I took the train to Philly yesterday to visit my old friend Thomas Hartmann’s manuscript development class at Rosemont College. Ten super-smart graduate students have been tasked with developing a Word file that will eventually be my next book, from 99: The Press.
There was a wide-ranging discussion, everything from page design and audience to comparable titles and marketing.
I joked over what I did not want to have happen with this book.
One: no full-sentence titles, like The Day We Will Have Free Pork Rinds Will Be a Great Day or All Cows Eat Grass and Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.
Another: no back jacket copy with the Part X, Part Y Construction. Example: “Part epic poem, part roman a clef, The Day We Will Have Free Pork Rinds Will Be a Great Day adds up to a life-changing manifesto for dweebs everywhere.”
Other than that, everything was on the table. The look of the page spreads, which could have note numbers in the margins, a great suggestion by one student, Laura Crockett. There was a student with rice cakes who seemed chomping on the bit to get started line-editing. Go for it, I said.
Connective tissue? Tell me if we need it. Massive cuts? Go nuts, I told the future YA editors.
There were plenty other great suggestions. We worked on the board. Do we need to cut chapters, combine, both?
Wigged-out on super-strong “pour-over” Main Line coffee, I described my journey as a writer, the agents I’ve had, the editors I’ve worked with, the rejections, successes, the books that came into being. The hustle writers do even before they’re even Real Writers. I talked about Jonathan Silverman, the editor at 99: The Press, and how we got connected.
Towards the end of the class, before we went out for pizza, I realized what a heavy task they had, at least to me, and started to worry. What if they don’t even like the book? What if this idea of a 99-chapter personal essay-memoir-list can’t hold together? What if there’s no there there?
I’ll get over myself. Having a development team kinda rocks.