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Saturday, October 06, 2007

The process of perfectionism

Yesterday (which was Friday, even though I'm reasonably sure this will post on Sunday... another late night, go figure!) I made a decision about my writing. Well, I make lots of decisions about my writing, but this one had to do with setting a particular goal and sticking to it. And, just to give me a swift kick in the behind, I called Squirly and told her my plans.

Now, because I'm lousy at suspense, let me ruin the story. I didn't get it done. I was supposed to write my synopsis last night and I got bogged down on some details with the story and well, here I am. Synopsis-less. But... that's not the point. So ha-ha, I didn't ruin the story.

As I re-read the book, I realized some important things about my writing. First, I'm really not as bad of a writer as I claim to be. Some days, with my whining, you'd think I was a total hack. Not true. I found myself getting involved with the story and really enjoying it. Even though I wrote it about three years ago, it didn't suck. What? I wrote it three years ago and I'm just now submitting?

Yep. It's sort of a long story, but here's the gist. I realized that this is an important learning book for me. Some of you who know me are asking, "Um, what about the other ten books you've written? Weren't they learning books for you?" Yes and no. I have a pattern. I write a book. Submit. Collect the rejection. Shelve it. Move on. I can write. But I haven't learned how to improve a book. So that's what this book is. Figure out how to improve a good book and turn it into a great book. To change it from, "We love your writing and your voice, but..." to "We love your writing and your voice, AND we want to offer you a contract."

If I can fix this book, I can fix any book. I can fix the other ten and turn them into something sellable. Well, maybe not all ten. There's two that will probably never been seen or heard from again, they're that bad. But they were learning books, so that's okay.

The part I have to learn, and the part I'm still learning, is how to balance my perfectionism. As I read the book last night, trying to pull out something resembling a synopsis, I saw the good points. But I also saw the crap. The things that I realized will never work, that have to change, blah, blah, blah. I didn't finish my synopsis last night because I had no idea how I could ever make it good enough. That, and as I tried to puzzle it out, my dog was sprayed by a skunk and I ended up spending the rest of the night trying to get my house to smell better. It does, but I can still smell the skunk.

Today was the big family fun day of getting the house in order. Important work, you know. I did get all the boxes we have in the house unpacked finally. We won't discuss what's still in storage. A couple of times, I thought, I should work on my synopsis. But really, sorting socks sounded like a lot more fun. Besides, I had no idea how to fix the things I knew needed fixing.

Then, I checked my email to find a message from a friend and started to reply. In my reply, I almost made a comment about how, if I ended up with a contract this year, certain plans would change. Um, that's nice, and how exactly did I think that was going to happen when I did everything including alphabetizing my books (but they really did need it, you know) to avoid facing this synopsis?

And you'd think that would have been enough of a wake up call. Except as we all know, I'm really not as smart as I let on. God needs to whack me with a two by four several times before the light goes on. I read my ACFW email, was intrigued by someone talking about a blog, and ended up reading this post on laying down your burden. Um, yeah. Okay. I get it. I let my worries over this silly book mess with my head and I end up being my own worst enemy.

The good news is that if I just give it over to God, He can fix it. The key is letting Him. My intent with this book was truly for it to be my learning book. Yes, I want to publish it. But I want to publish it having gained the knowledge to be able to publish more.

Lay down those burdens. Every book should be a learning book. Learning how to get a little bit better so that the next book shines even more. I don't want to be one of those authors who, after a while, their books are just the same old, same old. I want to be like some of my author friends, who I'm constantly telling, "wow, your books just get better and better." And I hope, for those of you who also write, that you feel the same way. If you are that sort of writer, then I want to read your books. And I'll keep reading.

2 comments:

Janet Rubin said...

Hi Danica! I remember you from Dallas. God really blessed you with that "Favorite" name; it IS memorable. Thanks for commenting on my Sunday devotion. I can relate to this post (except the part about having finished 10 novels; I've only finished 1). But I need to learn the same stuff. Interesting journey this writing thing-- no?

Danica/Dream said...

Wahoo... name recognition does work. It is an interesting journey. I'm so glad to have you along. :)