Writing a Book is Hard (The How and Why of Jewish Prayer)
Writing a book is hard. It is an overwhelming and humbling experience, consuming days and nights, months on end. Growing up I jotted down thousands of notes. Most were handwritten stories told to me by my parents, grandmother and other relatives. I kept notes about our Jewish tradition, work related topics, personal, special and school related topics. I had a number of special interests: Torah & Halacha; Krymchaki life and customs, Jewish customs, superstitions and school oriented topics. These I kept in six five-drawer steel file cabinets. Over the past many years my treasure horde of notes exceeded the capacity of these steel file cabinets. I spent weeks and months agonizing what to keep and what to discard. Regrettably, the advent of the personal computer came on the scene only after my wholesale disposal. I knew that I would regret discarding many of the notes, but we were relocating to New Jersey in the summer of 1995 and did what had to be done.
In 1965, I purchased a pocketsize personal recorder and dictated my thoughts on my long daily drive to work from Brooklyn to Farmingdale and back again in the late afternoons.
I started serious book-writing in 1981. Prior to that time my writings were primarily op-ed articles, letters to the editor and position papers on Israel, Soviet Jewry, Jewish education, etc. I limited my writings to non-fiction, which required hundreds of hours of research, visits to libraries and archives of a number of Jewish institutions, many interviews and above all searching through my vast collection of notes and photographs. But the real task was writing, and the constant rewriting. After finishing a draft, I would put the manuscript aside for a week or more and only then go back to read and re-read making changes. Fortunately my wife, Blossom and our two daughters, gave me invaluable suggests as they read proof after proof. After completing The How & Why of Jewish Prayer, I retained the services of one Rabbi, who edited the book for its halachick content. After completing the final draft of each book, I began the laborious process of editing. Editing is much more than proofreading for spelling and grammatical mistakes.
I hired a freelance editor to review and change my text with the intent to improve the flow and overall quality of my writing. I gave the editor a free hand to remove entire sentences or rewrite entire paragraphs. In the process my editor corrected any obvious errors. The editor’s main goal was to ensure that the manuscript made sense. This is what differentiates a good editor from a less qualified one. A good editor uses his skill and perception to ensure a crisp and clear style and flow of my writing. Additionally, I was somewhat pleased that the editor cut down on wordiness, and clarified any ambiguity.
I did my own proofreading to correct obvious spelling errors and typos. Finally, after all the editing and proofreading was done, I worked closely with my granddaughter, Lori Nemoy, who is a graphic designer. She designed the cover, front spine and back. At the same time I retained a typesetter who did the typesetting, page layout and was responsible for the aesthetic appearance of the inner pages. Finally I submitted the manuscript to Rabbi Avishai David who read the entire text and was generous enough to write an Haskama, (approbation).