Manuscript Perfection vs. Good Enough

Posted Feb 9 2017, 6:38 am in , , , ,

*my writing desk

Rumor has it Leonardo Da Vinci was still painting on the Mona Lisa when he died, and Kathryn Stockett was editing pages of The Help while in labor. I listened to Chitra Divakaruni, author of Oleander Girl, say she edits pages from her published books even as she reads them aloud to an audience.

I get it.

Being a writer, or any creative soul, means battling perfectionism. But, sometimes, it just has to be good enough. Good enough is my new goal. But good enough is quite hard when you’re editing. When is it good enough to stop? When is it good enough for an agent? When is it good enough for a publisher? You get my point.

I think my sign should be when one of my favorite beta readers says “I fear you’ve let too many cooks in the kitchen.” Amen, sister.

When I first started getting feedback on this book from agents, editors, and other writers, I made every change (immediately!) and considered every critique the gospel. I attacked my manuscript like a pack of wild hyenas attacks a carcass, shredding, ripping, and laughing all the way. Leaving in my wake, a blob of unrecognizable carnage I’d read two weeks later and think, who wrote this shit?

But, true to form, at my last retreat, I (thankfully!) invited one more cook into the kitchen. 

At least now, I’ve learned to slow down a bit when I receive advice. The voice in my head speaks to me like I’m a spirited horse, “Easy now. Easy.” I allow myself that first thrill of exciting new information, let the dust settle, then decide on the changes.

On my last day at the Texas Writing Retreat, I sat on the back porch with Elizabeth Kracht, freelance editor and agent at Kimberly Cameron & Associates. I told her, despite all my rewrites, I still felt something was off with my manuscript. She leaned back, closed her eyes, and said, “Tell me your story.”

Minutes later, she opened her eyes. “Here’s your problem…Why don’t you…” I swear, as she spoke, Texas clouds parted and angels sang. An “aha” moment! I jumped up and, very professionally yelled, “Holy shit! Can I give you a hug?”

What Liz suggested offered me a piece to a puzzle I thought I’d never solve. Even after a five-hour drive home and days of letting it sink in, I knew this change was one I needed to make. I ran the idea past a friend who read my book and who happens to write amazing young adult thrillers, and she agreed. I told her how much harder this rewrite is than I thought it’d be, and she said, “The more frustrating it is for you to work out the details and get them right, the more rewarding it will be for your reader.” That’s all I needed to hear.

No, this change won’t make my novel perfect. But, in the words of Scarlett O’Hara, as God is my witness…it will be good enough.

And the writing journey continues…




10 responses to “Manuscript Perfection vs. Good Enough”

  1. Liz Talley says:

    Good enough is good enough. At some point you have to say enough and trust that your vision was right. That’s a milestone for a writer – it’s never perfect.

  2. Victoria Calder says:

    Love your insights!!

  3. Rachel Thomas says:

    I am not a fellow writer, but I have to say that your “good enough” is pretty damn close to perfection! Keep going, the finish line is so close and I will be waiting there when you cross it with a tasty adult beverage in hand!!


  4. Jan says:

    Love! Keep truckin’ sista. 🙂

  5. Stephanie campbell says:

    Looking forward to reading your blog:)

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