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BrainPick Should Writers Embrace Imperfection In Manuscripts?

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Learning to write imperfectly is one of the biggest reasons why I am a happy writer now, because before I wasn't.
You all know our passion for what we write can be one of our biggest enemies in the writing world. It can make us lose the confidence in our writing as if real life isn't bad enough when it comes to that, confidence.
Aiming for perfection in our writing makes us blind, too attached and stops us from walking away and going cold on our manuscripts for a bit, instead of keeping it on a high shelf.
When you find the courage to take it off that high shelf and finally walk away from you manuscript which has been rejected time and time again and has probably been overwritten past the point of return.
You, go back to it. And when you return to it? You all know what happens, you CRINGE and then you soon learn it was one of the most productive things you have ever done and you know your writing can only get better because now you can see both, the perfection and imperfection in your writing and in reality that's very true to ourselves, we all have our good and bad bits, anyway let's get back on track.

For me something kind of magical happened when I embraced the idea of imperfection. It’s why I get excited to write everyday now and why I never hate my work-in-progress manuscript anymore, no matter what stage it's at or what state it's in.

I’m not saying we as writers shouldn’t be thorough and focused or that we shouldn’t polish our novel to the best of our ability, but I am saying you shouldn’t obsess. And you shouldn’t make perfection a goal, because such a goal is impossible, otherwise why would we carry on writing?

So, this is why as writers we should embrace imperfection;

You can focus on what really matters.
It frees your mind and your story.
It won't hurt your story neither will it make an ounce of difference to it.

And sometimes we DO have to be cruel to be kind, (cliché I know) when it comes to our writing, in order to make changes and see results.

Your Thoughts?

Alix
:)
 
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Tim James

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I agree with you both. Polish a silver item long enough and you will wear it away to nothing, and so too with writing. If you play with a piece for too long you can knock all of the excitement out of it.
Some of the best lines I have found in my own books have occurred by accident and not been touched since I wrote the first draft. They are not by any means perfect, but they are pretty good as they stand and I don't think I can improve them much.

I'm reminded of the painstaking writing of some famous writers who agonised over smallest item.
The following article in the Boston Sunday Globe quoted Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde, among his various stories told here of which he was always the aesthetic hero, related that once while on a visit to an English country house he was much annoyed by the pronounced Philistinism of a certain fellow guest, who loudly stated that all artistic employment was a melancholy waste of time.
“Well, Mr. Wilde,” said Oscar’s bugbear one day at lunch, “and pray how have you been passing your morning?”
“Oh! I have been immensely busy,” said Oscar with great gravity. “I have spent my whole time over the proof sheets of my book of poems.”
The Philistine with a growl inquired the result of that.
“Well, it was very important,” said Oscar. “I took out a comma.”
"Indeed,” returned the enemy of literature, “is that all you did?”
Oscar, with a sweet smile, said, “By no means; on mature reflection I put back the comma.”


Maybe that's a little extreme, not to mention apocryphal, but when taken to extreme ends the search for "perfection" can result in the production of very little at all.
 

Nikky Lee

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Great to hear you've rediscovered your excitement for writing! And couldn't agree more about letting go of perfectionism in the drafting phase of a WIP. For me, I get excited when I turn off the internal critic off and just write the story for myself, not the story I think people want to read. I don't worry about whether it is "good" or "bad", I just focus on the telling my story.

I also think its really important to allow yourself to experiment, play and have fun with the words. Sometimes those experiments work, sometimes they don't. But if I was afraid to fail, then I wouldn't try, so I give myself permission to fail. When I do, I tell myself 'that's okay, move on' and when I'm ready, I'll come back and try it a new way.
 

Robert M Derry

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I think there's a balance to be struck here.

First & foremost you've got to enjoy your writing. You can't spend every writing session subjecting yourself to self critical torture. There's no point in writing if you derive no enjoyment from it. Let's face it - most of us ain't gonna get published so you can't hang all of your hopes on that dream. I get a buzz from writing and if my work never sees the light of day, so be it; I had a good time.

On the flip side to embrace imperfection completely seems to smack of a lack of ambition and an inability to self criticise. I still want to be published and to do that I have to assess my work objectively; I have to aim for perfection, even though I accept I can't fully obtain it.

Feedback is an important barometer. Once most of the feedback you're getting is broadly subjective and varied, it's probably time to stop working on the manuscript.

If one person says they find the main character unsympathetic and another says they like the main character, but don't like the ending and another says the ending was great, but the middle was flat etc as long as the overall opinions are positive it's probably time to start querying.

On the other hand you can't ignore lots of feedback which states that your grammar is consistently poor or a central plot point is unbelievable or a main character is underdeveloped or your dialogue is boring etc. If you brush aside this kind of feedback on the basis of 'I'm embracing imperfection' it's going to hold you back from getting published.

Using a comma instead of a period on page 212 however, is not.
 
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