Friday, 26 October 2007

Reading a Manuscript Part One

There’s lots of rubbish that goes with being a publisher, but there’s two bits of the job that always remind me why I put up with the gubbins. The first is that moment when a completed manuscript arrives on your doorstep, or, in this case, inbox. And when it turns up like Dave’s book has, unexpectedly early, it’s a double bonus. The Bromley Boys has been sat on my desk for a couple of days, mouthing ‘read me…’ while I’ve been having to go to various meetings and waiting for a chunk of clear time to read the book.
When a manuscript comes in, I like to read it twice – the first time, quickly, as I would read normally for pleasure. I am, I suspect, not the world's greatest reader: my wife describes me as possessing ‘summit fever’ – that urgency to get to the end of the book to find out what happens, without taking a breath to stop and look at the view on the way. And it’s true – I do have a tendency to hurtle through the pages. But I think that it’s important when a book comes in to try to read a manuscript as I would read a normal one – to have my natural reaction as a reader in the back of my mind as I edit. Once I’ve got the reader's ‘feel’ of the book, then I go back to the beginning and read for a second time, but this time at a slower pace and far more thoroughly.
My initial reader’s reaction to The Bromley Boys? I loved it. There’s bits I’ll want Dave to work on, and I’ll tease these out on my second read, but the big picture is that it's funny and sad and hangs together as a proper book, which is no mean achievement -- Dave should be really proud of what he's done. There are certainly manuscripts that come in and leave you thinking, 'Blimey, I don't even know where to start with this one'. But this is one of the good ones -- now it's time to read it again, and my second favourite part of the job: working with the author to make a good book even better.

Good Football 0 Bad Teams 2

I’ve been thinking about The Bromley Boys in the last couple of weeks, having been back up north to watch my own less than wonderful team, York City, play Stafford Rangers on a cold and deserted Tuesday night. York aren’t doing great at the moment – symbolised by the fact that Yorkie the lion managed to come last in the annual football club mascot’s race – but still somehow managed to win 2-0 (celebrated with ‘Getting Better’ by Shed Seven pumping out over the tannoy). Basically, York were bad, but Stafford Rangers were even worse – to the point where I decided they were the worst team I had ever paid money to watch (£14 to stand on the terraces, but that’s another story). The fact Bromley in 1969 must have been even worse than that, could only leave me the deepest sympathy for Dave. And it was with this feeling that I opened and started reading the full manuscript.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

A nervous wait

I've finished the first draft of the book and have sent it to Tom. It's now a matter of waiting for his comments. This HAS to be the worst part of the process - I think what I've done is the best I could have made the book.
The only thing I couldn't decide on was whether to put a "where are they now?" bit at the end, describing what became of the main characters. On one hand, there was the temptation to leave them all innocently looking forward to a bright future and keep the whole story in 1969/1970. On the other hand, would readers prefer to have all the loose ends tied up? I'll be interested to see what Tom thinks...