Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Walter White Wednesday 50

Wow!  50 posts about Breaking Bad!  I guess that means I'm right where everything started, with Walt's 50th birthday - and so much has changed from that point.

For this post, I want to both give you an update on the progress of Wanna Cook? and also talk about one of the sorrows of writing.  Word counts.  That leads to the second sorrow - having to cut.

To begin with, if you haven't read my co-author's blog post this week, go there now.  He writes about our intrepid, cheery, and horseshoe-tough editor who well deserves praise built up to the skies.  Really - authors write (and we write a lot!) and editors are the ones who look at the draft critically and kindly advise authors on how to trim, cut, hack, and slash to make the writing stronger, clearer, and more able to leap tall buildings in a single paragraph.  (The image that helps me with this is - as an author, I'm like that client who goes to the accountant with a shoebox full of receipts.  The editor is the accountant who sighs, patiently sorts through it all, separating the wheat from the chaff [what do you mean, I can't claim the dog as a dependent?], and voila! order is restored.)  You don't even realize the writing tics you have until someone else takes a sweep through it - for instance, it took an editor looking at some of my earlier work for me to realize that I am, indeed, the Queen of Semicolons.

At any rate, we all survived the Great 30 Day Publication Push and Seasons 1 - 4 are in the copy editing stage (wording is settled; now let's look at formatting and punctuation - hey, take out that bit in italics.  Should that be an em-dash? Why's there a comma over there? - that sort of thing) and Season 5A is in the line editing stage (we've turned in a solid (not rough) draft and are waiting for our editor's knives to fillet it into shape).  We also have a timetable for the rest - we have some extras (some short, some long) to sprinkle throughout the text and Season 5B doesn't air until summer, so we needed to figure out what needed to be turned in when so Wanna Cook? can be published - in both English and German - on schedule.  And those jokes about how Germans like schedules?  Not all that funny.  True, but not too ha-ha when you're looking at your calendar, muttering, "They want it when?"

All of which brings me to the downside.  Books have word counts.  Books that have their translation rights sold before they are written have very strict word counts.  So that means that sometimes, with fingers a-trembling and eyes a-misting, you have to cut.  You have to cut good stuff that you labored over and that you think is valuable because you need the space and other stuff is even better.  With us, that has usually meant cutting stuff that's neat, but is more of a side item instead of directly relating to the show.

Still, you hate to see it go.  Fortunately, I have this blog, so I get to resurrect things from time to time!  Remember the Season 5 episode "Dead Freight"?  Of course you do - it's the one that begins with the kid on the dirt-bike who stops to collect a tarantula in the desert.  Turns out tarantulas are quite interesting creatures, but we couldn't keep everything in that section.  So here's a bit on tarantulas and their hydraulic legs, which had to be cut for length, but which I still find to be pretty cool.

Tarantulas are masterpieces of engineering, relying on a sort of hydraulic system to move their legs. Tarantulas are arthropods and they have an exoskeleton to protect their delicate innards. They also have simplified muscle connections compared to humans. We humans rely on opposing sets of muscles to move our limbs – for example, in order to raise our arm, our biceps muscle contracts and our triceps relaxes, and to lower it, the biceps relaxes and the triceps contracts. Spiders have flexor muscles to pull their legs in, but don’t have opposing extensor muscles to push the legs back out. This is why a dead spider's legs curl up - there's nothing to push them out. So tarantulas extend their legs by a system that can be compared to a rudimentary hydraulic system.  Blood is forced into the legs to extend them, much like pumping hydraulic fluid into cylinders to lift the bed of a dump truck. Then the flexor muscles work to pull the legs back in.  It's a lot for a spider-brain to keep straight, yet they manage - at least until some kid with an empty mayonnaise jar comes along and scoops them up.   

This probably guarantees that the next time I see a tarantula in a zoo exhibit, I'll probably make mechanical leg-extending noises and then be asked to leave.

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