Avoiding Perfection

As I’m writing, I’m focusing on a few things: conflict, word count, and avoiding perfection. I’ve discussed the first two in previous posts and now can elaborate on avoiding perfection.

I sometimes had a hard time writing, not because of writer’s block, but because I wanted perfection from myself. It’s a tall order for someone who doesn’t have a published book let alone an agent. I put a great deal of pressure to write perfect – every time. Every sentence had to magical and each page resulted in literary genius. It’s just not possible. I continue to challenge myself to just write.

Now, I’m not completely sloppy and irresponsible. I do my best to maintain form, proper sentence structure, and verb tense. I guess what I do is not second guess myself. I don’t try to spend five minutes looking for a better word for “laugh” when “laugh” works just fine. I’m not trying to draw out tons of description in a room; at least not yet.

I’m sure when I edit my work for the first time I’ll find a bunch of punctuation and spelling issues that I can resolve. I’m willing to bet I’ll find a bunch of things that need to be fixed, but I’ll worry about them later. Right now, I’m writing. Getting my ideas down on Word so that a story can take form – that’s what I’m interested in. I’ll worry about achieving perfection once I have something to perfect.

By the way, that’s the logo of the 1972 Miami Dolphins who were a perfect 17-0 which is an amazing feat to be perfect for that long. I would’ve shown a picture of the 2007 New England Patriots but they were only perfect during the regular season and lost in the Super Bowl. Bottom line, it’s important to be perfect when it counts.

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Conflict

There is nothing more important in fiction than conflict. After reading the Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing Great Fiction: Plot and Structure, conflict is paramount. Whether you write genre fiction or literary, you have to conflict.

If it seems that, by reading this post, a light bulb (a compact fluorescent one) went off – it did. I look back at the first novel I wrote and immediately see where the conflict gaps are. According to the books above, there should be conflict on every page. Sounds hard but it’s not tough when you think about it. The main character of your story needs to endure something (save the world, marriage, self, etc) and that requires conflict. Without conflict, one is left reading about the ho-hum stuff of life. That doesn’t make for good fiction. I should know because a big chunk of my first novel has the main character getting out of bed, eating a sandwich, etc. It eventually leads to something but not always conflict.

Conflict supposedly drives the reader for more. It keeps them engage well past the first few pages and hopefully a hell of a lot more.

I’m done summarizing what I’ve learned from Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel. The book is worth the investment, and lately I’ve been trying to transfer it to my writing. So far so good. The feel of my second novel already seems different. I’m concentrating on conflict, throwing whatever I can at my main character. At the same time, I’m not trying to exhaust the reader but trying to make it difficult for a them to put down my novel. I should know how this all shakes out in a few months when I have a first draft.