Tag Archives: perfection

Another thought on “perfection”

I should have a “perfection” category on my blog. I’ve had a lot of posts related to those. The reason is that I want things to be perfect in my writing, but I know I can’t have that.

I go to a monthly writer’s group where we often will write a short piece and share it with the group, get feedback on it, etc. We keep the writing under 2,000 words, so it’s a nice easy writing exercise, at least for me. I love short pieces. But in the month between when we decide what we’re going to write, and when I actually share it with the group, I probably read and edit it at least three or four times. I go to the group and share it, hoping to get lots of good feedback and suggestions on how to improve it and most often what I get is this kind of stunned silence and a general, “That’s really good” comment. It sometimes frustrates me because I look at it and see all the problems. That’s my biggest stumbling block when it comes to publishing stories. I keep reworking them because I never feel like they’re perfect.

nobody-is-perfect-688365_640

I recently had an incredible experience in regards to this. One of my writing friends, Julia Ward, just published her first book. Every writer talks about how their novel is their baby. Well if Julia’s novel was her baby, I was the novel’s Auntie. I was there through the writing stage of the book, the editing stage of the book, the “why did I write this? It’s awful!” stage of the book, the “Oh wait, there are a few funny parts. Actually, this is pretty good,” stage of the book and finally the, “Holy crap, I’m just about to hit the publish button!” stage of the book. Through the whole thing, I saw that endless struggle for perfection, that endless self-doubt that she would ever be able to reach it. It was the same kind of feeling I had when working on my first novel, the same kind of doubt that it would be any good.

When the novel came out, I picked up my copy and started reading. It was cute, it was fun, it was funny. It wasn’t perfect, but I really didn’t care. I enjoyed it, and I was glad I had it to read. And it made me realize that, yes, I strive to make my novel the best it can be, and that struggle makes it such a much more enjoyable read to someone else, but I will never get it perfect, and I don’t need to, because people want to be transported to some other world, some other life, and as long as the imperfections aren’t extremely distracting, they’re happy to read what has been written.

If you’re interested in Julia’s debut novel, go check it out It really is a great read. (And I’m not biased, being the novel’s Auntie.)

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.

3 ways to avoid inconsistency

Think… Monsters Inc. Remember that line, when Mike and Sully leave the apartment and Mike says to Sully, “You’ve been jealous of my looks since the fourth grade.” Remember that? Good.

Now, think… Monsters University. And how jealous Sully was of his good looks in the… Fourth grade? Wait.

The entire premise of Monsters University makes that line in Monsters Inc completely impossible. Not to mention they act like they’ve never met the Abominable Snowman when they get banished in Monsters Inc, but the end of Monsters University flips that on it’s head as well.

You can’t blame Monsters Inc too much. I mean, how long was it between the first movie and the second? Time between storytelling is a perfect excuse for inconsistency. Just take a look at X-men. Which one? Oh, take your pick. You can pretty much sit down and watch any two x-men movies and there will probably be something that contradicts something else.  My favorite is “X-men Origins: Wolverine” versus “The Wolverine.” We find out in Origins that Logan had bone-claws, got them fused with adamantium, and then shortly thereafter lost all memory of his life before. But the opening sequence in the Wolverine shows Logan hanging in a well using his bone claws to hold him up. When this scene is mentioned later in the show, Logan seems to remember the occurrence.

inconsistency

photo credit: mememaker.net

Inconsistencies pop up in almost any series, and even in standalone stories. What we say at “once upon a time” might conflict with what we say at “happily ever after.” We’re never going to be able to make that perfect (That’s a recurring theme throughout my blog) but here are some pieces of advice you can try to minimize them.

Style Sheets

I learned about Style Sheets in an editing class I took a few months ago. Basically it’s one piece of paper, or excel document, or whatever works best for your mind, where you write down anything that you might forget. Did you spell your main character’s name Marc or Mark? Write that down. Did your supporting character tell his friend he has a severe peanut allergy? Write it down, because you don’t want him eating a PB&J halfway through the book. (Unless you intend to do a hospital scene shortly thereafter.)

Style sheets are going to help you out in keeping things straight for the novel you’re working on, but if you end up writing a series, make sure to keep your style sheets from book one and two, etc. They will be invaluable. It means you won’t have to go back and read through the first few books while you’re trying to write the next one. That being said, it leads me into my next tip.

Read what you wrote

I know this one seems a bit obvious. But it’s a little more than that. I suppose I should say “read what you wrote, and read it fast.” Don’t skim, because you might skim over the inconsistencies. But before you hit “publish” on that novel, read through the whole book, not with an eye to edit or “fix” it, but with an eye to catch any inconsistencies. It’s incredible how taking a whole afternoon and crashing through your novel, (kind of like one of your addicted readers might do) can help you realize you said one thing in chapter 2 and something else in chapter 28.

