I finish the first complete draft — then it’s “done.”
But then I do endless numbers of edits. Then that’s done, and I send it to my editor.
Then it goes through several stages, of which the last is “second pass pages.” That is the last time I can make a change to the book — and if I make a change, it had better be pretty small.
At this point, the book is in almost final form. It looks like the book (it’s a huge morale booster to see the text formatted to look like an actual book).
When I send back those “second pass pages,” my work is completed.
The design of the book is still being tweaked, and the copy for the jacket is still be tweaked, and there are a few corrections to be made (for instance, this second pass had a blank the section where my author bio was supposed to be), but now my work on the substance of the book is done.
It’s unnerving, but also a relief. No more edits! No more tinkering!
It was strange to take a photo of that pile of pages, and know — well, this is it. (The “AU” means “author,” to show that any edits are from the author.)
So much information, all so fascinating. How could I fit it all in? At one point, the book was 140,000 words long, and I’d cut it way back to get there. Now it’s about 80,ooo. And believe me, it’s much, much better being shorter. I didn’t lose any ideas, I just expressed myself much more concisely.
A lot of people ask my how I do my research.
I read a ton of science and studies — and I read a lot of novels, biographies, and memoirs, and spend a lot of time talking to the people around me, about their habits.
In fact, I spend most of my time trying to understand what’s happening right in front of me. Samuel Johnson said, “Men and women are my subjects of inquiry,” and that’s how I feel.
My hope is that Better Than Before will give readers the thrill of recognition and relief, because at last, we have the vocabulary and framework to change our habits successfully.
For better or worse, my work on Better Than Before is done. Zoikes! It’s hard to believe.
Do you ever feel a kind of shock or listlessness descend, when you finish a big project? I still have a ton of work to do around the publication of the book, so I’m as busy as always; but that main task is behind me. And that feels…odd.