Show + tell: The biggest mistake I make in my writing
Actually, the two biggest mistakes.
Though most published books look more or less the same in their printed formats—polished and sophisticated and confident and contained— they come-of-age quite gruesomely, with flushed skin and blackheads.
There have been exactly two times in my life where an early draft moved pretty fluidly into a finished one with little acne scarring. With COSTALEGRE, I researched for over a year (or actually, three decades, if you count my obsession with surrealists and Dadaists that started when I was a teenager), and when I sat down to write that book, it all came flowing out. That’s not to say that the early drafts of COSTALEGRE exactly resemble what is out there on book shelves, but the early drafts are siblings in that they resemble their finished sister quite a lot.
With my publishing guidebook BEFORE AND AFTER THE BOOK DEAL, I’d been carrying around questions and fears and resentments about the publishing process for so long that when it came time to outline that book, it basically bullet-pointed itself.
These two titles are the rare exceptions to the other books I’ve published and the double-digit amount of manuscripts I have stuffed in Ikea TJENA boxes around the house. Every other thing I’ve written (written, but not necessarily published) has been messy and hard-won. And not messy like, oh, if I just had enough time to edit this, I’d see my way out of here. No. Messy like someone poured an entire vat of hot bolognese sauce in my bed. Messy like the time my cat had explosive diarrhea in his cat carrier on his first visit to the vet.
This week on IG and TikTok, I shared the dumpster fire of a process I am currently engulfed in concerning what I hope will be a novel. I’m trying a genre I’ve never written in before for this one (because why not make things hard for myself?) and I’m finding it HAIR PULLING. Harder than I remember any other project being, although TOUCH certainly left scars.
I would love to ramble here about all the things that I’ve done wrong with this manuscript—or gone about in the wrong way—mostly because it’s been raining for 30 hours and I need a hug. But because I try to give practical information in this newsletter, I’m going to boil my realizations down to the one mistake I make with almost every single manuscript.