And last but not least,

Know your weaknesses

This one I might just be preaching to myself, but I know my weaknesses when it comes to inconsistencies. I might write something on page 87 that says the drive would take seventeen hours to get out to the test site. Perfect. But on page 92, after they’ve done their tests, gotten some lunch, shot the breeze, or whatever, they get in the car to head home and show up just before dinner.

I know I’m awful at timeline stuff. Some people could just put timeline stuff in their style sheet and have no problem. That doesn’t work for me. I invested in a timeline program just last year, and absolutely love it. I can keep track of when things happen, and can even put in notes of how long google says it takes to get from point A to point B. It gives my story a lot more realistic feel to it, when I can say “it took us a day and a half to get to L.A.” rather than just saying, “Sometime later we arrived in L.A.”

So what techniques do you use to keep track of and avoid your inconsistencies? Let me know in the comments below.

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.

 

Publish this, Publish that.

I’ve been writing this blog for a few months now, and as you may have noticed one of the themes that comes up in my posts quite often is perfection, (or the lack thereof.) Mostly I’ve been writing about perfection because I need to come to terms with my realization that I’m not, and I won’t be perfect, and that’s okay.

So a lot of my posts have helped prepare me for publishing my upcoming novel by letting me work out the thoughts and worries I have about publishing, but they’ve also helped in a much more practical way.

They’ve helped because I’ve been publishing them.

I write my posts. I read them, (probably two or three…or eight times) and then I click on the little blue button that says “Publish.”

I love that it says publish, because it’s giving me practice for that moment when I click my own “Publish” button on my novel. Just like my blog posts, it will not be perfect. it won’t be interesting to everyone. Some people might read the first few paragraphs. Some might get halfway through and then get struck with an acute case of boredom. While yet others might get all the way through and rave about how wonderful it was. (By the way, if you’d like to rave about how wonderful this post is in the comments, I wouldn’t mind. 😉

The fact is, though, that I’m publishing it. I’m putting it out there for others to see. I’m talking about it and sharing it, and giving other people the opportunity to like it or to hate it. Because writing is meant to be read. Ideas are meant to be shared, be they the small ideas expressed in a few hundred-word blog post, or the big ideas expressed in a 60,000 word novel.

So now that I’ve finished writing this blog post, I’m going to read through it a few times, and then I’m going to push that pretty blue “Publish” button. And in one month and eight days, I will click the Publish button on a different website, the one that will make my debut novel available to anyone who wants to read it.

I love it.

So have fun. And enjoy the writing.

 

Perfection or Publication…You Pick

My last blog post talked about changing your mindset from a “writer” to an “author,” and I mentioned a little something about perfection. I want to go more into that today.

One of the biggest problems I had when I spent my time as a “writer” was that I kept waiting for my book to be perfect. I waffled between self publishing and traditional publishing for a long time. (I may talk more about that in yet another post.) But I had these two thoughts:

  1. If I go with a traditional publisher, they’ll provide an editor for me. I won’t have to worry about it being perfect…but if it’s terrible, then they won’t even pick it up. I should do another two or three revisions.
  2. If I decide to self-publish, I don’t want to be like one of those writers who throws a book together, maybe reads it once or twice, and then puts it up on Amazon for the world to see. I should do another six or eight revisions.

I was stuck in a circle of seeking perfection, and never got it ready to publish. A friend reminded me today of the aphorism “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” That search for perfection may very well have been the cause of my distraction as a writer. I would sit down to revise it and get frustrated because it wasn’t perfect and it never would be, so I would work on a new book instead, because first drafts don’t have to be perfect. Published manuscripts do. (At least, that was what I thought)

And then…Painted Blind.

I’ll be posting a book review of Michelle A. Hansen’s novel titled Painted Blind on Wednesday, but let me tell you just a little bit about it now. I met Michelle at a writer’s conference last October. I asked her which of her two books I would like best and she suggested Painted Blind. So I bought it, brought it home, then put it on my shelf and forgot about it for three months. Long story short, when I finally decided to pick it up, I couldn’t put it down. I loved it. And do you know what? I found a few errors.

I didn’t throw the book in the trash and walk away from it. I didn’t circle every error in red pen and send the novel back to the author. No way. I saw it, thought, “Oops. That was supposed to be gait, not gate” and then kept reading to find out what would happen to poor Psyche.

It wasn’t perfect. But it was published, which gave me the opportunity to read it and experience a story that I absolutely loved. If Michelle had refused to put that book out there until she “knew” it was “perfect” then I would never have read it.

Right now I have done the best I could do on the revisions of my upcoming novel the Afterdeath. It’s currently in the hands of my editor who will take what I’ve written and polish it up. When she’s done I have three beta readers lined up, and then Shabang…it’s off to the presses.

So the next time I ask myself, Perfect or Published? My answer will be simple.

Polished AND Published.

So what about you? Have you locked yourself in a never-ending cycle of perfection? Look at the wikipedia article about Perfect is the enemy of good. I saw my writing woes in so many of the “related concepts.” All I can say is, it won’t be perfect, but if I tell a good story, then the readers will enjoy it no matter what errors are present.

Have fun and enjoy the writing.