Thursday, September 8, 2011

Perfectionism and Productivity

d 065I’m continuing on with the productivity theme this week. :) That’s because I’m revamping some of my mindset to get more writing done.

I’ve always been pretty good about resisting perfectionism during first drafts. That’s because I’d never get anywhere with a book if I tried to make it perfect as I went. The first draft is supposed to be a disaster. I don’t look at what I wrote the day before, just end my writing time with a quick cheat sheet to tell me where I left off and where I need to pick up.

I’ve even tried to get over my perfectionism for the final draft that I send in to the publisher. I still send last minute emails to editors and my agent saying, “Would you please use this copy of the manuscript and not the one I emailed you yesterday?” I’ll do that a couple of times if they don’t cut me off. :) But I’m doing better about it. If it’s done, it’s done---if my editors see a problem with the book, then they’ll be sure to let me know and I’ll fix it during the revision process.

But now I’ve run into a new issue—a backlist title that has been giving me fits for a month or more. I’m trying to squeeze in revision work on it right now because I’m waiting on outline approval for the second book in the quilting mystery series…and I have a little break before Hickory Smoked Homicide comes out November 1.

My plan has been to re-release this backlist book as an ebook at some point later this year or early next year. I’ve hacked it into bits and changed massive parts of it and am still unhappy with it. And I haven’t even reached the end of the book yet.

Maybe for you it isn’t a backlist book…maybe it’s a manuscript that you put aside for a long while and are coming back to. The good thing about doing this is that we can see the manuscript with fresh eyes and can see all its faults. The bad thing is that we can see all its faults. :)

What I’ve been doing (which I’m now realizing is *not* working for me) is to reread and revise the book from the beginning. So I’ll take a few pages, edit them, then rewrite the scene from scratch—taking the meat of the scene and presenting it in a different way.

The problem with doing this is that it takes forever. I don’t edit my other manuscripts this way. So why am I treating this one differently?

What I’ve realized in the last couple of days is that I need to make separate passes through the document—and not to get off-track by spinning my wheels in one particular spot in the story by trying to make it perfect. I’ll treat it as a draft. I’ll make a pass for basic changes (deeper POV, showing instead of telling.) , a pass for setting, a pass for character development, a pass for subplots that add to the main plot, etc. Then at the end of that, maybe I’ll make a pass through and see if I want to add or delete scenes.

This, I think, will at least make me feel like I’m making progress on the book. I need to believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel or I really start losing motivation. With repetitive passes through the book, I’ll get a little sick of the book, but it’s not as bad as realizing I’m halfway through and have already spent more time on revision as it usually takes to write a first draft.

How do you keep perfectionism from holding you back?