The Devil’s In The Details

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2012 at 9:00 am

One of the trials of self-publishing a book is the incredible attention to detail it requires. Typesetting and cover design in particular, and I kind of love those because there’s a system involved, but also other elements of well, from marketing to pricing.

(Ironically I sat down, wrote the above, and then — because I was on decongestants — forgot briefly what I was going to talk about.)

I’ve found that a very important aspect of the “attention to detail” portion of selfpub is how you name your files. I have three separate word documents labeled with variations on the theme of “Nameless – Paperback Final Draft”. Three. I have no idea whether they’re the same file. I was young and foolish then…

I’ve pretty much mastered this with Dead Isle, thankfully. There’s the final paperback draft, the final PDF draft, the final ebook draft; each has a final cover draft and the ebook draft has a final marketing image. I keep numbered copies of each earlier draft too, because I’ve found the only way I am willing to do the ripping-out and rewriting necessary to make the story the best it can be is if I know, somewhere in the murky depths of my hard drive, there is a copy of the old draft with everything I liked intact. Just in case.

There are two conflicting sayings about all of this:

  1. God is in the details
  2. The Devil is in the details

And the funny thing is, in this one instance, there’s no “original” of either one. Nobody knows where each originally came from or which came first. They mean drastically different things to different people, too. I’ve never really been able to decide which one I like more: the one that to me means that divinity can be found in the smallest things, which is very “his eye is on the sparrow”, or the one that reminds us that the smallest things are the hardest, and the easiest way of corrupting the work as a whole. Anyone who has worked in computer programming probably favours the latter.

There are many things requiring attention to detail that I am not good at — mathematics, pastry making, interpersonal relations — but I appear to be trainable in some things, at least. A lot of it is to do, as Joe Orton put it, with Apollo and Dionysus. The creative urge is instinctively chaotic, Dionysian, while the discipline of writing calls for just a little bit of the orderly Apollo. And let me tell you, once the story is told, it’s all Apollo, all the time until the final product shows up.

And then, if history is any judge, you have a small nervous breakdown and recover and go back to Dionysus. There’s a reason he’s the patron god of the theatre.


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