Monday, May 5, 2014

Perfectionism Is Not Your Friend

by Andrea Merrell

Except for the occasional writer’s block, putting words to paper or fingers to the keyboard is generally the easy part. Writing for publication is the hard part, but it can be done with time, study, and determination. You just need to know the rules and guidelines.

In the movie Finding Forrester, Sean Connery’s character (a famous author who has become a recluse) gives this advice to an aspiring young writer: “No thinking. That comes later. You write your first draft … with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is … to write, not to think.”

Great advice, but that being said, the second key to writing should be to think.

If you’re a natural editor, getting your entire story on paper without constantly going back and making corrections will be difficult. Perfectionism is not your friend (at least at this point). It can keep you working on the same few chapters for months, even years, without finishing your book. If this is a problem for you, politely, but firmly, tell your inner editor to be quiet or to take a vacation so you can finish writing. When you’re in the zone and words are flowing (some writers call it word dump), you don’t want to stop the flow to make sure all your words are perfect. There will be plenty of time for that later. As you continue with the story, you’ll make lots of tweaks and changes, and you don’t want to keep going over and over the same ground.
Your writing time is valuable. Use it wisely.

Once you have your words on paper or safely tucked away in your computer, it’s time to start the editing/re-writing/proofreading process. If this is difficult for you, go back over your material and read it aloud. Read it slowly. You’ll be amazed how much this little exercise will help you. Chances are you’ve read it so many times your eyes will skip over obvious errors. By reading aloud, you’ll get a better feel for syntax and sentence structure. If possible, have someone else read it to you and listen carefully as they read. Software programs are available for your computer that will read text, and some are free. Google “Computer Reading Programs” for a list of options. Getting feedback from others is always beneficial.

Ultimately, even the best editor needs an editor, but every writer can learn to catch common mistakes and produce clean, professional manuscripts.

Are you a natural editor or do you struggle with the process? Would love to hear your comments.

(Excerpts taken from Murder of a Manuscript by Andrea Merrell, published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Used by permission.)  Photos courtesy of

Be sure to join us next Monday (May 12th) for our first guest blog post by Ann Tatlock. Ann will be giving away an autographed copy of her book, Sweet Mercy.

1 comment:

  1. Amen, sistas! I always feel I can make it better if I just keep trying. I could edit and edit and never have a completed piece! Great advice. :-)


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