The Curse of Perfection

Unfortunately, I can always make my novels better. Even though I think ideas through before I write , the quality of my writing is not consistent. Neither is my ability to read what I’ve written in the past. That depends on my level of dyslexia/dysgraphia. Current, I’m editing a 100,000 word novel that I started 10 years ago, as task I attempted right after I wrote it. But, I kept changing tiny things that didn’t matter and shifting the order of events.

Finally, I decided to put the manuscript away for a while. Now, I find chapters that I have to scrap and start over again while, other parts didn’t require any more than a spelling and grammar check. Those sections were written very slowly. Revising as I go is essential. However, I am still envious when I observe other authors creating fiction within well-delineated genres within a few months. They seem to complete the book quickly. Then they revise everything at the end or send it off to a reliable editor. I know that they’re following basic guidelines for the plots (with a few minimal subplots) as their goal is to put out as many decently written words as quickly as possible.

Other authors experiment with their writing and revise as they go along. That is the curse under which I write. With more complex plots, I have to reread the beginning each time to recall what I have already created. Even though I tend to review and edit the prior chapter(s) before moving on, sometimes information in the first part of the books must change because of a shift in the original plot. I have two options. I can note a place to rewrite a prior chapter later, or I can just do it at that time. I usually bite the bullet and do it at that time. 

When is the story ready to be released to the public? Usually, it requires another reader to tell me I’ve reached this point. I must invite others to read my precious work to see if they are able to follow the plot and characters, and let me know if it strikes them as anything worth reading. I fondly recall the time I created a 1,000 word short story in about an hour for a critique group challenge. The group liked it so, I proofed the story once, sent it to a contest, and it won. I had never made $100 in one hour before, and this has never occurred since.

I am not alone in believing that my writing is never perfect enough. Famous authors such as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and Fyodor Dostoevsky often published their novels in serial form, and then spent months editing the entire manuscripts later before republishing them as novels. Most good writers understand that there are diminishing returns to self-editing after a certain point, so nothing helps me as much as a deadline in which I have to get the work finished.

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