1. Noya Desherbanté
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    Noya Desherbanté Senior Member

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    When is it 'good enough'?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Noya Desherbanté, Dec 3, 2010.

    Having a problem at the moment... and I thought writing the darn thing was hard enough...

    When does a novel (or anything) become good enough? When do you hit that point of just getting overfamiliar with the text that you're blinded to its real quality? I'm worried that with more and more editing I'll suck the soul out of the thing, all the spontaneity - familiarity breeds contempt, of course - and there's an overall sense that I've told the story as well as I can.

    I'm not experiencing the feeling of having a gorgeous polished jewel in my possession, more like a patchwork quilt, where I can see little mistakes patched over, my own personal journey, see parts and remember where I was when I wrote them - I know full well that it's not perfect, but it's got a lot of me in it. And I also get the sense that the story itself cannot improve, that I think I've reached the limits of where I am with this particular work - if I change anything to make it 'better', it will be a completely different animal. And I get the sense that it won't be 'better' if I change it, just 'different', maybe 'worse' because I'm a different person than when I started it - doesn't mean to say I've become a better writer. I think the story is a complete article now - I can go no further, only write something else.

    Does this all make sense to some of you?? I'm writing this mainly as the backstory to a question - is there anything I can do to give myself more faith in it? Because I'm worried I'm overthinking this, I don't want to keep polishing and being unhappy forever - I want to get it out there (published on Kindle). And as I said, I think this is as far as this story can go. I am proud of it completely, I will promote it to the ends of the earth, but I will always think it could be better, shinier, greater - like it is when I replay the scenes in my head. I'm thinking of swapping it with someone to get feedback - they read my thing, I read theirs, we both give advice.

    ...Should I just accept that it's as good as I can humanly achieve, shut off the overthinky, critical part of my brain, and push it out to the people??
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Put it up for a few weeks without looking at it at all, then read it over one more time. Having that time gap will make you more refreshed and objective. Then let someone else read it, like a friend who's a fellow writer.

    Oh and congrats on being done! :D
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like Mallory says put it aside for one or two months - and work on something different (that is important). Then go back to it - for me it is good enough when I can no longer improve it within my own ability.
     
  4. Noya Desherbanté
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    Noya Desherbanté Senior Member

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    Thank you! :D It's one of the very, very few pieces of work I have actually finished... :rolleyes:

    I will put it aside juuust after I fix these bits of dialogue... and that prophecy that needs to be rewritten... but then I want to do some little drawings to go with it, so while I'm doing all them I won't touch it. :)
     
  5. OvershadowedGuy
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    OvershadowedGuy Member

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    I agree with giving it time; if you see problems though-fix them!

    And now is probably a good time to let another set of eyes read your story.
     
  6. Celia.
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    Celia. Senior Member

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    i agree with this.
     
  7. kayeshannon
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    kayeshannon Member

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    I heard at a writer's forum that the best thing to do, as already recommended, is to just end the agony and put it aside for a month or two, then go over it ONCE more. After that, you may have qualms and an uneasy feeling about it FOREVER, which will never go away if you think about it, so don't think about it, always focus on writing something new when a piece has gone through the process of writing and editing. Be done with it.
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    As usual, Mallory nailed it. Working on something else allows you to really detach from it. And don't worry...when you go back later to read it through, you will probably say to yourself, "Hey, this is good!"
     
  9. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    The putting it away is good advice and well worth doing.

    I have a very different criteria I use. It's not any kind of official criteria but a vibe (which means it will be impossible to explain...).

    I have this 'thing' about when reading mine or others writing; I think I perceive that there are these mechanisms that budding amateur writers (like myself) use that make the work seem a little amateurish. The key to it is using language that you wouldn't otherwise use in your own conversations. I remember seeing a friend's writing and it had the following line (well, close anyway): "She was flitting about the beach as I tried to keep my attention more firmly ensconced in my chosen beach book"

    Not a bad line at all. However, who has ever actually used the word 'flit' when talking to their friends? It's that kind of usage where I see writers maybe trying to write for other writers and not the average person who is reading it for the story.

    So my criteria is to wring out as much of the 'writing for writers' as I can. For me, those kinds of things detract from the story. They pull the reader (or at least me) out of the story with an odd word. Unless it's with the context of a character's dialogue, using 'not common' words in writing I think can be a little distracting. Thing is, my friends will tell, I have a ridiculous vocabulary. It's neat to have lots of words at your mental disposal but it doesn't mean that they need to be used.

    I guess I feel that things like the above example, (or even just the way I see how some writers say things in their writing) I see that 'thing' where it reads more like a good creative school writing project then a professionally written novel.

    So, that's kind of an example of what I look for in my own editing. Things that pull the reader away from the story. Once I feel that the story reads naturally, then I happy.

    Ok, I'm never actually happy...but I have found detente with my writing...
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I disagree. There is nothing wrong with using a more extensive vocabulary than you might use in normal conversation. In fact, I think many beginning writers often make the opposite mistake - they write in the same way they would speak. At the same time, you can't go overboard and use lots of words straight out of the thesaurus, because then the writing doesn't flow. So, in your sample sentence, I think "flit" is fine, but "ensconced" would be out.
     
  11. Noya Desherbanté
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    Noya Desherbanté Senior Member

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    JeffS65, ahh yes, I have this too! I find elaborate words distracting when they're plonked in the middle of something to say 'look at me, I know what this means', but even though novels written a long time ago can get away with this, I think even historical fiction written now has to be understandable.

    I think the key is just making it sound natural, not necessarily everyday, but in the same vein not absolutely forced. Some people just speak more fluently, and fluency can be achieved with a huge vocabulary, or a tiny one. I read a quote from someone who said something like: "When editing, I cut out everything that sounds like writing," and I've thought it was so sensible that I stuck to it ever since. There is nothing so off-putting as pontification! :p
     
  12. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    Noya above quoted something that stuck with me too and really exemplifies what I mean; cut out everything that sounds like writing. To me, that makes sense...to me. It doesn't have to apply to everyone but it works for me.

    It was a hallmark of Hemingway's style and I feel that it allows the elements of the story to be most effectively digested by the reader.

    I think my point is that sometimes writers want to impress other writers more than they want to tell a good story and when I see that, it is a sore spot for me.

    That said, there is definitely validity to what you say. Not everyone wants to read a book the way I think it should be written and that's a good thing. Without variety, we wouldn't have the array of authors to enjoy.
     
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  13. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, it's never good enough. But that's the way it goes with all ideals. Once you get into details, they're no longer perfect. The solution? I don't have "the" solution, but "a" solution...one that works for me. Imperfection is character. Charm. Personality. Without it, things would be boring.
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    When the publisher hands you the money.
     
  15. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Agreed.
     

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