T minus eight days

In slightly more than a week, I’m going to send my manuscript to some readers. Spooky. Just in time for Halloween. All my usual anxieties are flaring up, exacerbated by the lovely Best American Essays.

I loved Wild, and was excited to see what Cheryl Strayed would pick as the best things that she read all year. Of course the secret hope is that one day my work will be among them. Well, not so secret after all.

Comparing my work with the essays in the book, I saw a few standard flaws that I expected, criticism I had heard before. Didn’t go into enough depth, more scene, etc. But the unexpected was privileged. Many of the essays are about living on the edge, not just “can’t go out until payday” edge, but the “have no place to sleep indoors” edge. It makes my problems seem small indeed.

I look at my work and I am tired. I’ve cut some 30,000 words. I know I need to add that much back in, but I don’t know where, and I don’t know how. I’m trying to figure how to get to my manuscript with fresh eyes AGAIN. How do I keep the reader’s attention?

What books make you insecure?


20 responses to “T minus eight days

  1. Me too, same time frame and everything. Spooky indeed.

    “What books make you insecure?”

    Books in which the writing is so good that mine can’t even approach it. A Visit From the Good Squad, The Silent Wife, anything by JCO… the list goes on and on…

  2. there are so many books that write SO much better than I do that I should probably just give up. How about “the Spirit Enters you and you fall down”? Isn’t Fadiman like, a poet, or something? And here she writes medical anthropology like she was, well, say a medical anthropologist. Bet she irons her towels!

    PS- no Indy, I didn’t reveal any personal information by posting this. I am NOT a medical anthropologist.

      • whoops. (I mean about the title, not the towels).

        A secret about Maternal Clause (you may already know this): She was an excellent ironer, and not a very good folder. She said that one couldn’t be both. She obviously didn’t know Prof. Cougar. He is both.

    • Dr Cougar,
      Have you read Mortal Lessons by Richard Selzer and Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor?
      Just throwing those out there because in college, one of my most interesting, thought-provoking classes was titled Medicine and Literature and those two books stuck with me. So, if you haven’t, you might find them interesting.

  3. Don’t worry about keeping the reader’s attention, worry about the story. Just the story. Pick one person and tell it to them. You have all the time in the world, so just worry about telling it as clearly as you can. And by clear I mean honestly, truthfully. Because that, as we all know, is the hardest part of this no-pay job we do.

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