By Joe Moore
Here’s a comment I hear from new writers: “I want to edit and polish my writing as I go, but I wind up getting nowhere because I’m obsessed with making it perfect the first time.”
This is so often the case starting out. You want every word to shine and sparkle and dazzle. So you spend a day or a week or a month or forever trying to get that first chapter not just perfect, but perfecter.
In my opinion, this is a crutch. It’s an excuse. It’s a disease that infects all writers when they first start out. And it will eat you alive with a good chance that your writing will be damaged. It’s as easy a trap to fall into as a subprime, interest-only mortgage with nothing down. So how do you get past this nasty little hang-up?
First, you must convince yourself that NOTHING is perfect, especially when it comes to writing fiction. Now I’m not talking about spelling, punctuation, grammar and syntax. Those are the rules of writing just like the speed limit and stop lights are the rules of the road. But those rules have NOTHING to do with perfection, only correctness. Perfection is a mental concept. It can never be achieved. There will always be room for improvement.
Next, you must allow yourself to write less-than-perfect prose the first time with the understanding that it’s more important to tell the story.
Another tip that helps is to come up with a set of REALISTIC goals that drive your writing. Your goals should be reasonable and obtainable. Make them short-term, easy and convenient. Such as: I will write 500 words per day. I will not look at what I’ve written until I complete 5000 words. I will not stop writing each day until I finish the current chapter. You get the idea. Make your goals reasonable so perfectionism doesn’t get in the way.
I believe that perfectionism creates doubt. Doubt smothers creativity. It slows down the stream of consciousness. Allow yourself to shape the story first no matter how rough, then carve out the details. And remember that you’re the only one demanding that your writing be perfect. Give yourself a break and just tell the story.
Harry Shaw, in his book Errors in English and Ways to Correct Them, said, "There is no such thing as good writing. There is only good rewriting." Science fiction master thriller writer Michael Crichton said: "Books are not written--they're rewritten."
So don’t worry about perfection. Work at telling a good story.
Do you suffer from wanting things perfect from the start? How do you get past it and complete your manuscript?