Righting

righting
"Perhaps I might be an author after all."

I earlier this morning finished copyediting a manuscript I "finished" ten months ago. Copyediting and writing seem antithetical to each other, like shining the brass has almost nothing in common with building a ship from scratch, but the overall effort's uncompleted until somebody polishes that brass. I find this work to be, well, real work, unlike writing, which doesn't usually feel very much like work to me anymore. Furthermore, it feels like picky work, the sort that demands close attention without really paying for it. I'd read each piece before, even scrupulously copyediting them, though I'd never read through the whole work as if I were reading a whole work, which provided a unique experience for me to read something I'd written as if I was a scrupulous reader rather than the proud and slightly defensive author.

I felt surprisingly pleased with this author's work.
I think of copyediting as Righting, an activity perhaps superficially very much like writing, but really quite different. Righting's more focused upon global coherence than any writer should ever be. Writing attempts to string together individual words into concepts and those into separate stories or scenes. Righting's focused upon not only correcting inevitable mistakes, but also of determining whether the whole works as an integrated whole. Flow comes into play, and voice, and a seeming ten thousand other properties for which I have no label other than to call them flow. Did the author deliver on his premising promise? Did the reader feel as though his time had been well-spent? Did each follow-on chapter feel like an obligation to read or were they warmly anticipated? Did the manuscript give anything in return for my effort?

Righting properly takes hours upon hours. The double-spaced manuscript, a paper pile almost three hundred and fifty pages high, seems impossibly tall at the start, and as I dog-ear amended pages, the unread pile seems to barely shrink for the longest time. Was I noticing my obvious lack of progress or enjoying the stroll? Was the author wearing out my patience or renewing my interest as I progressed? Could I comfortably walk away without finishing the whole work or did it somehow insist that I continue to completion? Though I always dread engaging in Righting, the ten month delay since finishing the initial complete draft reinforcing just how painful the effort feels in anticipation, once engaged, it stopped feeling very much like work at all. Mind you, it still didn't feel like writing, but it utterly failed to feel very much like work.

I stopped fifty pages short of completion last night, with suppertime finally closing in on me before I could finish. My head felt swollen and I went to bed feeling unresolved, which meant that I hardly slept at all knowing that those last few pages waited for me on my old oak desk downstairs. I was awake by 2am and back down there shortly thereafter, the final relatively few pages quickly dispatched. 'Whew!' properly describes how I felt when I'd completed the Righting of the work. Then, the scant hour updating the master soft copy with the few edits, and I was well and truly done Righting the work. I have three other manuscripts of approximately equal size queued up behind this NuthinSpecial one I'm day-to-day creating now. I'm more warmly anticipating scraping through those works now.

Writing creates a permanent record. I have file boxes overflowing with "completed" works which won't be completed until I perform Righting on them. I could spend all day every day for the next year without getting through the backlog. Each separate piece served its purpose in its time, and I'd not really intended every one of them to become a part of the permanent record. My story, like your story, I suppose, emerges in small fragments necessarily without reflection on where they belong in any grander scheme. Lives and stories never emerge as parts of any grand scheme, the grand scheme emerges from them. With this now grand scheme completed manuscript, I have five (or is that six or seven or eight?) grand scheme confirmed works. I'm looking for a publisher now, encouraged by my most recent Righting endeavor. Perhaps I might be an author after all.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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