Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This week: In Diana's Head

ist1_6135370-heart-in-the-brain When are we ever good enough?

Have you asked yourself that? I know I have. Is it when you've completed something, made it nearly flawless before another set of eyes read it? (Ask my friends about this one-I'm anal about perfection before someone else lays eyes on a single line.) Is it when you know you've done the best you can with your editor to present a story for publication? How about when you submit? Is one publisher a better home than another? What about the technical things, like covers and promotions? When are they good enough?

Honestly, it's different for each person, for very story. Every situation is different. Even between writers and agents.

Being good enough though is a level of perfectionism. We want that perfect story, we want it to be perfectly clean before it goes in for submission. We want it to be a perfect example of our writing when it is released, whatever the format.

Wanna know something?

Mistakes happen. No story is perfect. The key to not losing your mind over this seemingly uncontrollable line of possible misadventures waiting to happen is simple: Do your best at every step.

A perfectly self-edited story is a glorious thing, but if that were the case, publisher editors wouldn't even be needed.

A perfecly edited story wouldn't need line edits to catch those gremlin commas, or the occasional dropped 'a', or 'then/than' mishap.

My point is simple. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.

The reader.

A well written story is the key, so don't sweat the minute details. Be aware, learn, and build on your knowledge with every scene, every story you write, but don't forget to put perfectionism in its place. It's a hard balance, but it's doable. Thousands of stories a year prove this. Create, and perfect. Don't write expecting perfection. Write striving for creative disbelief to overtake your reader, for that compulsory urge to reach the end and discover the conclusion, to reach that escapist plateau where all things are possible. Write what makes you happy first. By the time you're done with that story, it will be good enough.

It might even border on perfect.

(I've corrected at least five different typoes per line in this blog post alone, as well as edited and added to it before I was happy with the finished product enough to let other eyes read it.)


Chrissy said...

If I say you're a perfect snowflake can I catch you on my tongue?

Just kidding (mostly).

I hear ya, sista!!

lainey bancroft said...

Yeah. Tough call.

That 'balance' word is almost as hard to accept as that dirty ole 'subjective' word.

I agree that with each project you have to reach a stage where you've 'done' it to the best of your ability. The trick is to make the next one better. And the next one better yet. Which means you'll never be 'perfect' but at least you'll be moving in the right direction!

Karen said...

I drive myself crazy going back over every detail of the story when I said I was finished. You want it perfect. You want everyone to love your baby as much as you do. Unfortunately, we can't please everyone. We just have to settle on doing our best. What more can you ask of a person?

This is one of my favorite quotes by Oscar Wilde. It says it all.

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon, I put it back in again.”

Doesn't this just say it all?

Take Care,