Of Alphabets and Numbers
I have sometimes seen reviews of books which complain about the lack of a detailed index. It is even something I have (privately) moaned about in the past: it is difficult to find information if the index is not up to scratch.
In my naïveté – that is, before I started writing myself – I imagined that indexing was performed by a small, magical creature similar to the elves that make boots in children’s fairy stories. Maybe something along the lines of an ‘indexing fairy’.
I now know better.
Large publishing companies with big-name authors no doubt have an employee whose job is to compile the index for a book. For us lesser mortals, once a book has been written and the draft sent to the publisher, the task of producing an index is one of the next obstacles we must do ourselves before our book is published.
I sent the text for ‘Aetius’ to the publisher a couple of months ago. Since then I have been reviewing books for magazines and websites. Before beginning on Book Four, however, I’ve started on the painstaking task of making an index for ‘Aetius’. Other authors may have found an easier and/or faster way of doing this, but for me the only satisfactory way is to read through the text with a pen in one hand and a pad in the other, noting the names of people and places as they arise in the text. In this way, entries for individuals of the same name are easier to differentiate.
This takes time and is one of the most boring jobs known to man. Thankfully, I finished it this morning. All that I now have to do is type the list, in alphabetical order, and save it to the computer. This will take me two or three days – yes, days! – and then I am prepared for the last stages of book production: the proofreading and indexing. That should only take two-three weeks, no doubt some time in August when my son is off school. The book itself is scheduled for release in February 2012, but I am hoping that it will be published a little earlier.
In the meantime, I’m starting the research for Book Four. This will be on Valentinian and Valens, and will end with Battle of Adrianople. Unlike indexing, research never ends!