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(Thinking about) Doing the Wainwrights

ManwithwainwrightbookFor no apparent reason, apart from the fact that I have just read in ‘Never mind the Quantocks’ about Stuart Maconie completing the ‘task’, I wrote a Facebook posting the other day on how many Wainwrights I have bagged. Bizarely, it turns out that I have completed exactly half of them (107 of the 214). No, not impressive at all, but some very happy memories – and some I must admit I have no memory of ascending. Mind you at this rate of progress it may be a while till completion! Six decades (and counting) for me ….. or a six day run out for Steve Birkinshaw.

guideSo, I nerdily sat down on a damp afternoon to get the bigger picture. I wanted some answers. Was it even across the 7 Wainwright guides? How many of the ‘big uns’ have I not done? Are there clusters I could easy put together to hit? And most importantly do I actually want to chase completing – having not been at all bothered about doing so up till now? If so would it even be feasible with what will become fading powers/fitness eventually.

Firstly then, some basic facts. I have recorded in my copies of the Wainwright guides the tops I have bagged. This is a fairly random process, only very rarely with dates included. It is by adding up these ticks that I come to the startling fact that I am only half-way through the task. If you had asked me I would have said I had done way more than half

table1How have I fared book by book (measured by the Wainwright guides)? I seem to have concentrated my effort(s) in the Eastern and Southern Fells, but that the Far Eastern Fells need the most care and attention.

table2However, I have done the 19 highest peaks in the list, which might be a bonus later. In fact if you take the top 50 peaks, in order of height, there are just 8 of them to do. Four of these are in Book 6 (North Western Fells) and the other four in Book 2 (The Far Eastern Fells). The highest missing fells, by Book, are listed in the second table.

So, what strategy to take – if going for them? Hit them all randomly, concentrate on the books with most to do, or hit the eastern Fells to get the boost of knocking one book off? And what summit to leave for last? In my mind that would be a celebration of some sort, with my wife, family and some friends with me preferably. Should it be an easy one, or an iconic one with a top view? Or just let it happen and see what ends up last?

The Round sample 6Finally, how am I on the Bob Graham Round peaks? Surely as the author of a book on the subject I have done the round? No! Well at least done all 42 of the peaks on the Round? No, again. To my surprise, and somewhat shamefacedly, I have to admit that I have not bagged two of them. The first is Hindscarth. Having done Dale Head and Robinson, did I just bypass it, or do them on separate occasions, neither of which took me on to Hindscarth? The other is Great Calva. I have no recollection of going up there, despite vivid memories of Skiddaw House and stream crossings out that way. Maybe I was just working round from Skiddaw to Blencathra then.

It seems weird now to think that I can’t remember ascending some of these 107 peaks at all, but have recorded the fact that I did. You have to remember that there have been a lot of trips, over a lot of years. Also that some of the 107 have been done many, many times, especially those on the fell race routes that I competed in.

Oh well, it is something to give thought to. Which I will do as I go to the Lakes this weekend, to possibly add a couple to the list.

When is a book finished?

theendWhen you are reading a book it is (obviously) finished when you get to the end. However, that is not always literally true. A good book may stay with you for a long time afterwards, particularly if there is an unresolved or intriguing ending. I have always been an avid reader, and ages ago I said to myself that once I had started a book I would always finish it – and I have stuck to that mantra. This has mostly been easy, but was less so when I had a period of reading some of the (Soviet) classics. I remember Anna Karenina taking a while, but I got there.

There is another ritual that I go through now when finishing a book. I subscribe to the Good Reads website (‘the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations’), and since 2009 have disciplined myself to write a short review of each book I read. Unfortunately my reviewing is less disciplined than my reading. I am hugely in appears in adding my ‘reviews’. Right now I am 27 books behind in reviewing, almost a year’s worth of reading.

Anyway, enough waffle. This post is really about when the WRITING of a book is finished. My first is finished, at one level, but not at another. It is still selling in trickles, and I still look at the Amazon page about once a day – to see what ‘ranking’ it has. Today is has an Amazon ranking of 22,845th. OK not a best seller, but will produce royalties when the next update comes (it happens every 6 months, and one is due).

Although the manuscript for the second book went to publisher in March, it was far from finished. The rest of this blog details some of the post-manuscript tasks that I have had to encompass on the way to the publication date (in September). I thought it might be of interest to some to see the range of work involved for an author. If you are not interested then I suggest you stop now, and go and read a good book!

The same day the manuscript was submitted I received a reply from the Editor saying: ‘you really do seem to have produced a worthy successor.’ Then came The Sting. There were requests for changes: ‘Move the map to the beginning?’ Then: ‘Chapters 6 to 10 are all pretty long. I would say that 6000 words is a pretty long chapter.’

