Sunday, December 4, 2011

"Perfection" is So Unachievable That I am Beginning to Doubt Its Existence

All your ducks in a row? All your pieces in place? All your eggs in one basket?

I know, I know, those don't all mean the same thing. But still, the answer's probably no. Mine either.

One time I heard a quote, "Never accept 'good enough' as good enough." Tried to live by that for a little while. But I read in a book full of writing advice that you have to be able to say, "Hey. Okay. This manuscript is good enough for me to send out. I'm proud of it. I know it's not perfect, it'll never be perfect. But it's good enough." Because if you don't, you'll be editing forever.

FUN FACT: The immensely popular play "Noises Off" has been rewritten several times after its premiere. Even after it had been running for a while (and enjoyed much praise), the playwright Michael Frayn still wasn't satisfied with it. As one who indulges in playwrighting as well, that feels wrong. You don't get to do that. Once you put your work out there, especially if it's well-liked, leave it alone. You can't achieve perfection, so don't torture yourself with always desiring to make those changes.

Take the plunge. Send out your manuscript. There will always be an infinite different number of ways you could write Chapter One, but there's probably a reason you've made the choices you have. Sure, it's possible no one will bite. But you never know until you allow yourself to stop editing and present your work to others.

Fair warning, I'm sure at some point I'll feel it necessary to rant about people who edit too little. Please don't think me a hypocrite. It's not even a fine line between editing too little and editing too much. There's plenty of justified complaining. But I think this is an important place to start. Lately I've been considering adding two chapters to the beginning of my main Work in Progress, and I do think I'll go for it. That's a major edit that kind of goes against everything I just said, except that I've seriously considered it for a while and I think it will solve a LOT of my later character problems in the novel. Also, I HAVE sent my work out, and that's what's made me decide to make this change. But it took me about four years before I let anyone see my WIP. Eventually I just had to bite the bullet and expose my creation.

Know what the worst part is? I didn't even like the ending of "Noises Off." (Yeah, I'm back on that. I keep thinking about it.) It used to be my favorite play. Maybe that was because I first saw it when I was about 10 years old when I was more likely to overlook comedic fumbles, but I really do think the ending was different. So Frayn messed with his play and his newest incarnation was worse. I bet he just got bored with it, so decided to try one of the other infinite possible endings. There must have been some reason he wrote it the way he did the first time, though.

Just some thoughts.

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