Once upon a manuscript I had to edit. As thoroughly as I could I would mark changes, and next RETYPE. The manuscript was never right. Repeat the process. I had a reliable IBM Selectic with expensive lift-off tape and ribbon cartridges, and use loads of white paper. I became an expert with copy machines and an authority where to get copies done cheaply. Two cents a page was the last cost of my mass copy efforts.
Within the last ten years I bought a computer but didn’t write with it for two years. I wrote a history, non-fiction, A PARTICULAR FRIEND, Constitutional Politics 1788-1803, James Madison’s activities to get the government and the American people accustomed to the Constitutional after 1789. A PARTICULAR FRIEND is on the iBookstore, michael ulin edwards. I put my notes on the computer and realized I needed no complicated outline or involved index to the sources: I only needed keywords to take me from source to source, and to reference related sources. The writing of A PARTICULAR FRIEND was quick.
I submitted the book to New York agents and surprisingly I found many points, unique to this history, were obliquely and sometimes directly made in histories and biographies of Madison and the early “Federalist” period, published after 2008. One reference is important and related to the stature of “common law,” an important issue in the 1790s, and finally disposed of in 1938 by the United States Supreme Court. A PARTICULAR FRIEND was never cited by that historian writing a large survey book for academic courses. I call this a New York Taking.
How do I know someone borrow points from A PARTICULAR FRIEND? To know about this case, the historian has to have Civil Procedure in law school, a first year class. Next, the historian has to make an association from the issue in Civil Procedure to the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution; it is helpful to have Constitutional Law in the Second Year of law school. I note in law school no one make that association between the Civil Procedure case and Constitutional Law. The third step is realizing that the issue in 1938 before the Supreme Court was the same issue, Madison was attacking, in the United States in the 1790s. Finally, out of the blue in 2010(?) a publisher contacted me and asked for my manuscript. I supplied it. I never heard from them again.
What I wrote in A PARTICULAR FRIEND is better and more insightful than that historian, who for his history digested, summarized and regurgitated published histories of those times.
No credit, adopting stories and taking outlines of existing stories to be rewritten by a commercial writer happens. It is not fair. I am used to it, because in law where I was primarily a legal researcher, stealing happens all the time.
HOWEVER, the writing of A PARTICULAR FRIEND broke me of the typing, make copies, edit process. I had a manuscript on a computer where I could work it and get it into shape without making a copy. Printer ink is an expense to avoid if the same result can be achieved by changing the way the mind thinks and works.
Now a manuscript of mine has come out so confused, I need a hardcopy to rewrite or make any other sense to it. If it is on the computer I’ll realize the writing is a mess and no rereading, cutting and pasting, no added passages will carry me toward a future produce. I suspect I may have started one book and written 10,000 words, and begun a second of 25,000 words. A hard copy will give me distance and allow me to work with the writing and present a story.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT AGENTS AND NEW YORK? Trust can not be extended only by writers. I am trying to get manuscripts like A PARTICULAR FRIEND read electronically, rather than pay for the bureaucracy filtering and censoring everything.
So here’s the blog.