Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Perfectionism is the Pits

So I'm starting to close the book (or the laptop) on my revisions to the first part of The Enemy Within. This is very exciting to me, of course. It means I can finally move on to the second part and start revising. But knowing that I still have so much to do when I really want to be done is extraordinarily overwhelming. I wish I could just buckle down and get it done, but I fear forcing myself to do this will result in poor writing. And if I write poorly then that means more revisions down the road because I got sloppy.

I think perfectionism is the culprit in all this. It is why I was never able to just write The Enemy Within and then systematically go through and edit. I would spend weeks, and sometimes months on a specific section. Reading and re-reading, writing and re-writing until I just threw my hands up in the air and walked away. Sometimes for months.

Well they say the first step to recovery is identifying your problem. So now that I know that perfectionism hinders and not helps me--will I be able to write through my next novel? I am certainly going to try, but I can make no promises. I have decided however, to scrap the entirety of my other WIP, A Convenient Misfortune. I like the premise, so that will stay, but the idea of re-reading and re-writing for months on end frustrates me. So I think it is time to put the original manuscript to bed and start all over. And perhaps this will be an excellent time to try to drop the habit, and just write.

We shall see if I succeed.

Are you a perfectionist? Do you have to get it "just right" before moving on? Or are you an all out writer who has to get your ideas on paper?


  1. Good question, Caroline--I struggle with more work up front drafting vs more revising later as a never-answered issue. Even though I know I will have to revise regardless of how much work I put into draft one, I have a really hard time with the "write crap now, just get it down" method of writing. Part of it is that drafting is one of my favorite--and most creative--parts; I have a hard time being as creative in revisions. But I think perfectionism also plays a role. Good luck with the next steps in your work!!

  2. I am both, I believe. I have to get it down, but then I edit, rewrite, revise, edit...I always find something with each read of the manuscript. All the best to you! :)

  3. Perfectionism is not possible in writing. No one is looking for a perfect book, and mechanics, i.e., grammar, spelling, punctuation, are not facets of revision, but of copy editing. Revision is for story: continuity, POV, pacing, contradiction, characterization, among many.

    Every book needs an editor, a line editor, a copy editor. And there's a reason these stages are separated at a publishing house. Why book production is a process.