Stage Combat: the Process
It’s funny: I never imagined my first book deal would be a non-fiction project.
Not that that’s a bad thing. In fact, I’m pretty proud of it. Think of the longest research paper you ever had to create—and multiply it by about 100. I actually have created a lesson plan on revision, in which I show my Freshman Comp research writing students the difference in look between the finished product and the nearly two full reams’ worth of paper it took to make that finished product. From the first cover letter (written at the behest, of all things, of a rejection letter) to the last galley, it was a little over a year of process to make the book happen. Now, I’m actually part of a Wikipedia bibliography!
I also did my own index. You ever wonder who the person is that has to pick all those keywords? I was admonished to hire an indexer, but as it would carve nearly $600 from my advance, I thought I’d keep the money and give indexing a try. It was quite a task; they were right. But as I had my giant orange CMS manual on my shelf, I had a super-detailed guide and so spent one entire weekend of my life gathering words out of my own MS.
My editor actually said (er, emailed—I never met or talked to her in person) that she enjoyed my book because of its “snarky” tone. She said she could hear my voice as she read it. Also that she used cleaning and writing utensils to try and act out the exercises I described, and the rest of the office thought she was “mad.” I love that image—I picture her with a pencil and a broom, and maybe a spray bottle, in front of her computer screen, twirling and slashing…
My book is a how-to manual about how to perform stage combat. I had a wonderful time writing it, but the hardest part was actually the photography. During that whole year I was constantly looking for blank, white walls in well-lit rooms, as well as conscripting students and family members into posing and snapping the photos themselves. The cover photo? An old martial arts picture, that in fact has not a lot to do with stage combat at all, but which appealed to the art director (no doubt because of the severe diagonal lines).