Sunday, December 19, 2010

The passage of time like stones on the roadside

Yesterday I passed into the final stage of edits for my novel to be released in March (if I'm not going to be confident about it, who will?). The copy editor congratulated me because the only problems the publishing editor had were "accidental double spaces between words" and "repositioned commas." The copy editor called the stage "errata" and gave me a list of instructions. It seems to be a little different on their end but more or less the same on mind: read my novel all the way through, line by line, and tell them what I'd like changed. The only difference, really, is that "this is not the time for rewrites, but rather to catch any last minute mistakes or oversights." I'm amazed once again about how little I know about this whole process; I guess I missed the chance to rewrite anything...

I hear stories about how writers dislike their first novel, and many of them habitually pour over the produced volume with a marker or highlighter, agonizing over things they can't change (until the re-release, that is). I even got a decent explanation from a co-worker that espoused that for the rest of their lives, the trajectory of their writing career would be associated with their initial effort. It would be something they could never get back, or alter. It takes years to get out of a contract in order to re-release the book somewhere else, and in that time who you are as a writer could be cemented in the minds of whatever readership you may be enjoying. I remember back then my desperation overshadowed everything; it seemed like such a small thing to be labeled a hack because at least I'd be published.

And I'm not saying much has changed. But I know more, I think. And I know that this time, I did not leap head first into reading the book again, to find and fix the corrections. I actually stared at the email for a few hours and thought about things. I hemmed and hawed about the momentum I had on the current novel I'm working on, and hovered my cursor over the file in question. Ultimately, I went to bed without doing very much. Yesterday morning I had composed a chapter, edited it, and even did a story for that sports site (this morning I got my first disagreeable comment: milestone!). Last time I can remember a keen desire to get right into things, and this time I have even less time (10 days to return my corrections rather than 14).

One line in the email stuck with me: "it's very important to read your manuscript and correct errors and omissions that we missed and take responsibility for your work." I guess it might sound like they want me to do their jobs for them, but that isn't how I took it. As always, I've thought that the success or failure of my efforts was solely on my shoulders, as much as it isn't. And this is a good opportunity to prove that. The overall tone of the final notes struck me that a writer could simply wait a few days and send the copy to the editor with a message of "no changes, good work!" and go about their day. A friend of mine told me once, after I had noticed how dense my writing can be sometimes, that such close attention to detail would do me a service, and bare itself out in the end to my advantage.

So I guess I'm trying to psych myself up to reading all the way through it again, line by line, and with the same excitement that I did before. With a second thorough read, I'm sure I'll be many steps closer to being one of their authors that hates their first book, or believing more strongly that it will be a success. Honestly, I wouldn't mind spending every holiday season like how I'm spending this one: reading, writing, editing, and looking forward to an upcoming release. I am blessed.

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