After bit of thought, I found a way to break the chapters that I am happy with. I had to rewrite a couple of the endings and beginnings of the changed chapters to make it work. I moved the map out of the chapter into the prelims, and renumbered and renamed the chapters. Originally I was going to call four of the new chapters what they covered, but they would all have been “Fastest this that or the other”. I decided to go with the names of the protagonists in each case instead. That left one chapter split into two covering the same topic, now called “Impressions” and “Further impressions”. Realise that chapter naming may not be one of my strongest points!

The Round sample 6Then the Editor queried a couple of possible omissions, and reference errors, which I dealt with, and then started on the process of looking for and contacting possible people for cover quotes [link to Guardian piece on being suspicious of them]. This is a test of your networking capabilities really. Mine have improved since the first book, so I was hopeful of some results.

I approached a noted author. They replied ‘I’ve no idea when I’ll get a chance to look at it. I’m up against a desperate writing deadline myself & already have no time for reading. In addition, I have two large soon-to-be-published running books, written by friends of mine, sitting on my desk waiting for me to read them. So your book would have to go to the bottom of the pile, and, to be honest, the chances of my being able to read it before September look pretty slim. And I really can’t give a cover quote about a book I haven’t read. I’m happy to give it a try, though, if all that doesn’t put you off; but I can’t promise anything. Alternatively, would it make more sense for me to give you some kind of general quote about the BG that you could use?’ Not being one to take anything resembling ‘No’ for an answer, I agreed on the offered BG blurb, and said I would send him a copy of reviewer’s proof anyway ‘on the off chance’.

At this point my Editor queried the amount of quotes, and whether they were all agreed and/or within ‘fair dealing’. Whilst never quite understanding this term, I responded with evidence and justification for my usage of other’s words.

There was then an editing switch, where a different person to my familiar Editor at Sandstone Press (a freelancer) was brought in due to The Editor’s workload and our planned timescale. This took a little adjustment, by me, but worked out just fine. Once we had exchanged a couple of emails I could see that we understood our respective roles, and that we would get on fine – which we did.

Next we started on the photo section – with me sending the hi-res photos to the designer and the editor. The designer declared some as being too low a resolution, so I started hurriedly investigating alternatives. Meanwhile, the first big edits came back on the main manuscript, and I was recommended to accept them by main editor. I agreed changes, and was also able to add in bit about Nicky Spinks beating the ladies’ BGR record over Easter.

Sandstone were very good about allowing more time to get the photos and edited manuscript ‘publisher ready’. We all agreed there was time in hand, and that if necessary could go to print in July and still meet the September publishing date. To facilitate this timescale the new editor and I agreed to accept considering the edits in sections and work on each section in turn to save time.

It was now halfway through April and the Section 1 corrections arrived. The editor also sent some text for my consideration. It nicely expanded on a point I was making in what had turned out to a considerably revised chapter. The second section was received, and both 1 and 2 were returned with changes that day (I am now working only 3 days a week so have more time for turning this stuff around). Section three and four was received and the smallish number of changes were soon dealt with.

Meanwhile, I started working on the text/information for the hardback’s flycover. This involved editing my profile, and deciding on a call-out quote to use from the book – a sort of content tease. I had several competing ideas for this quote, so asked a couple of friends for their preferences from the list, which interestingly varied somewhat from mine.

The need to use some different photos meant the re-start of negotiations for copyright. For one source this proved awkward at first, but then became productive when some new photos were offered. One other source kept passing the buck from one organisation/person to the other but this was eventually resolved.

BGmapsI had just got all the corrections back into one file when an article I had written was published in The Fellrunner. There were some nice responses about it, including out of the blue email from a Cambridge academic with some late leads and information. Some small, but significant, bits were slipped in right at the last moment. Interestingly the photo credit chasing also turned up some extra information, but it was not important really and rejected, and the definitive version of the manuscript dispatched.

The final illustrations and final selection of photos were sent to the designer and editor on the 14th May, and just that day even more information arrived from one correspondent but it was now definitely off-topic stuff (eg did I know of  a real tough guy triathlon – Windermere swim, followed immediately by the Fred Whitton Challenge and then the Bob Graham Round – all hopefully with 48 hours).

The last thing was to tie down the cover quotes. I had compiled a list of good people to approach and carried on the chase. It was pleasing to get the first agreement in, from a former outdoor magazine editor, and this was swiftly followed by one from a current outdoor magazine editor. The next two were very pleasing to get agreement from, being two legends of fell running (see It’s a hill, get over it for hints as to who they might be – I lay my cards out pretty clearly there). The last piece of this particular jigsaw was Sandstone agreeing to print four uncorrected proof copies to send to these ‘quoters’ so they can read a copy of the book before penning their words of wisdom. I await these with deep interest.