Behind the Scenes

For quite a few years I worked in theater, as an actor and choreographer. I loved the early rehearsals, while the creative process was first getting underway— seeing how a dance looked when done by the cast rather than as plotted in my head, or exploring characters with other actors. The hardest part, for me, was tech rehearsal. Did the revolving stage work? Did the dancers’ costumes look right under the lights? Performers spent hours holding their positions on the stage while the techies fine-tuned lights, sound, and scene shifts. Tedious, but without it, the play would be a disaster. If that revolving stage messed up, my choreography would quite literally topple. If the lighting cues were off, my dancers wouldn’t look their best. These long tech nights were hard, but social. The whole cast and crew went through it together.

Dress rehearsals were a relief, and they felt exciting. They were followed by the director’s final and sometimes strong critiques as well as encouragement and praise. If I was the choreographer, it was my last chance to get every detail polished.

And then the play opened, was seen, enjoyed (or not) and reviewed, and sooner or later, it closed.   Getting a book ready is the same only different. The early process—the improv, finding a character, getting plot inspiration—is exciting. The sharing of that process with critique partners makes it more so—getting feedback, going back and changing things, seeing how others react. I revise through a series of critique partners and beta-readers. It’s a lot like the rehearsal process, refining the way the play will be performed. I like to print the book out at some point in the process and mark it up—like a director giving an actor notes— making sure I’m clear with for the characters’ goals and conflicts in every scene, and the inner work in their “soliloquies.”

Then, there’s tech. I read the edited copy to make sure my editor and I agree on all the changes. I get professional proofreading and fix the errors. And then, there’s that final, perfectionistic proof, proof and re-proof. Day after day of it. Tech rehearsal, all by myself. Fixing that last imperfect sentence that didn’t bother anyone else—beta readers, editor, proofreader—and that last little typo no one could see. I like to think no one saw it because the scene was so compelling, but I think it’s also related to the way an e-pub page looks compared to a Word document. It’s like the way the costumes look under the lights. The colors and textures change. It’s unfamiliar. I look at the e-pub document the way I look at a book I’m reading, rather than a book I wrote.

Of course, after the fourth upload and double-check, I may have gotten used to the e-pub page’s appearance. My fear: I may have induced an error while being a perfectionist. Then I finally stop fussing over it and hit publish. This is not the dress rehearsal, this is it. Unlike a play, though, there is no striking the set, no closing night party. No closing night. As long as my performance is well received, it can run as long as I live. Phew! Snake Face is available for pre-order, and will be released Nov. 1.

The best part of being finished? I have time to read other people’s books again!