Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Perfection

There were a lot of topics I considered for today's post: plotting, pacing, procrastination. Perfection is the most relevant topic for me at the moment, so I'm going to go with that.

First off, this post isn't about being perfect, or reaching perfection. I don't think that's possible - especially since one person's perfect is another's nightmare. What it is about, is how we writers struggle for perfection anyways. No matter how "done" I think I might be with a WiP, I'll inevitably think of ways to improve it long after the final revision. Some of those "improvements" might actually end up weakening the MS, other adjustments might be equivalent to the original, and a few might actually be worth something. But this tinkering could go on for years if I don't put a time limit on it. So that's what I do. Of course, I know there will be more edits later should an agent and then an editor decide to take my story under their wing, so the story isn't really done. But for me, for the time, it should be.

So here's the thing. I was done with Daughter of the Moon. I even entered contests and queried a small number of agents. But, the feedback I've received from those contests and queries is that I should consider a chapter 1 re-write. The dream sequence I have at the beginning of the story is apparently killing my MS's chances. So, I'm now about to rewrite chapter 1 (for what must be the millionth time). I don't really know for sure whether or not that's the right thing to do. The decision is based on a relatively small pool of feedback. But I just need for this MS to be as perfect as it can be, so I can really know it had the best shot of getting picked up that I could give it.

What are your experiences with perfection? Do you ever feel like an MS is as perfect as it can be? Or are you constantly thinking of things you'd like to change/add/remove after you've already sent it out to CPs/Betas/Agents/Editors - or even after it's already been published?

18 comments:

  1. I'm always tinkering, but any rewrite I do before I show it to anyone still only counts as the first draft, no matter how many times I go over it or change it.

    I don't think it's ever perfect, but there are times when I definitely feel things click into palce and I know it's just a matter of polishing.

    mood
    Moody Writing
    @mooderino
    The Funnily Enough

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    1. I don't count rewrites before the "first draft" gets to the very first CP either, haha :)

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  2. I'm a perfectionist. No, I'm an obsessive perfectionist who doesn't believe anyone when they compliment an obviously flawed story of mine. Yeah, that about covers it.

    A writing mentor of mine once told me, "Manuscripts aren't finished - they're simply abandoned."

    That, more than anything else, helps me to get over that sense of needing to make it "perfect." It never will be. As soon as it's "good enough" it's time for me to stop. Otherwise, I'd never get away from my first story!

    Jessica
    A to Z Blogger & SF/Fantasy Writer @ Visions of Other Worlds

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    1. That writing quote is so true, and a little bit sad too. I mean, I obviously don't want to spend years tinkering away before I decide something is finally ready. But, after putting so much work into a MS already, it almost feels like, "well, what's another year, if it means getting nearer to perfection". *sigh*

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  3. Yes, there can be so much tinkering (procrastination, really) that it's never done. Having said that, first chapters can be the weak link, since you don't know your characters/story as well. I've heard the rule not to start a novel with a dream. It seems to be some unbendable code, like many others in big publishing. (can you hear the disdain in my voice yet?) It's up to you as to whether it's important to leave it there. It's your MS. For the record, I'm an indie author and not trying to jump through imaginary hoops. :D Go with your gut feelings.

    Laura
    A to Z of Immortals, Myths & Legends

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    1. I've heard all that advice too, but I still went with it because for my story, it really does work! But that's what everyone says, right? haha. Anyways, at least I gave it a shot with the dream intact and now, I'll try conformity. Getting an agent is the biggest step and who knows, maybe I can show my future agent the alternative first chapter after they've read the whole MS and see what they like best :)

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  4. Personally, I think if you try to hard to perfect something, you can over do it and ruin it. I understand what you mean about wanting to give your MS the best chance though.

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    1. Oh yeah, I've definitely worried about over-cooking the MS. It's one of those things though that's so hard to evaluate when you're so close to the writing.

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  5. I never think my manuscript is as perfect as it can get. Which is why I'll likely be working on it for the rest of my natural life. I'm constantly changing things in the story.

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  6. I hate first drafts so much since I'm SUCH a perfectionist. Everyone tells me that 1st drafts are supposed to be crappy, but I still strain over every. Single. Word.

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    1. I'm the same - it just kills me to write crap, haha. But in the end, it sure wastes a lot of time because I might end up cutting a whole chapter full of beautiful sentences I spent hours agonizing over. Then again, practice is never a waste of time, right? :D

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  7. I think most of our writing time is spent striving for perfection. :)

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    1. Definitely :) As unreachable as it may be, haha

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  8. I don't think we can ever achieve perfection, at least not to our own eyes. I bet if you could give Hemingway a try at bettering his novel, he'll find quite a few things to do. My father put it in the perfect words when calming me down after having a breakdown for not achieving a perfect ms. He said, "we are ever-changing, evolving, getting better all the time and with it our capacities evolve. Two years from now you'll read the ms again and find a hundred mistakes you didn't see before, or things you could've done better. It will happen to everything you do in life because you are maturing as a person and a writer, but at some point you have to get off the boat and let it be. Have confidence that what you did was the best you could and let it go."

    I think he got it so right...
    From Diary of a Writer in Progress

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    1. That's so true! What a wonderful way of putting it :)

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  9. I have a personal rule to never read something I've written after it's published because I am guaranteed to find a million things I want to change and it will drive me bonkers. I've recently begun relaxing that rule a little bit, but only in regard to work that was published long enough ago that I can read it and just be like 'My, I'm a much better writer now than I was then.'

    ~ Rhonda Parrish

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    1. That actually sounds like a really good plan - but I don't know if I would be able to stick to it, haha

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