Monday, December 21, 2009

Not Perfect Yet

We're going home for Christmas this week. (A nice thing about marrying your high school sweetheart is that his hometown is your hometown, so you get to spend every holiday at home. An un-nice thing about marrying your high school sweetheart is that his hometown is your hometown, so you spend all those holidays bouncing back and forth from one house to the other, with the relatives constantly chorusing, “Hey, where you going?”) So I’ll be leaving Bob behind for a while. And that’s kind of scary, because I’m letting him be something I’ve never let another manuscript be: Not Perfect Yet.

Not Perfect Yet is much more than In Need of a Line Edit. Not Perfect Yet is even more than Will Tweak This Scene Later. Not Perfect Yet is what a manuscript becomes when you write with the full realization that you don’t intend to keep some, maybe most, of the words you’re writing. When you write for the sake of getting something, anything, up on the screen.

For this reason, letting Bob be Not Perfect Yet has been…liberating. I don’t get bogged down in a chapter, a scene, or even a sentence. I put something down and move on. So I know Bob has problems. One scene (the one I’m STILL writing) has been dragging on for eternity and will need to be tightened. One character’s dialogue (Mr. Jenks’s) always sounds not quite right and will need to be fixed. I’ve fleshed out the back stories of a few other characters and will have to go back and rewrite the scenes in which they appear from this new perspective. Like I said, problems.

When I’ve discovered a problem in previous manuscripts, I’ve fixed it right then--or convinced myself it wasn’t REALLY a problem, for this and this and this reasons. Because my manuscripts had to be Perfect at every possible moment, or at least as perfect as I could make them before I started the next draft. I had to be content with the state of my manuscripts every time I left the computer, and (I thought) that meant they had to be Perfect. Now that I’m letting Bob be Not Perfect Yet, I’m discovering not-perfect is okay.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m committed to making Bob amazingly, stupendously, super-fantastically great--I might even go so far as to say perfect--and letting him be not-perfect right now could be, might be, a necessary step in that process. I’m sure you figured this out a long time ago, but it’s been a revelation for me. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised. This is the season of miracles, after all.


Myrna Foster said...

Happy Christmas Break to you! Try not to have separation anxiety. Bob isn't going anywhere. I don't think I have ever written anything perfect in my life--well, maybe a couple of poems. I can't stop fiddling with my prose though. Even when other people tell me it's great, I find parts that sound forced or cliche. Can you tell I'm revising?

Anywho. I hope you have a grand time (and that you like tug-of-war)!

Holly said...

Good for you. Baby Bob will be fine.

You'll come back refreshed, plus the subconscious keeps working away the whole time. You'll be doing the dishes or folding laundry and a plot solutuion will appear like magic.

About Mr. Jenks: did you try reading his dialogue out loud?

Even better, do you know anybody like him? Have lunch with them and listen to the way they talk. If he's an elderly person, visit somebody like him in a nursing home and listen to the way they talk. Just some ideas.

Krista G. said...

I appreciate the encouragement, all. And thanks for the other suggestions, Holly. I plan to read out loud when I get into the serious revision stage; right now, I'm just spot-checking. And I've never thought about talking to someone like Mr. Jenks before.

P.S. Holly, was your entry included in Authoress's Drop the Needle crit session? If so, which one was it?

Holly said...

Hi, Krista. My entry was #6, but the posters all said it did not convey danger.

Choosing that excerpt was a judgment mistake on my part -- I am too close to the novel. If you have been reading the real story, not just the excerpt, and come to that point, you know that a monstrous thing is hiding inside the rooms. I should have picked soemthing on the next page, when the characters meet the monster. But I don't want to make excuses.

About Mr. Jenks, sometimes when I'm stuck and need a little realism, I take a notebook and visit people (and places) similiar to whatever I'm writing about. It almost always helps.

Myrna Foster said...

I hope your Christmas was wonderful! I'm giving you an award over at my blog, if you want it.