Perfection Is Not Your Goal

Photo by Christian Lambert on Unsplash

As a writer who is just beginning, and even for established authors, perfection should not be your goal. Stories are never perfect. I don’t believe art of any type is really intended to be perfect, is it?

Art is a representation of how one person sees the world or part of the world. Besides, everyone has a different idea of what makes a story or a painting or any type of artistic artifact “good”. In other words, all art is subjective. There are standards and we tend to use agreed upon standards to judge whether art is poor, good, or great. But ultimately, it comes down to each person’s tastes.

So, to stress about writing a perfect novel is silly. You can simply tell yourself that your work is as perfect as you can make it at this point in your development as a writer. This bothers writers because we are all taught to shoot for excellence. And no one wants to send a piece of writing out to the world that is terrible and make fool of themselves. That’s not what I’m saying or recommending at all. What I’m saying is that you have to get the novel done. If you stop yourself from writing because it sounds terrible when you reread it, or if you end up staring at a blank screen terrified that you will write something bad, then you will never write anything. So, don’t try to be perfect when you’re writing your first draft.

Having this attitude or perspective gives you as an artist and creator the freedom to create without the pressure of it having to write something good.

Get Your Story Written

Your goal is to get that story written. Most people who say they want to write a story never do it. Why is that? There are many reasons, actually, and I might blog about that another day, but one of the reasons is this fear of writing poorly. Rather than write something that isn’t perfect, people make excuses and don’t write at all.

And this is a shame because we all start out writing garbage. My first few unpublished novels were terrible. Even my published novels were terrible when they were in first draft mode. I worked and edited them to make them better. When I thought they were good, I sent them to my agent or my editor, and you know what? They told me that the draft still wasn’t good, and I needed to rewrite the story. When I read their critiques, I saw where I still needed changes. And even after I made those changes, I know the story still wasn’t perfect. But it was better.

Edit To Make Your Drafts Better

The time to worry about making our stories better and shooting for excellence is in the rewrite and editing stages. This is when we will be picky and take things out or add new elements to the story.

Ultimately, you are not going to please everyone. And the only opinion that really matters in the end is that of your readers, the readers who do like your writing style and the stories your write. They are not going to like your story because it’s perfect, even after multiple edits and rewrites, it will not be perfect. They will like your story because they like you and the type of stories you write.

I’m sure everyone has read a super popular novel that hits the best seller list and everyone in the world seems to love it, then you buy it and read it and think, what in the world? How can people like this? The characters haven’t been developed at all or the story is so shallow or . . . any number of things that you might think are important. What that means is that that particular author or story is not for you. The writing or story was not perfect, but tons of people didn’t care because something about that story or writer touched them.

So, what I’d like to encourage new writers to do is to get the words on the page. Get that first draft finished, then when it’s finished, you can make it better. You can get help with making your story better in the future. But you can’t do that if you never write anything.

Also, give yourself a deadline. Deadlines are great because if you tell yourself that your story has be finished in three months you will not have a lot of time to go back and reread and over think the story. Your concern will be to get pages written.

If you do this, three months from now, you can have a draft done — maybe it will be a terrible draft, but that is better than no draft. Then the next step in your writing process will begin which will be the rewriting stage. And how wonderful is that? You will no longer be one of those people who says they will write a book someday. You will instead be a writer who is in the editing stage of novel writing. Did you catch that? You will be a writer.

Women’s Fiction author of That Was Then, Say You’ll Be Mine, and Evenings at the Argentine Club. Speaker and and teacher.