Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Writing 101: Perfect Isn't Possible

I've been posting Facebook updates about my newest book...for many, many months now. It's not quite 60 thousand words and it's consuming me. And the other day I finally figured out what's been taking me so long to just finish it already: I've been trying to make it perfect. But here's the truth about that: perfect isn't possible. And I don't mean that it's not possible for indie authors...it's possible for no author.


Imperfect

I have never read a perfect book. In every story there is a typo, punctuation out of place, mixed-up names. Some errors are even more grievous -- a ridiculous character, an unbelievable plot, a horrible cliche. Even the books that millions love have their flaws.

Read your books again and again, and you'll keep finding stuff to change. Scenes to shift. Sentences to shorten. Punctuation to perfect. Keep looking for errors, and you will find them. Because writing is never going to be perfect. It's the unique phrasing and punctuation that you bring to the table that helps to create your unique voice. And you can spend so much time editing that you completely lose your natural voice in the flow of things. 

There's always something more to add, a character to flesh out, a scene to shorten or another twist to throw in. You can make yourself crazy with it without half-trying, because authors by nature are detail-oriented people. But when they say the devil is in the details, they were definitely talking about editing a book. 

Get rid of the errors, but don't edit out all the flavor of the story. It's not possible to be perfect, and there's always something more to do. But once you feel that the story adequately stirs the emotions you had hoped to engage, and you're quite certain that the book is as 100 percent error-free as is it can be, cut yourself off. Don't keep tweaking pages and messing with what you've got. At some point, you have to stop and you have to call your project done. 

The perfect book is the one that you feel good about. So feel good about your editing, but don't strive for ultimate perfection...because you won't get there. Authors tend to be picky people, too.

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