EVERYDAY DORIE: The Next-to-Last Edit

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Making a cookbook is not for the impatient.  And with each cookbook, I manage to forget just how many steps it takes until I can hold the book in my hands.   And just how long each step takes – from the time I turn in my finished manuscript until the moment I’ve got a real book is 18 months!  Everyday Dorie will be my 13th cookbook.  You’d have thought that by now I’d have it all down pat.  But you’d have thought wrong!  Once again, I forgot.

Writing the book … of course that takes time.  Years.  But I always know that.  I’ve got to develop the recipes.  Test them.  Test them again.  Write the recipes.  Write the headnotes – the introduction to each recipe.  There are sidebars and boxed copy – those little how-tos and stories scattered throughout the book.  And there might be a glossary (I usually have one) or a list of sources for ingredients (I usually have that too).  Then there’s the “Front Matter” – the introduction and acknowledgments.  And the “Back Matter” – the index, which, unlike my friend, Julia Child, I leave to the pros.  (In the early days, Julia, with her husband, Paul, did her own index. I can’t begin to imagine what that was like, especially since Julia wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking on a typewriter!)  And let’s not even talk about the number of times I re-read the manuscript before I turn it in to my long-time editor, Rux Martin.

Rux reads the manuscript and edits it.  I think editing should be called “saving the writer from herself”.  I good editor makes you sound like yourself … your best self.  I read the manuscript after Rux’s edit, make changes and then hand it off to the copyeditor.  I’ve had the same copyeditor, Judith Sutton, for all of my books, except Waffles From Morning to Midnight.  Judith and Rux know my writing better than I do!  And yes, I read it again after Judith’s edit.  And yes, I make changes.

At this point, I am not a good editor of my own work.  I’ve read it so many times that if I were reading a recipe for a Thanksgiving Turkey and the turkey were missing, I wouldn’t catch the mistake – I know the copy too well.

Luckily, that’s when the manuscript leaves my desk for a while.  This is the break where the pictures are made and the designer lays out the pages.  To do the 100 or so photographs for the book, we worked in a studio in Brooklyn (more about this another time).  And then there was the cover shoot.  A separate shoot.  And the shoot in my New York apartment for the portrait in the beginning of the book.

The next time I see the manuscript is, for me, the most exciting – it’s when the book starts to look like a book! Albeit, a book with errors.  All the scribbles that Rux, Judith and I made, are their own kind of recipe – a recipe for funny mistakes.  We edit by hand – each of us uses a different colored pencil – and then the messy manuscript gets retyped (a couple of time).  It’s the retyped version that becomes the galley (sometimes called an ARC – Advance Reader Copy) .

I read the galley and get another crack at polishing what I’ve written … and getting rid of typos, like the one that referred to the painter Claude Monet as Clyde, and the chef Daniel Boulud, as Boiled.  Yeah, they’re funny, but only if they don’t make it into the real book.

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who reads these pages – there’s a team of proofreaders.  I know they do a good job because not only to do they clean up the typos, they query me on what I think is perfectly clear, but stumps them.  Whenever I get the list of questions, I think “How could they not understand my brilliant descriptions?”  And then, I settle down and, yep, discover how right they were to question the stuff. 

And now we come to today. 

What’s up on my screen is what’s called ‘second-pass pages’.  It’s my last chance to make big(gish) changes and my next-to-last chance to see the pages before they’re shipped to the printer.  When the last pages come in, they’ll have the index.  Once again, I’ll read.  And so will team members from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, my publisher for my last five books (Baking From My Home to Yours, Around My French Table, Baking Chez Moi, Dorie’s Cookies and soon-to-be-born Everyday Dorie).

All of this reading and here’s what I know after 13 books: There’ll still be typos and there might even be an error.  It makes me crazy, but there’s nothing more that any of us on Team Book could have done.  Gremlins sneak in in the dead of night and insert something wonky just to prove we’re all human.