Writing Freakout

I’m getting to a point where the draft of my memoir is good enough to show people without having to turn in my writing degree and commit hari kari on my thumb drive (which would be disgusting, and maybe impossible).

It’s great that I’ve come this far. On the other hand, just because I can show it people without dying of embarrassment doesn’t mean it’s good enough to send to agents. I’m not ready for the six-figure deal. (Well, emotionally I’m ready for the six-figure deal, but my manuscript is not quite up to it. Let’s be honest.)

I’ve been reading Real Actual Hilary who used to be THE INTERN, and her advice on revision and getting your book to a place where it will actually have the ghost of a chance to be published. And this is what has been haunting me.

1. Revise until there is no “anyway”.

The single most common reason that reasonably good manuscripts get turned down (at least, as far as INTERN has observed) is because a writer had an exciting idea, wrote a kinda promising book with a lot of flaws, tried to fix the flaws, gave up, and submitted it anyway.

Never submit it anyway.

“Anyway” is an otherwise promising manuscript’s worst enemy. And a manuscript that has been tinkered with until its eyeballs bleed and then submitted anyway screams like a mandrake when pulled out of its envelope. Would you try to fix your car’s brakes, get frustrated, and drive it anyway? No? Point made!

Fuck. Then I looked through some chapters and realized that I had it all wrong. Again. I don’t have time or the energy to print out my whole book and read it in the week before I submit it to [beta reader redacted].

So I printed out the second half, which has historically received less work and less love, and began to read it at Second Job. I managed to completely rearrange a chapter (the dreaded chapter 14) and recombine two more chapters, all while talking to one of my colleagues. The changes might not be good, but what I have is not the right configuration either.

And the moral of this post? The two lines where I sum this up and push it forward as if it were a Shakespearean sonnet? You think you can’t, but you can.



5 responses to “Writing Freakout

  1. This ticker-tape runs through my head all day/night: “You only get one shot, so don’t fuck it up.”

    Whenever I start worrying that this fucker is taking too fucking long, I remember that line above. If it’s not ready, it’s just not. It’s that simple. Pretending it is does me zero good.

  2. Read what Intern says about ‘knowing’ when something is light or just not quite right when submitting. The knowledge is the key, the solution will eventually come, perhaps with help from your readers.
    Panic is dangerous, makes you take corners too fast, don’t wanna roll the whole thing.
    But what the hell do I know?

  3. Okay first, how I love Hilary.
    Second, that is so well said and exactly what I needed to hear right this very moment so thank you for knowing that.
    Third, the other thing that keeps me going, keeps me working on it, keeps me obsessive is my gut. I know that it isn’t ready and like Teri said, it isn’t going to do me any good to pretend.
    My caveat though is that at some point in the very near future, it will be as good as I can make it with the current tools in my toolbox. And that’s the point I hit send and get the fuck to work on something else. If it ends up in a drawer after that, maybe I will have gotten some feedback to help me as a writer, not of that book, but a writer in the whole-big-world-writer sort of way.

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