Monday, April 12, 2010

Practice Makes Publishable

I've always heard the expression "Practice Makes Perfect," and, being a borderline perfectionist, generally try (and fail) to apply that saying to many aspects of my life.

Over the years, I've had to learn to let that expectation of perfection go. I'm never going to be the perfect wife, or mother, or human being, though I will continue to try my best.

Now, I think I am finally ready to admit that I need to stop trying to apply this to my writing. It's never going to be perfect. Even if my next book hits the NYT Bestseller list and outsells the entire Harry Potter and Twilight series put together....I'm still going to open that book one day and find something I want to change.

It will never be perfect.

And that's okay. It doesn't need to be perfect. It needs to be publishable.

How do I make it publishable?

Practice. Writing more and more. Taking my next WIP and the WIP after that and the WIP after that, and pouring my heart, soul, and sweat into them. Hard work, revisions, more hard work, more revisions, confidence, persistence, faith, more hard work, and more revisions.

Very few people sell the first thing they've ever written. A first novel, maybe. But I bet they've written short stories or poetry or essays or something else before. At the very least, they've rewritten that first novel within an inch of its life. 

I've known people who have let this idea of perfection paralyze them to the point that they refuse to query a wonderful book because they don't think it's ready. They let this unobtainable goal keep them from sharing their incredible stories.

There's no such thing as perfection - especially when it comes to our writing. What one person thinks is perfect, someone else is going to hate. And what we think is perfect now, we may cut without hesitation six months later.

So, should we give up altogether?

NEVAH!!!!! :D

Practice. Keep writing. Shelve it all if you need to, but keep writing.

Practice may not make it perfect. But it will make it publishable.

What are your thoughts? Do you practice to make perfect? Do you still hold on to the dream that someday that book of yours will stand as a shining example of literary perfection? Or have you come to the conclusion that something may be excellent, but there's no such thing as perfect?

Do you strive for perfection, or for publication?

(and a quick personal note: Happy Anniversary Mr. McLean! :) You've bravely put up with being married to a writer for 9 years. Kudos :D  )


Matthew Rush said...

Happy Anniversary! I assume that's you and your husband Michelle?

Anyway great post! I do wish I had cared a little more about being closer to perfect when I had first started querying last year, but I was completely ignorant of the publishing industry and have learned a lot since.

Now that I know more I have to agree Michelle, opinions on writing are so subjective anyway, publishable will NEVAH be perfect. Just make sure it's good enough that you can be proud to have written it.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Congrats, Michelle, on your anniversary!

I love your post. It's all about finding balance. If you think your writing is perfect, you'll never grow as a writer. There's always room for improvement . . . even if you are a bestselling author. But if you're always waiting for that moment of brilliance, you might never be published. It doesn't have to be perfect (HP and Twilight certainly aren't), but it does have to be better than good.

Christine Fonseca said...

You are right on with this one!!! And happy anniversary.

WindyA said...

I think the other thing to remember too is that perfection is subject. It is 100% open to interpretation.

And happy anniversary - 9 years is awesome!

Anonymous said...

Happy anniversary!!!

Yup, just keep swimmin', just keep swimmin', just keep swimmin' swimmin' swimmin'. Oh wait, wrong verb. Just keep writin'... ;)

Great post!

Matthew Rush said...

I swear I commented on this post first thing this morning. For some reason it never showed up.

Now I've forgotten what I said. Oh well, congratulations Michelle!

Palindrome said...

I need to stop but I strive for perfection. And your post is a great inspiration for me right now. So many times I have to be in the right mood, right chair, right time of day to write something that needs to be perfect. It's so stressful and pressure I don't need to put on myself but there it is. So thank you for this! Publishable not perfect!

Anonymous said...

I'm a perfectionist by nature but I've been trying to teach myself that it's okay to fall a little short sometimes. Not everything I do can be perfect.

I read published books that aren't perfect. So why should I feel bad if - as an unpublished author - I can't get it to perfection? :o)

Cheree said...

Happy anniversary.

I'm also a bit of a perfectionist, and have probably edited and rewritten my first chapter over ten times, but I do see that I'm improving with each time.

You can't hope to be perfect the first time you do anything, it does take practice and an awful lot of work... but it's worth it in the long run.

Lydia Kang said...

Great post! I'm always trying to struggle with the perfection thing. I think what's most important to me is doing the best I can at the moment. It may not be perfect, but it's going to be perfectly good.

L.T. Elliot said...

Happy Anniversary!

I have perfection issues but I've had to let go in order to make progress. (Isn't that wild? Let go of perfection to make progress. Blows my mind.) I know it won't ever be flawless but it will be ready someday. =D

Jemi Fraser said...

Happy anniversary! Enjoy the day :)

I'm a bit of perfectionist in most areas too. I really detest when I find errors I've made. Gotta get over that.

J.J. Bennett said...

I have been finding the longer I work at this the less I really know. So maybe I'm learning and perfecting myself in the process... hopefully I'll get to that point as well. :)

J.J. Bennett said...

I agree. The longer I write, them more I see I need to learn. So, I'm either getting worse, or I just know better than I did months ago... :)

J.J. Bennett said...

I understand... I'm right there with ya!

Cole Gibsen said...