We are working hard on the last jobs getting our website—http://www.dwightcathcart.net—up and running. We ask ourselves questions. Are there enough pictures? Do you have more pictures on your HD? What did Apple do to iPhoto 11 so that it won’t do what iPhoto 10 did easily? I seem to go by the Apple store once a week, asking for help. As it turned out, I don’t think the staff was very familiar with the latest upgrade to iPhoto. I cropped more than a hundred photos. There were design issues, particularly on the first several pages, and then Edward worked on the Shopping Cart and Checkout pages. I think all that’s done, now. At one point, I went through the whole website looking for copy-editing type things. A comma here or there. Clarity. Tomorrow we’ll make some changes to the text of the excerpts of the three novels. Then, at some point, I suppose late in the afternoon, one of us will say, “Is there anything left to do?” And the other one will say, “No. I don’t think so.” And there’ll probably be a silence for a second or two, and then somebody will say, “Uh—well. Um. What now?” And the other one will say, “Put it up, and let’s see if it’ll fly.”
This is the way it’s always been when I’ve finished a book. I write all the way through to the end, so that I know what the last sentence is going to be, and then, after several days of decompression, I go back and edit the whole text. Usually, while I’m writing a book, I begin to collect subjects in my head that I know are going to need reworking after I finish, so now that I am through, I get organized about these subjects. I make a list. I pick the one I am going to look at first, and then I start to work. Sometimes this subject requires that I read a book—find a book, and then read it—and then rewrite scenes. If I am lucky, there is only one scene, but sometimes I rework every scene a character appears in over 300 pages, or 500 pages. Major effort. And then when all this is done—sometimes it takes six months—then I print out a fresh copy and read it through again. I am either unhappy with all the edits I made, or I am happy. If I am happy, I can go on and go to the beach. If I am unhappy, I have to go back to work and do those things again, or do them better, or differently, or something. And then I can go on to some other issue. I repeat this process until gradually the list of things to be looked at gets shorter and shorter, until one day, when I read through a freshly printed-out text, I realize I have read thirty pages without making a single mark on a page. Then the suspense begins to grow. How many pages can I go without making a mark?
But I never say to C, who is my partner, “I finished my book today.” Because I don’t know if today was the day I finished it. I could be reading it and realize, “I finished this last week.” Or I could realize that, “I don’t know. I am unsure about this thing. Ask me again next week. I don’t know if I finished it.” And then I’ll read it again. I may do this a number of times, until finally I can say, “There’s nothing more to do,” and, then I’ll grin at C and say, “Now, it’s finished,” and that now it’s OK for me to get C and go to the beach.
In that way, writing a book is like freedom for gay people. At some point in the future, long after we all have gay marriage and DOMA and DADT have been repealed, and many other things have been dealt with, somebody is going to say, “What next?” and somebody else is going to say, “Uh—um, I don’t think there is anything else.” There’s going to be silence for a moment, and then somebody is going to say, “Are we free now?” And the other person is going to say, tentatively, “I think so. Maybe.” And then, we can all go to the beach.