Sinister Regard : Editing
            

William Shunn, photographed by Colin Poellot at SingleCut Beersmiths, Sunday, August 16, 2015
So I had dinner the other night with Paul Witcover, the brilliant speculative fiction writer whose books you should be reading—and who happens to be copy-editing The Accidental Terrorist for me. I'm happy to report that he reported he was well over halfway through the book.

In fact, last night Paul emailed me what he had so far so I could get started on my corrections. It turns out he's more like 80% of the way through.

What does that mean? It means we're very close, kids. We're very close to having an absolutely finished book. It means we're probably about a week away from when I can place my order for the first batch of hardcovers, and that means I will absolutely be getting signed books out to my gracious early supporters before the end of September. I couldn't be more delighted.

In other book news, what you see above is my more-or-less-official author photo for the book jacket. It was taken by my friend Colin Poellot, quite an accomplished photographer. We have a couple of his prints hanging on our walls, and we thought he'd be the perfect choice for a jacket photo.

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The Accidental Terrorist: Our book may not be free, but at least it won't cost you 10% of your income.
The publication date for my memoir The Accidental Terrorist inches ever closer. We're a little more than four months away from rolling out the book, and things here at Accidental Army Headquarters (a/k/a my house) are busy as ever.

The most important news to share is that last week I received my final set of editorial notes from the brilliant and insightful Juliet Ulman. I was breathlessly awaiting her verdict on the heavily rewritten draft I turned in at the end of March, and the news was good. Here's a bit of what she said:

This book went exactly where I wanted it to go, and it's so much stronger, not just because of the added historical context, but because of the additional work you put into trimming fat and pulling all of your threads tight. This is the book we were aiming at, its bones and body solid, and all you're doing now with these final edits is stepping back to look it over last time and polish it until the shine is satisfactory to you. I hope you're proud of what you've accomplished with this text, because you certainly should be.

I have to admit that the room got a little dusty when I read that. It's nice finally to hear an editor say "Good job" after sixteen years of work.

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I don't remember whether or not I reported this on Twitter and Facebook, but I know I haven't mentioned it here on the blog. The latest revision of The Accidental Terrorist is finished!

I completed this new, significantly revised draft on March 29. Over the next week I glanced at it from time to time, fixing bits and tinkering a little, but overall I'm pretty happy with it—happier than I've been with any of the previous drafts. Last week I sent the manuscript to Juliet Ulman, my brilliant editor. Hopefully I'll have my final revision notes before the end of May, and then a final draft of the book that I can get to my copy editor before mid-summer.

This book is happening, friends.

Now a question for you. I'm going to put the book out in trade paperback form, as well as various flavors of ebook. I've been toying with the idea of making a signed hardcover version available as well, for a little extra money, but I would have to place a bulk order for those to make it financially worthwhile, and that would mean having people place pre-orders so I know how many to print.

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When I announced last October that I would be self-publishing my memoir this year, I optimistically thought I could have it out by the spring. Spring is now right around the corner, and I think I can say with some confidence that ... er, The Accidental Terrorist will be available no sooner than this fall.

But that's the only bad news I have to report! I've been very busy these past five months, and I'd like to tell you a little about it. As many drafts of this memoir as I've done, I've never quite been happy with it, so my first order of business was hiring an editor. Fortunately for me, I know one of the best in the business, Juliet Ulman, and she was willing to work with me on the book. She worked at Bantam Dell for eleven years, and since striking out on her own she has since continued to do amazing things, like for instance editing a little novel you may have heard of, The Windup Girl. She herself has two Hugo Award nominations for Best Professional Editor. I'm very lucky to have her input.

Juliet delivered her first set of notes and edits to me at the end of December. All her observations were very helpful, but by far her biggest suggestion was that I widen out the scope of the book, to make it more than just my own story but an investigation into Mormonism itself.

Needless to say, that sounded like a lot of work. But at the same time, it jibed completely with my original vision for the book. In fact, if you listened to the podcast version of The Accidental Terrorist, then you know that I did interpolate a lot of material from Mormon history into the narrative. For some reason, it seemed like a good idea to me to take that material out in a later draft. (This is why I can't have nice things.)

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I've always believed that I have a pretty good memory—in particular, that I can recall formative events and conversations from years or even decades ago in reasonably good detail. When I started work on my memoir The Accidental Terrorist, I made a list of incidents, events, and bits of lore from my mission that I wanted to include. The more of these that I wrote down, the more others I started to remember. My notes ran pages and pages and pages.

I'm now working my way through a revision of the book with notes from my editor, Juliet Ulman. The occasional query scrawled in the margin questions details I seem to recall clearly. I've started wondering how much I can trust those old memories, especially the smaller moments I could easily have misremembered or invented. I've started looking for bits I can actually confirm.

Last night I came to the passage below, which seemed like it should be eminently verifiable. The scene is southern Alberta, October 1986:

On Friday of that week, we were talking heavy metal when I mentioned that the only band I liked of that sort was Rush.

"Ah, so you're one of those," said Fowler. "Same as every other missionary in Canada. You know last winter they had a concert scheduled up in Edmonton?"

"That was the Power Windows tour. What a great show. I saw it in Salt Lake."

"Well, I was serving in Edmonton at the time. I swear half the elders in town must've had tickets."

I gaped. In my civilian life, I had the right to choose to see a rock concert if I wanted, whether or not the Church or my father approved. But for a missionary, ordained and set apart as a representative of Jesus Christ, the rules were different. No music, especially not rock music, and especially not live rock music. That was just handing Satan the keys to your soul's front door.

"Including you?" I asked.

"Naw, Rush ain't my thing. But anyways, the day of the show this massive blizzard hits. No joke. Shuts everything down. No planes in or out. Concert canceled."

"Whoa."

"You're telling me. You think God wanted all those missionaries rocking out in clouds of dope smoke? No way. It would have killed the Spirit dead in Edmonton for a month."
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