Writing the book–after

You dragged yourself across the finish line and the manuscript is safely in the publisher’s hands. It’s time to start wrapping up.

  • Put the book contract and any legal paperwork in your safe or safe-deposit box. You may want to keep a photocopy around for reference, but treat the originals with care in case you need them.
  • Make a final backup of all the files on your computer related to the book, including email, source files, proposals, illustrations, and chapter drafts, and copy them to CDs or DVDs. Make two copies of everything. Label the disks carefully with the date and the book name and store them in separate sleeves/holders (because you never know when one will go bad or get scratched). I strongly recommend just copying the files rather than using a backup or zipping program. If you use a backup program, you may not be able to recover the files five years later when the backup program’s gone away with that version of the operating system. (I had to do this once. It was a pest.) Wrap them in a plastic bag or two so they’re moisture-proof. Plan on keeping the files of your final chapter drafts on your computer for at least six months so they’re easy to refer to.
  • Next, make a stack of all the remaining paperwork for the book–chapter drafts, printouts, add the backup CDs/DVDs to the stack, and bag all of this in two or three layers of plastic grocery bags as a protective against water and mildew. If you’re in a particularly damp climate, put the double-bagged bundle(s) of paper in a large black trash bag. Squeeze the excess air out of the bag and fold it over, then put that in a box. Label the box with the book’s name and the date and store it on a high shelf. Plan on keeping this box indefinitely. You’ll first want it for legal archival purposes, then for a sense of history to show what you’ve done.
  • Send “Thank you” notes to the people who had to put up with you while you were writing, including your editor. I will frequently send assorted baklava from Shatila. It’s hard to go wrong with a tray of assorted baklava and it’s very inexpensive. Flowers, chocolates, and a dinner for your significant other are definitely appropriate. The wife of one author I know has a “Welcome Back” party for her husband every time he finishes a book. It’s something like a groundhog seeing his shadow. (If you do, it means six more weeks of revisions.)
  • Do something nice for yourself that gives you a sense of closure on the project. You’ve just completed a major effort; you deserve a little time off.
  • Start thinking about your next book. Once you’ve gotten one book under your belt, you’re very likely to want to start writing another one right away. See if the publisher has any projects coming up that you can work on.

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