Monster fans may have noticed that, despite the season I haven’t been writing much on the topic. One of the reasons for this is that I’m in that dread stage known as “revision.” As an editor I often see book proposals—or even entire books—that have never been revised. You can tell. I learned this while writing Holy Horror. If you’re one of the people who took out a second mortgage to buy a copy, the book you purchased was based on a manuscript rewritten thoroughly at least five times. The idea is that like rocks in a river, all that pouring over a text smooths the words like stones over the millennia. Few rocks emerge from volcanic or sedimentary situations as smooth and round. That takes revision.
My peer review report for Nightmares with the Bible came in a few weeks ago. Nightmares had been revised a couple of times, at least, before I submitted it. I understand the review process very well, as I deal with it daily. Sometimes single blind (the writer doesn’t know the reviewer’s identity), other times double blind (neither reader nor writer know the other’s identity), the process is meant to provide feedback on a manuscript. Having written many more manuscripts than have seen publication, I know just how useful peer review can be. Like anything, however, it can also be treated legalistically, as if the reviewer knows more about a subject an author has just spent years researching. No matter your impressions about this, once the reports come in, revision is in the cards.
Self editing is difficult. And occasionally embarrassing. You read again what seemed to make sense to you at the time, but even after you hit the “send” button you’ve continued reading. New information comes to light. Monographs are a very expensive form of dialogue. Well, not so expensive as all that. Many people are happy to pay out the cost of a monograph for a dinner out, which lasts an evening. A book, mutatis mutandis, lasts much longer. Like that meal, it’s taken internally and digested. You can read the same book twice, however, without having to pay the second time around. It’s a good idea, then, to revise before sending it to a patron’s table. Ironically, revising a book on monsters takes time away from writing about monsters. I also have essays awaiting revision, circling overhead like planes at Newark’s Liberty Airport. And then there’s work, which has nothing to do with my own writing at all. There’s a reason Nightmares occurs in the title.