First, to remind you, was published first as an ebook and only later as a print book). And so, in this last stage of her work on their next book for you, Author has also already prepared both an ebook file and an on-screen print file. Which means that if she wants to make a last-minute change, she needs to make it in both formats. This might sound time consuming, and perhaps it is. But Author finds that there is a significant benefit to it. For her, reading an ebook has a different feel to it than reading a print book, and she finds herself making different changes as she goes through each format. But ultimately both manuscript formats must be identical, and so the two files will of course be compared to ensure the same changes have made their way into both.

All in all, the entire process—finalizing that absolutely last version while going through all those details that ensure organized ebook and print formats and making sure along the way that both publish formats are identical—is painstaking work. And so by now, with most of it behind her, Author’s brain is fried. After long hours with her eyes glued on the screen, focused on the little things, she can literally feel every gray cell in her brain sweating, and her neurons firing hysterically. But stopping is not an option. Taking a break, doing something else for a while, yes, of course, that’s acceptable and even recommended. But not stopping. Nor is cutting corners. Certainly not saying, “Whatever, it’s good enough, let it go out as it is”. Never. This work, those small details, are no less important than the writing of the story itself. The book must be comfortably readable. It must be enjoyable visually as well as in content, in all its published forms. True, nothing can be perfect—a difficult thing to accept for a perfectionist like Author—but you should certainly do your best to get as close to it as possible.

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