This blog started out, and is sometimes still wrongfully categorized, as a creative writing blog. Its purpose in the beginning was to chronicle my life as an aspiring writer. And while I still use my experiences and passion to drive and inspire the content I create here, it’s definitely changed drastically to align with my status as a writer of all types of things — not just books.
So I’m assuming those of you who have been around for more than a year — if you’re still here — have been wondering why I don’t talk about my novel writing adventures as much as I used to.
Well, for one thing, this is no longer a blog in the more traditional sense — it’s not essentially a public diary about my life. I’m the voice you come to ‘listen’ to, but it’s about what I can do for you, not what I can say about myself. Mostly.
For another, I haven’t stopped writing about creative writing completely. It’s a type of writing I enjoy, after all. But I’ve scaled back significantly on those topics in the past year or so.
The truth is, I’m writing less about fiction because I’m writing less fiction. And the reason I’m writing less fiction is because I’m a perfectionist, and it’s absolutely ruining my noveling progress.
My brain is on a mission to write the perfect novel, even though no such thing exists.
There is no such thing as a perfect novel — especially not within the first draft of writing a book. I know that. But part of me can’t help but let my drafts’ imperfections slow me down.
It’s not that I spend all my writing time self-editing as I write. Quite the opposite, actually. Sometimes it feels almost as if I write knowing I’m not doing my best, just to get it over with. I find myself desperately wanting to finish writing another book, even though I dread having to go back and rewrite parts of it later that aren’t publishable.
And yet, how do we know certain things aren’t good enough the first time around? Sure, a novel needs at least a few rounds of revisions before queries. But I’m way too hard on myself — yet my awareness of that fact does not stop me from thinking, “I could be doing this so much better.”
Every bad round of dialogue, every weak plot point, every plot hole, every forced plot twist — it makes me not want to do this anymore. Rather, it makes me wish I could just stop trying to finish these fatally flawed books and start over.
I’m too stubborn to do that, of course. I want to finish what I started.
I’ve been reading more fiction than I’ve been writing, and each book seems to subconsciously teach me more about what I’m doing wrong in my own fiction. The unfinished novel I’m chipping away at now, I started writing in November 2015. At this point, I’m tired of it. I would have done so many things differently if I’d started writing it in 2017. I have about 10,000 words left before I can call the first draft ‘done,’ yet I can’t stand how imperfect it feels.
I already have so many new ideas for the book I want to start writing in November, to celebrate my last NaNoWriMo. I want to do an outline first. I want to do character sketches. I want to start with nothing and end with something I’m proud of. Yet I’m not sure if I can do that if I don’t finish these two previous novels first.
If that’s what I really want to do, I know I have to accept that they’re not going to be as good as I once hoped they would be. That’s not going to be easy. But I’ve learned so much in the past two years, and I can’t forget how important that is. I’m bored and anxious because, in many ways, I’ve moved on. I could start these stories over, try again. But I don’t want to.
Never let the idea that you have to write something perfectly the first time, or ever, keep you from finishing what you start. You’re learning, you’re growing, but you also deserve the satisfaction of accomplishing your goals. Are there instances when not finishing a book is completely acceptable? Of course. If you absolutely hate it, drop it; you won’t miss it. But don’t worry about doing everything right. Everyone has to write at least one terrible novel before they start to figure out how to write a better one next time.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.