The books have arrived

books in boxes

It looks like it’s going to be a busy week for me. Now that the advance copies of Connecticut Beer (The History Press) have arrived, it’s all so very real that I’ve reached another milestone in this journey. My plan is to lug these puppies all over the state looking for people with the good taste and foresight to purchase them.

The next step is promotion, and I’m looking forward to a fun night on Wednesday at City Steam Brewing. At 6 p.m. I’ll be signing books with Ron Page, the brewer there who also wrote the forward to the book. On Friday, I’ll be down in Branford, signing at their first-anniversary party, then on Saturday I’ll be in Wolcott, signing at Shebeen Brewing’s second anniversary party. I’ll be wrapping up the weekend on Sunday at the Thread City Brewfest in Willimantic.

Last week I had a chance to talk to Leeanne Griffin, who writes for the Hartford Courant and CT Now; it was a bit weird to be on the other side of the interview, but she’s a pro and I think it went well. Now I get to feel like my subjects do and wait for the story to hit the web and get inked.

The pain of “killing your darlings”

In creative writing, to “kill your darlings” means to cut out some of the prose you’ve fallen in love with but ultimately does not serve the work. It’s something clever to you… maybe something that made you giggle when you wrote it or sounded particularly witty, but in the big picture is merely a distraction.

I bring this up because as I finished up my indexing and photo caption-writing for Connecticut Beer, to be published in May by The History Press, I found myself to be about 3,000 words over my limit. That’s a lot. With the 29 breweries I’m profiling, plus profiles of beer bars, and a history section, acknowledgements, etc., there are plenty of places to pluck. But now that I’m at my deadline, these are tough choices to make.

I’m not in love with every word I’ve written; indeed, some words that I wrote more than a year ago sound a little stale to me now, and I’m grateful for a chance to revise. In the big picture, I’d rather have to remove 3,000 words than scramble to add 3,000. It’s just a hurdle for which I was not prepared. I have to wait until tomorrow to do that, though. I’m beat.

Indexing “Connecticut Beer”

One of the elements of writing “Connecticut Beer” (due out in May from the History Press) that I did not count on was creating an index. I somehow thought that indexes came out of the air, maybe. Or at the very least that an editor somewhere in the intricacies of a publishing company would handle it. But, as it turns out, it’s my job.

I’m actually very grateful to have the job, since it gives me a chance to see my book in a whole new way. It’s really about breaking down the key nouns, which means brewery names, brewery owners’ names, and styles of beer. I’m also including town names in the index, so that if someone wanted to search for a place near them, that might be helpful.

Going through the Word document and creating the index is really just busy work, but you have to keep a sharp eye nonetheless. You basically find the word you’re searching to index, then scroll over it, and give it the old “shift-alt-X” treatment. Making sure you hit the necessary words without repeating too many (you can’t just index the word “beer” every time it comes up, for example) is important.

One interesting element was how many times “homebrewing” was indexed. In almost every chapter I’ve got a reference to homebrewing. In the history section, I refer to homebrewing. It’s really a book about amateur beer makers as much as it’s about professional brewing.

So the next time you pick up a nonfiction book, about beer or anything else, consider the index and the choices that some hard-working editor (or writer) had to make. Then raise a glass to him or her.