Pursuing Perfection

Perfect grammar, perfect voice, perfect writing. It sounds like it could happen with enough polish on the work, right? If you put in enough effort your story will glow with perfection and it will be impossible not to love.

Unfortunately, I’m about to pop that bubble.

While you should absolutely work to make your story the best you possibly can and clean it up so that the grammar is correct and writing is clear, perfection itself is a mythical beast a bit like overnight success. That is to say, it doesn’t technically exist.

Writing is a highly subjective form, as evidenced by the dozens of genres and hundreds if not thousands of successful writers. Go ahead, hit up your nearest bookstore and start reading the back covers and blurbs made to try and sell you the story. Which ones make you want to put it in your basket or cart and buy it, which ones make you put it back because it’s not appealing to you? Ask a friend to do the same, and notice which ones of their picks you’d likely buy and which ones you’d have rejected.

Do this a couple times at your local library too. Notice which ones you reject a couple of times before they sound appealing. Maybe something in your mood changes and today you feel more like a non-fiction read than a fictional drama. Maybe you need a pick-me-up and grab a romance with a Happily Ever After instead of a murder mystery.

Writing is highly subjective because a reader’s tastes constantly change. Not just genre, but also voice. Real life example here: I grew up with a lot of classic fantasy novels. But goodness if reading Tolkien’s works is a chore most of the time. Have I done so? Yes, but I’d much prefer David Eddings, Mercedes Lackey or Joe Abercrombie. Give me something with a little life, and a few jokes that aren’t so easy to miss.

Before you hit the bottom and think ‘then what’s the point of trying’ remember that there is one person for whom the ‘perfect story’ does exist: You. As the writer, the first and foremost person you should be pleasing with any edits should be yourself. You’re the first reader and the one who has to ultimately decide what the story needs in order to live up to its fullest potential. Remember that the story only exists because of you, so you set the standard for it.


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