I’ll also be doing the opening music for a group of storytellers at The Marsh in Berkeley on December 17th at 7:00 PM. Acoustic solo.
to make a book and there is a big difference between a good manuscript and a good book. If I were twenty two this process would drive me crazy with impatience. That’s the bad news about twenty two. The good news is that I would have six pack abs and a full head of hair. Anyway, I started writing Math Shiva in April 2010. It took me about seventeen months to finish. But I wasn’t finished. Here’s a time line.
September 2011, send what I think is the perfect novel for comments to about ten people. Lots of corrections and great suggestions. The book wasn’t perfect after all. It’s rewrite time.
February 2012, finish rewrite and do a lazy job of finding an agent. Wait for responses from a couple of people.
May 2012, decide I was ridiculous about contacting only three people and get aggressive about finding an agent. Start out with a list of 400, carefully research most of them, and select 36 (a number with Jewish significance and I’m a superstitious man) who look like they would be good for me.
July 2012, send out cold query letters, get lots of positive responses and lots of negative ones. Some are mean, childish and callous. Some are professional. Some are so encouraging that they don’t seem real. Decide that should this book get published, I will never read a review because these letters are putting me through an emotional roller coaster. I’m such a sensitive boy. Who knew?
October 2012, an agent calls to say he loves the first two thirds of the book and hates the last third. I could call other agents with copies of the manuscript and pressure them, but I don’t. This agent is probably right about the book’s flaws. It’s rewrite time.
January 2013, sign with agent. He marks up the manuscript like crazy. It’s rewrite time.
April 2013, book goes up for sale. Agent asks what he should do with the emails from the prospective publishers. I figure there will be another mix of childishness, professionalism, and praise. I tell him to delete the emails, both positive and negative. I’m a sensitive boy. I don’t want to know.
May 2013, Penguin says it’ll buy book.
July 2013, editor marks up the manuscript like crazy. It’s rewrite time.
November 2013, editor marks up the manuscript only a tiny bit, but wants another short chapter. It’s rewrite time. Agent looks at new chapter and says last paragraph is no good. It’s rewrite time.
On September 30th, 2014, this book will come out. The bottom line is that every step of the way it has gotten better. When I look at what I thought was the perfect book in September of 2011, I realize I was delusional. Between now and next fall there will be copy editing and maybe some emergency touch ups. It will have taken over four years from start to finish to make this book. At twenty two, I would have been exasperated. At fifty seven, I’m grateful.
Now I hope I get as lucky with book number two, which I’m finishing up this fall.
Hallelujah. Now this book is the copy editor’s problem. I’m not only getting a book out. I’m also helping the economy by keeping one recent English major employed.
My editor asked how much of the math in the novel is real. All the important stuff is 100 percent true. Then there’s some fun stuff that’s 100 percent made up. I like the mix. Below is a portrait of the man who was the mentor to many of the mathematicians in the novel, Andrei Kolmogorov. He’s definitely not made up. He liked to jump into ice cold lakes. So do I. Tomorrow I go back into character and work on the second round of edits. Two more weeks and this book will be off to the copy editor and I’ll be free at last (and should be able to finish a draft of my next book by January 15). Forward march.