Uncategorized · Writing Snippets & Exercises

10 Ways To Tell You’re A Writing Perfectionist

1. Out of a dozen or more stories, not a single one is finished.

2. You use a search for your documents to change words that repeat.

3. Your one-shots have five separate versions and you can’t decide which is best.

5. You have two or more stories that are perpetually on their first chapter.

6. You won’t enter writing contests or send anything for publication because nothing you wrote is good enough yet.

7. You get halfway through a novel and decide to start over.

8. You agonize over writing exercises like they’ll make or break your career.

9. You revise old school essays and papers.

10. Reading a great book can make you spiral into a state of depression.

I am unable to write crap drafts. That’s a term I learned from a college friend’s English professor. The idea is to write something quickly, off the top of your head, without too much concern over style, word choice, or grammar. I can’t do that. If I don’t like the way a group of words initially sound in my head, they’re not going on the paper at all. I look for grammatical errors as I go. I spell check my mobile texts and use proper punctuation in them. When I write fan fiction it disturbs me to no end if I don’t have the scoop on some obscure historical detail or a passage doesn’t flow nicely enough. Yes, even my fan fiction must be just so. This very post will probably be reread and edited about three times before it’s posted.

Today I was on the phone with my clone (who is also my best friend) and as we bounced ideas off each other for a novel I’m writing with, for, and about her, she said to me, “You’re gonna be one of those authors that takes ten years to finish a book. Someday you’ll be on Chapter 52 and say, ‘WE HAVE TO START OVER!'” It was a slightly exaggerated fear due to the fact that a book whose concept was started over a year ago made it to Chapter 13 before I halted all progress to edit the heck out of the existing chapters. She knows it’s improved by it. In fact, she encouraged me to edit in order to enter it in an online contest which, let me tell you, is a big step for me. Especially since it’s submitted to a site that allows comments, and anything neutral or negative said about my story fills me with an intense urge to rewrite again. And again, and again, and… you get the picture.

I hear a lot of literary people say that writing is all about letting go. You have to let go of your inhibitions, stop stalling, just feel, and let the words flow. I say that’s all good and well, but mindless “feeling” drivel is what got us books like the Twilight saga. An editor shouldn’t be an underpaid co-author. It’s the writer’s responsibility to craft a novel with as much care as they want it to be received with. To me that means more than just creating characters and throwing them into special circumstances. Words matter. Style matters. Rules still apply.

I’m not saying the crap draft method of writing doesn’t work. It’s probably a very successful method for many, and if you’re able to write pages upon pages within a few short hours, all the better! (Just please go back over it before you send it in to a publisher. We’d all hate to have a Breaking Dawn repeat.) I alas, cannot. I’m a writing perfectionist, and one to a fault.

Someday you’ll hear the story of when I thought to craft a poorly written fan fiction… on purpose! But that’s for another time and post.

Farewell, fair mortals.



3 thoughts on “10 Ways To Tell You’re A Writing Perfectionist

  1. I’m a follower of the crap draft method. My method is simple:

    Write a horrible first draft.

    Read it, stare in shock, and then hasten to cover it up like it’s showing its privates or something.

    Edit, edit, edit!

    Hate it. Stick it in my “hate it” folder.

    Get bored six months later, go looking in folder for books I’ve forgotten about.

    Read it.

    Love it. Wonder why I can’t write like that anymore.

    Final edit, clearing up the minor issues I see here and there.

    Publish. ^^

    1. Excellent! Sometimes I wish that worked for me, but the constant editing is at least good for keeping in form. It makes it hard for me to write on demand, though.

      I do love opening old stuff and thinking, “I wrote this!? But it’s so good!” xP

      I’m sure there are plenty of other methods writers use that are a mix of perfectionism and crap drafting. We’re quite a diverse set of people. :)

  2. “I say that’s all good and well, but mindless “feeling” drivel is what got us books like the Twilight saga. An editor shouldn’t be an underpaid co-author.”

    Well said, Beth. I think simply “letting the words flow”, as some say, is not a good idea at all. Writing is hard, and it should be that way.

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