How to write a book about nits

Some while back I was interviewed for a magazine article. You know the sort of thing…strange man, studies insects, weird huh! Actually, it was a brilliant article, witty, subtle and kind. And, guess what, it was written by my arch-partner in nit crime, that Justine Crow. [It’s here, by the way, if you’re inclined, pages 16–18.]

In it, Justine asked how I study insects, expecting some state-of-the-art high-tech CSI-style equipment maybe; instead she found the answer pleasingly Victorian — basically, it’s just me and a big net. Don’t be surprised, therefore, to find that this is also our approach to writing a book.

We specifically had the kitchen floor done to cope with spread sheets.

Despite the prevalence of desktop publishing, email, spreadsheets and the supposedly paperless office, when writing a complicated book you just can’t beat the spread-it-out-on-the-floor technique. So this was us, just over a month ago, getting the pages in order.

They’ve been tweaked a tiny bit since then, but this was the decisive editing point that dictated the layout, the flow and, indeed, the overall style of the book. No on-screen cutting and pasting, no excel charts, no algorithmic jiggery-pokery; just jostling, shuffling and paper-pushing. Less is more.

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