1. Skyes
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    Skyes Member

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    Any tips for a perfectionist who can't finish a book?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Skyes, Jan 15, 2015.

    First of, sorry for my bad english.

    I have been writing this fantasy book for 4 years now, and I am still far from finnishing it.
    It is never good enough for me. I aways keep changing the plot, creating new things, deleting others, adding characters or removing them, etc. I am never satisfied with the book. It is never "perfect" for me.
    And I think this is a really bad thing :(
    I really want this book to be perfect, because he is like a son to me. I have grown immense connection with it, sometimes I can get near to crying when I live some cenes in my head (Yeah, call me crazy lol :( )
    So, I don't want to just finnish it in any random way. I really want to give my best. But I began to realize that if I keep at this rate, I will never finnish it :(
    Any tips, guys? Am I on the right track? What should I do?
    Any opinnion is welcome.
    Thanks in advance! :)
     
  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    The general consensus of opinion seems to be just to rattle the thing out. Get it finished, regardless of whether there are parts you are unhappy with or sections you want to rewrite. It is only the first draft after all and there will be plenty of editing to come later.

    Detailed editing on the fly can essentially be considered abortive work, since your requirements for that section you have worked and reworked endlessly might be entirely different once the book is finished.
     
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  3. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    My opinion is to leave it for awhile. Work on other things that you care less about. Get used to the feeling of finishing something, then come back to this one.

    First books can be like first loves: passionate but immature. ;)
     
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  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Finish it. Resist the urge to continue editing. Get it out there.

    Easier said than done, yes, but if you want to sell work as a writer that's what you have to do.
     
  5. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    One of the most important rules is to allow yourself to write badly and, as a corollary, prioritize moving forward over editing. Force yourself to get to the end and write new material. Think about it this way - you can't polish the diamond until you get it out of the mine.
     
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  6. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    From a perfectionist to another my advice is to write first and then perfect later. Then you have even more stuff to perfect. :p Also, you're book isn't going to be perfect, in fact it might never get to see the light of day, if you constantly rewrite each word as you write it; you're perspective is much improved when you have an outline of your story.
     
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  7. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Be less of a perfectionist...is an answer at hand, rather theoretical, sure.
     
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  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Well, I went through this stage for a few years. The trouble is nothing gets done and you don't have much to work with. Years just get ate up with little to show for them. Don't chase perfection. You'll never be a perfect writer. Your book will never be perfect. What you can be is a good or an excellent writer and your book can be good or what you envisioned. Excellence will be up to the reader.

    Not crazy or move over you have company, I've cried writing several scenes in my stories. :)

    Remember once you finish - it's not done. Nothing has to be set in stone so don't worry about a random ending. When I was working on my first draft of my first ever novel I had a simple little scene planned for the ending that I wasn't happy about but while I was writing something happened and an ending -this extreme megalith showdown with six storylines converging into one night -happened. It was exciting and fresh. Stay in the groove of writing and the freshness will happen, if you allow yourself to heed to it.

    But it doesn't always happen in the first draft. You can't plan great writing to happen. You just have to let it flow. Don't decide it's not enough until the end. Sometimes what we judge to be an inferior scene can become a superior moment.

    As someone that has completed projects ( for me ) they never feel 'perfect. They always feel - I could have done this or that - but there is a sense of satisfaction to the vision for your level of skill at that time. Cringeworthy or not they're down on paper and you can see your progress.


    Here's a tip. Whenever you write open a new document and number it with the date. Don't allow yourself to look back on your previous day's writing. When you're finished for the day open the next day's doc and copy and past the last few sentences so you'll know where to start. This is how I worked during Nanowrite. It really kept me on schedule and moving forward there was no time to nit pick.

    Here's another one. Don't make unfair comparisons. Don't compare your unfinished work against authors that are published, successful, and have been writing for years. You're seeing the finished product that has gone through professional editors. Keep looking at other peoples rough drafts.
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. This. While there is no problem going back over what you wrote yesterday and changing a few things, then moving on, it really is a mistake to linger too long, polishing and repolishing every detail in an unfinished story. You may well be wasting a lot of time, if that portion of your story turns out to need major changes. I once heard that exercise referred to as "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic" which pretty much says it all.

    While it's good to write a lot—which it sounds like you're doing—perhaps you need to give yourself a break and spend some time thinking rather than writing. It sounds to me as if you're still not sure where your story is going. If you find yourself writing stuff one day, then deleting it and writing something else, changing your mind, and constantly changing direction, it's a sign you still need to do some thinking. Writing—deleting—writing again—deleting again— This cycle can become depressing. You may start to feel frantic that you'll never get there.

    When you finally figure out exactly what you want to happen, it's amazing how fast it will come tumbling out, once you start to write it down. And once you get your story told all the way from beginning to end, then you can go back and edit for language, and work on all the other things like transitions, perfect the dialogue and description, and all those kinds of things. But first of all, get your story straight inside your head and heart.

    That is often done away from the computer, while you're lying in bed waiting to go to sleep, or early in the morning just after a good sleep, or while out walking, or sitting on a bus, or wherever you can get some quiet, uninterrupted thinking and dreaming time. Keep a notebook with you, to jot down any revelations or new ideas these thought sessions produce. Your story has been cooking in the back of your head for years now, so I'm sure it will all come together soon.

    Good luck!
     
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  10. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    @peachalulu

    "They always feel - I could have done this or that - but there is a sense of satisfaction to the vision for your level of skill at that time."

    Nicely put, that's how I'd say it. This level of fair satisfaction is a platform to start off.
     
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  11. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with all the other posters but also wonder if maybe there is more than one book in your head to write. You mention changing the plot, characters, etc.; could you stick with one and make notes of the others. Then go back and see if you have a second story to tell after finishing the first? You maybe birthing twins or more, just don't go the Octomom route. Good luck with your writing.
     
