Monday, June 24, 2013
Why Your Writing will Never be Perfect
1. Because we're human. To be human is to change and grow and that's reflected in our writing. We're constantly growing not only as people, but as writers as well. If we're doing it right, then we're continually learning the craft, and developing our style. This doesn't change. May we never stop pushing ourselves to do better and be better. Consequently, this means what we wrote six months ago will be very different to what we'll write today, or six months from now.
2. Because it's how we're trained. Even if our writing approaches close-to-perfect, we have this in-built need to search for what might be wrong with it. Even when I read a standard novel, I still edit it in my head. I can't help it. Sometimes I can switch the inner editor off and simply enjoy the story, but it's a conscious decision not to edit.
3. Because perfection is not a constant. Writers are moody creatures. One day we'll love our work and the next we'll think the same piece is damp dog with fleas. There's no getting out of it. On those doggy days we just have to be kind to ourselves … and the dog.
4. Because perfection takes too long. Yes it's important to strive for the best you can do, but if you'd like to get published this decade, then you need to make the decision to stop tweaking and start sending the manuscript out into the big wide world.
5. Because a great story is what matters. If your story is a rehash of everything that's gone before, then no amount of perfection will save it. If your story is unique and has that special spark, then imperfections won't be what holds it back.
6. Because we can't please everyone—not even ourselves. As I said before, all we can do is our best. By that I don't mean pick up a that-will-do attitude. Striving for perfection is still important, crucial even. We still need to send our work out to critique partners, check our grammar, make sure there are no glaring plot holes. We just need to accept that absolute perfection is unattainable.
Do you have trouble letting a piece go for fear it's not perfect? How do you decide when your manuscript is ready?
Photo: None of my photos fit for this post, so I went for one I took in the port of Vila, Vanuatu, last year. Check out those beautiful waters! No colour adjustment. That’s how they appear!
Note: Last week I received an email offering me a $30 Amazon gift voucher if I’d let Grammarly sponsor my next post. I checked out their website and thought, “Cool! Book money!” All they wanted me to do was place at the top of my post, “I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because… [fill in the blank with something clever for a chance to win a $1000 gift voucher]”. I’m the first to admit I’m a wary soul when it comes to the intertubes but this sounded like a good deal. I wrote my post and went to their website to run a grammar check of my words.
As the check ticked off a bunch of grammar rules, a little graphic, which is designed to scare you, placed little red crosses on flipping pages. Oh noes, it’s picked up some errors! When I waited for the results, they didn’t come through. Instead I got a list of how many faults it had picked up. 44 errors! Okay, fine. Where are these errors? Oh I need to officially sign up for the 7 day free trial! Siiiiigh. Annoying, but fine. So I started filling in the three stage form only to discover that I had to give them my credit card details on the final form to get the 'free' trial. I could, of course, cancel at any time.
Why would I give my credit card details for something I’ve never seen in action? Is it so hard to give me a real free trial? This screamed dodgy as a dodgy screw in dodge town. Now, this service could be legit, and if I ever find out for sure (without risking my credit card details) I’ll be more than happy to share here. Seems to me, if it is legit, then surely they’d have more faith in their product to offer a genuine, risk-free trial?
Update--Tuesday 25th June: The people at Grammarly have kindly given me a two week risk-free trial of their editing program. Looks like they do have faith in their product after all. We'll see how it goes.