I just got my manuscript draft back from my beta reader (all hail the beta reader!). As an aside: can I just say I think she took particular joy in pointing out all my typos, missing words, and grammatical errors. But here’s the bulk of what she said (paraphrased):
You know those chapters you hated? The ones that were embarrassing and difficult and hard to write? It turns out they don’t work, and not just because the writing isn’t as good. They don’t work because they don’t fit in to the possible trajectory. Of course you could change the trajectory to include these chapters.
Thank fucking god. I read the manuscript at my favorite Israeli cafe, which is dim with orange walls and colorful Turkish lanterns. I wanted to turn to the waitress and say “Hey! My friend said I don’t have to include all the stuff in the memoir I hated!” But of course I didn’t. (A second aside: why do people put pickles on felafel? Pickled onions, sure, but pickles out of a jar? Ick. But as a third aside—but this is about food, so it’s important—my cousin once told me that they put French fries on felafel in Israel. I said, is it too late to come visit you?)
They say write what is difficult. They say write what you hate to write. I told my friend J that what I was writing was boring, and she said “Let me be the judge of that. It’s probably not going to be boring, even if you think it is.” I pushed myself toward all the icky personal stuff I didn’t want to write about.
And now I can delete it. Not all of it. And not really delete it. It’s going into the dead chapter file. But I can structure my next draft without it and see how it goes. I worry that I’m taking the easy way out. But maybe I just have to find something more difficult in the first two parts of the manuscript to obsess over. I want to be Alain de Botton not Kathryn Harrison.
Thank you my friends for letting me whine about writing rather than APA style.
When do you stop pushing through the crap?