I finally handed in my manuscript to All Hopped Up And Ready To Go: Music from the Streets of New York 1927-77 on Friday. Again. Had I not been forced to cut so much to meet the required word count, I’d probably have been finished three months ago. But I’m not complaining. I look on these last few weeks of relentless trimming and editing and occasionally outright excising as some form of karmic payback for all my years of over-writing – the result of being my own editor through so much of my life, from the earliest days of Jamming! Fanzine to the most recent days of iJamming! At some point, I guess, you have to accept that the word count is the word count is the word count. The writer may believe that by handing in an extra 40,000 words he’s being generous (“hey, I didn’t charge you for these!”). The publisher has a right to insist otherwise. (“hey, it costs us money to print those extra words.”)
I was somewhat encouraged during this recent stint by being introduced to Alex Ross’s book The Rest Is Noise: Listening To The Twentieth Century (thanks Geoffrey) for three reasons:
1) Ross has used his web site to share playlists, footnotes, YouTube videos etc – kind of like an extended appendix. In other words, writing that might once have seen the cutting room floor can at least now be preserved and included online. As I cut out anecdotes and side-notes that I thought might have survived a longer book, I was gratified to realize there’s no reason they can’t be shared in the fullness of time.
2) In his FAQ about the Rest Is Noise, Ross writes the following:
I researched the book in 2000 and 2001 and began writing toward the end of 2001. A first draft was done by the end of 2004, but it turned out to be vastly overlong — nearly twice as long as the published version. So I spent two more years cutting it down to size. I finally completed the book in January 2007, while staying at the Omni Hotel in Los Angeles, overlooking Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Okay, I didn’t have the luxury of spending seven years on this book, nor of finishing it even in the local Motel 6, I was so beyond (my allocated) budget, but at least I didn’t write what sounds like 1300 pages for what ended up as a 700 page book. I can’t imagine the pain involved in stripping back so much work – and even a committed overwriter like myself can’t contemplate writing a 1300 page book to begin with.
3) In the midst of all this, the Rest Is Noise won the Guardian newspaper’s First Book award. Though it’s next to an impossibility that such an award would ever go to a book on popular music (i.e. All Hopped Up…), still it was a useful point at which to be proven that there’s a market for longer books on general music subjects.
A couple of other fun things happened on the way to finality. I learned that I can still pull all-nighters when I have to; it’s a lot easier when you’re assembling footnotes as opposed to actually writing. I received a German edition of my Keith Moon book, a hilariously inopportune moment to receive a 748 page tome. And I was so late at handing in my text that only three hours after doing so, I received a couple of prospective cover images, which pretty much made my weekend. That and the bottle of Les Gouberts Gigondas 1998, which was drinking like a beautifully well-behaved baby.
I missed not keeping up to date with iJamming! I look forward to getting back into it. Cheers.