The Final Cut
I’m in the midst of the insanity that every cookbook, author dreads: reviewing the copyedited manuscript of my upcoming book. Writing a cookbook, especially one that needs to be precise like a baking book, is really a task. I started working on this book well over a year ago and it grew and grew to hundreds of recipes before I reined myself it. I just got so excited and I couldn’t stop.
So this week I’ve locked myself in my apartment, taken the phone off the hook, and quit drinking wine. (Well, two outta three ain’t bad.) One of the hardest parts was getting it actually delivered to me in the first place. It was sent overnight via Fed Ex.
Normally that means ‘overnight’.
In France, it means ‘soon’.
So I patiently waited and waited, until it eventually showed up.
Being a tad insane, but globally conscience, I’ve decided to write the recipes in both cups-and-tablespoons as well as in metrics, which was like writing two books at the same time. So for all you people who complain about American cookbooks not being in metrics, or by weight, if you don’t buy this book, I going to come over, tie you up, and leave an endless loop video of back-to-back episodes of Rachael Ray shows on your television and force you to watch them over and over and over and over and…
So I’ve been working with my editor on-and-off for the past few months and it’s finally down to the wire. I’ve never worked with her before but she’s great and has worked with some of the best cookbook authors out there. We seem to agree on most things, and unlike most author/editor relationships, she listens to me and I listen to her. Rather strange I know, but so far so good and everything has been going along fine.
Well, that was until the frantic 67 emails I sent her yesterday.
(Since then, I haven’t heard anything.)
In these final stages of writing a cookbook, both the editor and a copy editor goes over the book with a fine-toothed comb, looking for errors and making sure things jibe. (I should’ve hired some of my readers, come to think of it.) This is the stage that I generally refer to as ‘hell’. You pore over each and every word and scan every recipe, jumping up to remeasure something in the kitchen, scrolling through the manuscript countless times making sure things are consistent, eat chocolate-coverd marshmallows from Pierre Marcolini, email all your old friends from college that you haven’t seen in twenty-five years that you’ve been meaning to write to but haven’t, checking to see if anyone’s commented on your blog, and finding silly projects around the house to avoid the inevidable final edit on the manuscript…all in a concerted effort to procrastinate further.
But at least I finally got around to digging out an old toothbrush and cleaning all the grimy stuff that’s collected around the buttons on my kitchen scale. I feel much better now.
Ok, so back editing.
Editors help rein-in authors like me, that sometimes have a tendancy to get inspiration from the most unusual places. Beauty pageants, childhood traumas, and naked men hurling coconuts on the sidewalk all made it’s way into this book. As you can imagine, I really have a dislike for boring, dull headnotes, those comments authors make at the beginning of recipes to introduce them.
There’s nothing worse than a headnote that reads like….”These cookies go well with tea in the afternoozzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”
Who has tea in the afternoon? I think I have, like, maybe once. And I was probably in bed with the flu. I usually eat cookies while waiting for my coffee to brew first thing in the morning. Or I leave cakes on the counter and hack away at them all day with a knife. Or rip pieces off with my hands and lick the icing off with my fingers.
With tea in the afternoon? I am so sure.
And it’s hard writing a single-subject book as I’m doing, without using some of the same words again. For example, everything I put in my books are my favorite recipes. How many times am I allowed to say, “This is one of my favorite recipe for….”?
As mentioned, I generally reach into the deep, dark recesses of my mind to grasp something to write about that’s curious and funny. But sometimes other people think they’re odd or weird.
For example, in a recipe for something with bananas, there was a note from my editor…
“Replace this headnote….Too many bugs, not enough yum.”
Frankly I’m so bleary from editing that last night I wrapped up a roast chicken carcass, which I ate like a crazed savage, to bring down to the trash room before racing out the door to meet Joy (who does not, by the way, have a potty-mouth in real life) for a late night rendez-vous over a bottle of wine in the Bastille. But when I woke up this morning, I realized I forgot to take the wrapped carcass downstairs and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’ve looked everywhere; the refrigerator, the freezer, in kitchen cabinets, my clothes closet, in the bathroom and the shower. I know I will find it someday. I just hope I do before it ends up looking like one of my fruitcakes.
As I was racing to meet up, I learned something that I thought I’d share before I get back to work: No matter how pressed you are for time, don’t try to iron a shirt while you’re still wearing it.
Although on second thought, perhaps that will make an interesting headnote…
Better get back to work.