The other day I was reading “Song of the Daystar” to my dad (who is not really a reader to begin with) and asked him what he thought of the story. His words to me:
“Well, it seemed a bit flowery; I couldn’t get into the story.”
"Flowery?!" I thought, "After all I've done to make it perfect, now it's too flowery? I thought it was done!" :(
Now, granted, my dad is not a reader: “NOT” in all capital letters unless, maybe, it happens to be the Bible. And he’s certainly not a fantasy reader: Heaven forbid he pick up even the “Chronicles of Narnia”, let alone ”LOTR” or “Through the Looking Glass”.
It raised the question in me about whether or not I really was making my prose sound too flowery. Was I getting right to the point? Or was I taking too much time trying to describe everything, just sort of dancing around on point-shoes like a magical pixie to make everything seem wonderful?
Well, knowing my dad, if it doesn’t say something out right then it’s just a nuisance. I love him, but that’s just how he is. He likes the idea of second, hidden meanings, but he would much rather get right down to solving those second, hidden meanings than get all the clues first. He’s an artist, but in my opinion he’s more “straight forward” than I am.
Does this mean my writing is not good enough? Could this mean I have to go back and rewrite?
Well, no. No, it doesn’t. I do have to go through it and edit, check for grammatical errors and spelling typos, but I don’t have to rewrite.
Some of you may be asking, “Then why on earth are you posting on this subject?” But my reasoning is simple. Many writers take any advice given by any random person and immediately apply it to their work. These are the ones who want to please everybody.
I am one of these.
I’m probably at the top of the list.
You see, writers are automatic perfectionist. In real life it may not seem like it: we may leave clothes on the floor, not comb our hair a certain way, leave stacks of books lying around, or not care all that much whether everything is organized on our desk or not. But set us down at a keyboard and we immediately start criticizing ourselves. We don’t want to let our stories go until they are everything they have the potential to be. They must be perfect.
“Perfect!” we scream. And we type, and the keyboard starts to smoke, and eventually the smoke detectors go off, and then at last we have to get up to turn off the screaming buzzing noise that is wracking our concentration. But then we are back at the keyboard, changing things, rewriting, debating with ourselves, trying to make everything “perfect”.
The sad truth is, no matter how hard we work on it, it will never be perfect. It will never be finished. And perhaps, the most gulling fact of all, we will never be able to please everybody.
Once, while reading an interview with one of my favorite authors, I read this quote: “My book will never be finished until my publisher pries it from my fingers, and even then I’ll keep working on it”.
Unfortunately, it’s a truth. I will probably do the same thing. Writers seem to have this need to please everybody, to make everybody happy, and prove to themselves that they are not the computer loving weirdoes that many people think they are.
But we are. Oh we are! And the only way we’ll be able to ever be satisfied with our writings is to come to grips with the facts that we can’t make what we write please everyone.
I seriously thought about what my dad told me. He was only trying to help me, I know. He didn’t mean for his words to sting (even though they did.) I thought about what he said. I considered it. I went back and read over the manuscript.
But you know what I found out?
I liked the manuscript the way it was. I ran it through several critique groups and they enjoyed it as well. I let random people read the prologue and first chapter (which was all I read to my dad). The random people seemed pleased. A few of them made suggestions which I took into consideration. But I don’t need to change the entire book just to please my dad, who doesn’t like reading that sort of stuff in the first place, let alone the fact that his daughter writes it.
Yes, I am a perfectionist. I want my book to be perfect. But I can come to grips with the fact that it won’t be. As long as I’m happy with it and know that I have taken it as far as I can, someday I know that it will sit on a book shelf and people will pick it up and read it: the people who do like what I write. It doesn’t have to be perfect for everyone.
Well, at least I’m still trying to convince myself of that.