Monday, January 6, 2014

Inside the struggle

I have sometimes described revising a manuscript as wrestling with an octopus. There's always a tentacle that's sure to slip free and slap you on the forehead. Beth Kephart doesn't use that exact image, but the struggle she describes in this post sounds eerily familiar: "I could get some parts right at the expense of others. ... It was like trying to manage a sine curve."

This is not a novice talking. This is a seasoned and accomplished author of articles, novels, memoirs. An award-winning writer, a teacher and mentor of others. She writes, "The second book is harder. ... You have already used some of your favorite images, your most primal memories, and you have expectations now—those that originate within yourself and those that come from external forces." And spoiler alert: It doesn't get any easier after the second book.

Which I find oddly comforting. The flailing, the trial and error, the false starts and endless rewrites, are not necessarily signs that we're doing it wrong. This just may be the way that a book gets written.


  1. Love the octopus comparison- it's spot on!

    1. Now can we put "octopus wrangler" on our resumes? ;-)

  2. Yes, the octopus tentacle slaps me in the face and the ass too. *Applies virtual post-it*