Part 7: Post-Production
Finding the Characters From the Travel Adventure
I met well over 1,000 people, from six continents, through the period the travel book records. The names of nearly 200 of them appear in the manuscript, so I had to track those people down and obtain permission to use their names.
In the end I sent chunks of the completed manuscript to people spread across Argentina, Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Ecuador, Italy, Mauritius, Peru, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK and the USA.
It transpires that, ‘You are in my book, are you happy for me to use your real name?’ is a no-brainer for almost everyone.
Copy-editing is where someone checks a piece of text for clarity, flow and overall structure. Proof-reading is where someone goes through a manuscript with a fine-tooth comb and strips out any final mistakes of spelling, punctuation or formatting.
I hired Stephen Brierley, of the Society of Editors and Proofreaders to do that. He has a doctorate in ‘Control Theory and Dynamic Systems’ – a scientific training which proved indispensable. It took Stephen two weeks to check the manuscript and three hard-concentrating days for me to mark up his changes, culminating in a two-hour, technical chat about syntax and morphology.
Result of First Approach to Publishing Industry
The first responses to my pitches came in after six weeks. ‘I was intrigued by your submission,’ said one. ‘You’ve done an exceptional job of presenting your sample,’ said another. ‘It certainly has strong voice and depth,’ said a third. But no one was asking to see the completed manuscript.
Key lesson: 8,000 words weren’t enough.
The sales documentation was calibrated to communicate The Jolly Pilgrim’s philosophical red meat. But the first 8,000 words record the light-hearted adventures of a hippy cycling across France. That opening’s purpose is to draw readers in and fix its double-narrative structure in their minds – blurting an explanation of human civilisation in the opening 8,000 words wouldn’t be conducive to well-balanced art.
One had to have faith in publishing professionals recognising a tapestry being woven. However, my experience was that they just saw the travel story. ‘We already have a book about bicycles,’ said one. Clearly, I hadn’t got my point across.
Writing a travel book – menu: