The page about the first edition of Ready, Okay! began:
This will not come as a surprise to those of you who got the URL of this site off the book jacket.
If that sounds like you—that is, if you finished the book, saw the mention of the web site, and decided to swing by for a looksee—this page isn’t going to tell you anything you don’t already know. But if you feel like telling me what you thought of the book, I’d love to hear from you.
The second edition isn’t available in hardcover, so it doesn’t have a book jacket. But everything else still holds. If you’ve already read the new edition of Ready, Okay!, there is nothing in the world I want more than to hear from you. I mean, that’s the whole point of spending years agonizing over every sentence for hundreds of pages, trying to usher a story from the land of daydreams out into the real world where other people can read it—to find out whether that story speaks to anyone. So if it spoke to you in any way… speak back!
But if you haven’t read the new edition of Ready, Okay! and want to learn more, read on…
Where to get it
You can buy the ebook on Amazon. $3.99. Cheaper than a burrito. Won’t spill into your lap.
I’d thought ebooks had taken over the world, so I was surprised by how many people told me they hated reading off screens and wanted to know when they could get a physical copy. If that’s you, the wait is over! You can now buy it in paperback. It’s an extra ten bucks, but the way burrito prices are going these days, that’s still pretty comparable.
If you’d prefer, you can also buy it from me directly using your Paypal account, though that takes a little longer. Email me and we’ll make the arrangements.
About the second edition
When Ready, Okay! first appeared in bookstores, I told people that it was the best work I had ever done, and at the time, it was. I had gained some attention for writing an interactive story called Photopia, but as far as I was concerned, that was just a little experiment I’d banged out in six weeks. Ready, Okay! was a project I’d spent almost half my life on, populated by characters who owned vast acreages in my mental landscape, who had put down roots even as real people came and went. It stood to reason that the story they came together to create would be deeper, more substantial, and a lot closer to my heart than anything else I’d put out up to that point. And people seemed to like it—I was actually pretty shocked at the percentage of people who read it who said that it was one of their favorite books.
But it was also worse than most everything I’ve worked on since then. Narcolepsy is funnier. Evil Creatures does a better job of establishing a varied ensemble cast. Endless, Nameless communicates its themes better. And the Photopia screenplay and novel‐in‐progress are superior on every axis. So when Kindles and the like became enough of a thing that people started asking me on a regular basis when Ready, Okay! would be available as an ebook, I didn’t want to just put out the original text as an EPUB file—it seemed pretty clear to me that I’d need to do a thorough editing pass if I wanted to bring the book up to my current standard. At this point I don’t remember exactly when I realized that “thorough editing pass” wasn’t going to cut it, but the second edition of Ready, Okay! is in fact a total rewrite. I drew up a new outline and started each chapter from a blank screen. There were a handful of occasions when I looked at the original text and decided that it was fine as it was, but even then, my rule was that I had to type it out all over again—no copying‐and‐pasting. The process was sort of like when the delegates went to Philadelphia thinking that they were going to do a light revision of the Articles of Confederation and ended up with the Constitution instead.
So now that I’ve talked about how much and why this new edition differs from the hardcover version, how does it differ? The short answer is that the hardcover was written by an amateur and the ebook was written by a professional. I wrote the hardcover almost entirely by intuition—it was a story that the narrative lobe of my brain had generated pretty much of its own accord, and I just wrote down what it came up with. But then I got a gig working as a screenwriter, and when you’re working in a junior capacity on a collaborative project like a movie, you don’t get to shrug that you wrote a scene a certain way because that’s what popped into your head and so that must be how the story goes. You actually have to explain why you think your approach is the most effective way to achieve the narrative goals you were assigned to achieve. And even after I went back to working on my own stuff, I continued to take that approach: i.e., setting narrative goals and figuring out the best way to achieve them, rather than crossing my fingers and hoping that what popped into my head happened to be better than the original. The result is, I think, a dramatically improved novel, particularly in these three areas:
Vladimir Nabokov maintained that the worst question a literary critic
can ask is “What is the guy trying to say?”, but when I did
publicity for the hardcover, “So what were you trying to say?”
was often the first question interviewers would ask me.
My answer was that I had no idea—that it was not the case
that I’d had some sort of message in mind and had decided to write a
novel to get that message out to the world.
I wrote Ready, Okay! mainly just to get it
out of my head and stop Echo and Molly from intruding into my thoughts to
recite their lines.
Figuring out what the book was “about” was the readers’
job, I said, and I was very much looking forward to hearing what
they’d come up with.
The new edition doesn’t have a message either—as Douglas Adams once said, if I’d wanted to write a message, I’d have written a message. I wrote a book. But this time around, yes, I did write it with a clear set of themes in mind, and engineered the story to explore those themes in some depth.
Another question I wasn’t able to answer: “What is this
character like?”, or as it was once put to me, “What sort of
feeling tone surrounds her?”
My response was that I didn’t think of characters as sets of traits,
and that in writing the book I just tried to inhabit the characters in the
scene at hand and intuit what each one would say and do.
This time around I still tried to write the characters from the inside
out, but I paid much closer attention to
consistency—making sure characters
remained true to themselves.
Which isn’t to say that the characters don’t change and grow
from one chapter to the next—of course they do.
But they’re no longer quite so malleable just for the sake of
setting up the banter or getting to the next plot point.
I’ve tried to add depth to every important character, but if
you’ve read the hardcover, I think you’ll find that Echo,
Molly, and Carver in particular are much more richly drawn this time
I confess that I still don’t know what a “feeling tone” is.
- Style. The prose in the ebook is punchier, the jokes are funnier, and the dialogue is truer to the way people actually talk. Also, the first time around, I put in a bunch of invented slang, on the theory that it wouldn’t get dated as time passed. That was dumb, so that’s gone.
Put it all together and I can once again say that Ready, Okay! is the best work I’ve ever done. (For the time being. Once I have time to do something in my free time other than lesson planning, it’ll be back to the Photopia book!)
Try before you buy!