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  12. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you don't know how to finish the story, this tells me you have't worked out what the book is about yet. Don't worry, many people, myself included, didn't discovered what their novels were really about until after they had a first draft. Once you've discovered this, you'll know what details contribute to the story and which are superfluous. Set the scene, develop the characters, introduce problems, progress towards solutions, resolve the problems. Try writing something that people will enjoy reading and don't try to hard to create a masterpiece, as you may only succeed in making it difficult and heavy-going for the reader. Don't delete anything, cut and paste it into another document, because you may need it later, if you change your mind. If all your ideas don't fit neatly into one novel, try fitting them into two or more.
     
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  13. islampharm
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    islampharm Member

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    when i get that feeling . I get some rest and make something else for while. I think thoughts come to you by itself . You can observe something or when you take a shower in the bathroom you will get it like Archimedes :) .
     
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  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. I totally agree with this approach. I think that sometimes too much emphasis is placed on actually sitting at a computer and writing. You read in how-to books that you should WRITE WRITE WRITE and never stop WRITING. I haven't found it works like that.

    Thinking and/or letting your subconscious work on a story problem is so important. It's a different way of problem-solving. You might look like you're working hard, if you're the write-write-write sort, but if you end up throwing most of what you've written away, and keep beavering away at the same problems without actually finding solutions, you probably need to step back and take a new approach.

    I speak from experience on this. And, in fact, I just had a major breakthrough when I woke up this morning. After weeks of struggle, wrestling with all the wrong wordings, throwing out reams of paper, tweaking words here and there, I now realise exactly what's wrong with the penultimate chapter of my novel and why it didn't click for my latest beta reader. I've suddenly got a different perspective. I can now sit down and fix it. It's not a difficult problem—in fact it's easily solved—but it took a change in my thinking, not my writing, to bring me to this place.
     
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  15. islampharm
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    islampharm Member

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    Indeed . I consider myself not a one who create these ideas. I think ideas make me right. Eben, when i write a novel or a short story i do not exactly what i am going to write i just follow the stream of thoughts coming from my head and heart :)
     
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  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. I don't know where the ideas come from, but you KNOW when you're on the right track. Don't you? I always get a big smile on my face when that happens.
     
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  17. islampharm
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    islampharm Member

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    Exactly,I read what i wrote and i feel that is what i wanted to write :D .It is very strange. Sometimes, i feel i did not write that. It is better than what i thought :)
     
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  18. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    The problem is that combatting perfectionism is something only you can deal with. We can all tell you to stop editing, to just write to the end and then revise, yada yada yada. But all the advice in the world won't make you finish the book. Until you make the decision to, you will never change. That's just the way it is in writing and in life.
     
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  19. Drmoses
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    I'll offer you my own experience, limited as it may be, because you actually sound somewhat like I do.

    So I have like a dozen novel ideas in my head, which I've transitioned to paper over the years. I then take an idea and begin to put together an outline and a character chart for each. When I first started doing this, I would scrutinize these things to no end; constantly fiddling with them and altering them. Then I'd say to myself internally, I'll start writing the book once I get the proper outline put together.

    After some months of playing around with outlines, it occurred to me that I was never going to get a book done at this rate.

    Since then, I've dedicated myself to writing 50 words per night and things are running far more smoothly. I will actually have some completed manuscripts shortly.

    They aren't perfect and they will need to be edited. As I write I constantly find myself critiquing things in my own head. That's okay though, as it can all be edited once I reach the end.

    So my advice or what worked for me was to set a firm word goal and to reach it each and every night without fail. When that little editor on your shoulder stands up and tells you to stop, shut him out until you've reached that goal. Then once your book is written, let him loose and make the thing completely perfect.
     
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  20. GingerCoffee
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    "cenes" scenes Didn't know if that was your English or a typo.

    I think you need to do a better analysis of the problem. "Not perfect enough" isn't all that specific.

    Do you not have a story/plot and instead are just working on things that happen?

    Are you reluctant to let anyone read it?

    Do you have the story/plot but aren't sure the characters are interesting?

    Is the story too much like other novels and you want something to distinguish it from the crowd?

    This is only a sample of questions.

    Think about your problem a little more specifically than just, not perfect enough. Perhaps there is an underlying barrier you are not addressing.
     
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  21. islampharm
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    islampharm Member

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    I completely agree. It is important to be organized and committed .But sometimes you can not find those 50 words . They just do not come . I leave them later but i still think about them . blaaaa , here they are :)
     
  22. Poet of Gore
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    Poet of Gore Member

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    not so perfect if you can't finish a book
     
  23. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    This is the only way, honestly. I don't remember who said it, but the quote "Surrender to your mediocrity and just write" is pretty applicable - you just have to remember this is the first draft and there's time to go over it in editing.
     
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  24. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, let's not throw the baby out with the bath. If one is having trouble finishing, then yes, it's probably best to push off the editing until the draft is done. But it's definitely not the "only" way to write.
     
  25. qwertyportne
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    qwertyportne Member

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    Lots of good advice here, but only you know how well it fits. Here's a couple of things that have helped me start and finish a story:

    In the movie Finding Forester, Sean Connery tells his young writing student to write with his heart and edit with his head. In other words, play first then work. Stop trying to edit while you are creating. It not only ruins your momentum but can stop the flow. We call that writers block.

    Let your character(s) tell you who they are. In other words, stop trying to be the guy in charge of everything they say and do. Call it your Muse or your Higher Power or whatever makes you comfortable with the understanding that there may not be any such thing as a perfect plot, that there may in fact be no such thing as plot, just (and I am paraphrasing Ray Bradbury) footprints in the snow as your characters run through it.
     

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