Yesterday's mail brought the copyedited manuscript of my third novel, Shelter. This is the book I started writing in 1988, sold to Tor in 1994, finally turned in to Tor in 2001, and finally finished after getting revision instructions in 2003.
This is the book that taught me never to write a book under contract, because the pressure of having accepted money for an unfinished story gives me the mother of all writer's blocks.
This is the book that tried the patience of my husband, my editor, my agent, and everyone in the immediate vicinity who had to listen to me whining about it for more than a decade.
This is the book that was first listed as "forthcoming" in 2003, and that since then has seen several supposed publication dates come and go. This is the book Gary's taken to caling my "posthumous novel," because we'd both begun to believe that we wouldn't live to see it published.
So this past winter, when Locus once again listed it as forthcoming, with a pub date of June 2007, I was cautious about getting my hopes up. When the ad copy on the back of the mass-market paperback flats of The Necessary Beggar -- forthcoming in March! pre-order now! or if you don't want to wait, you can buy the hardcover! -- also listed the pub date for Shelter as June 2007, I was somewhat more optimistic, but still guardedly so. "I'll believe it when I see the copyedited manuscript," I told Gary.
Copyediting is the first step in the actual publication process. The manuscript is sent out for copyediting, and then sent to the author to have copyediting changes approved and queries addressed; the next step after that is bound galleys. A good copyedit is worth its weight in gold. Copyeditors not only fix usage or grammar glitches (of which, to give myself credit, I have very few), but put in typesetting marks and edit for consistency. Copyeditors will pick up problems that nobody else has noticed. Gary and I have been over this book a million times, and so has my editor, but the copyeditor caught some chronology problems and corrected some of the dates in the very complicated story.
Bless you, copyeditor!
So, anyway, I finally have the copyedited manuscript, and it says that the pub date is June 2007, so I'm finally starting to believe it. Yeee-hah! Next year will be quite the year: story collection coming out in February, the mass-market TNB coming out in March, Shelter coming out in hardcover in June. (Gosh. Maybe I'm really a writer?)
The downside is that I have to get the Shelter manuscript back to Tor by November 6, which for practical purposes means that I need to have it done by a week from today. And I know I'll have to make some additional minor revisions, in addition to approving changes.
The manuscript is 687 pages of very small type. Quoth Gary: "A brick of a book! A doorstop of a book! A book to kill cockroaches with!" I have my work cut out for me. I did the prologue and the first four chapters last night. That leaves twenty-eight chapters to go.
In the meantime, I also have a fresh batch of freshman-comp papers to grade by next Thursday. I use a somewhat unusual system where every student doesn't have to write every paper, which usually has the happy effect of spreading out my grading. Only nine students had to hand in the paper due yesterday, but eighteen of them chose to. I was really impressed -- my freshman-comp class rocks -- but I do have to admit that the timing could have been a little better. (And yes, I know that eighteen papers is nothing; I have a friend who teaches five comp classes a semester, and I can't imagine how the grading gets done. I have nothing to complain about!)
Oh, and I'm preaching a week from Sunday, which means the homily has to get written at some point.
So if I blog less often than usual over the next week, I hope you'll forgive me!