by Fae Rowen
I'm not one hundred percent certain, but I'm pretty sure that the perfect writer doesn't exist. It certainly isn't me.
When I began writing the second book in my published series, I wanted it to be perfect. That meant it had to be more exciting, more emotion-packed, a real page-turner. I wrote a little, then revised. And revised. And revised. Then tossed that opening and tried another. Eight months later I should have had a book. I had two-thirds of a wobbly, structurally inadequate novel that I knew had major problems.
I did anything to keep from sitting in that chair in front of my computer, working on what I knew was a sinking ship. I couldn't figure out how to fix it. The book I'd loved and thought about for more than three years, couldn't come together no matter how hard I banged my head on the desk.
I grew up demanding perfection of myself. My father had been a staff sergeant in the Army, then a tool-and-die maker who made dies with tolerances in the microns. His livelihood was based on perfect measurements and execution of detail. I tried to be just like him.
Years later, I discovered how freeing it was to let that need for being perfect go. I've succeeded in many areas, but sometimes I slip back into those old familiar patterns. PRISM: Book Two was birthed in a perfect storm of the search for perfection.
Last year I had to rehab from a couple of injuries. My physical activity took a big hit, which affected my mental confidence and my health in general. Who knew it would also affect my writing? But it did.
My main characters weren't as capable or confident as they were in the first book. They waited for things to happen to them, instead of making their own choices. I left out many details and scenes that I thought would be boring. But those scenes were necessary to the continuity and context of the story. I thought the story was going to be about the love interest from the first book, but the original main character's story wasn't complete.
Even though I had read about deep POV and wrote in deep POV, I took a writing class on deep Point of View. It was filled with new information, exercises, and ideas. I tried them out with varying degrees of success. Practice was necessary to hone my new skills.
As soon as my editor pointed out that the story needed to focus on my original main character, who'd been left in a semi-cliff hanger situation, the book got back on track. Not surprising, this coincided with the resolution of my injuries and my ability to walk my beloved trails again.
I have a new deadline, which I'll meet, and I'm happy with the development of the story. I'm writing again—and loving it. Even though I know my words aren't perfect, aren't woven together without flaws, they are at least flowing and telling a coherent story.
Perfectionism is that critical writer's voice that you must sometimes set aside to put words on the page. Perfectionism becomes a problem when it stops you from doing something you want to do. That's what happened to me. My "real" life was far from perfect, so I tried to be perfect in my writer's world. Perfectionism can rob us of our dreams by keeping us from starting something that we know won't be perfect or by stopping us from completing an imperfect work.
For me, an increase in physical activity helped me push through the old patterns. It wasn't a huge change, but walking out in nature again gave me new ideas, an appreciation for the life around me, and the impetus to make the changes I needed to make in my writing and my life.
Write your best book now. Learn the skills you'll need to improve your prose, perfect your craft, and polish your book. Don't let perfectionism hold you back; let it catapult you into the career you deserve.
Has the need to be perfect affected your writing? How?
Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules. P.R.I.S.M., Fae's debut book, a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, and love is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.