I’ve even published a quote of the week on the subject:
‘Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.’
– Gustave Flaubert
Perhaps I seek perfection in my writing because I feel that writing reveals a bit of my own soul, thus I have the desire only to share it when it is as close to perfect as I can make it. Is it my desire to think that by sharing that which is “perfect” with others, they will think me a “perfect writer”? Or maybe a perfect person?
Doubtful. Even I realize that there is no perfection in writing.
My favorite novels are not perfect. Does that mar my enjoyment of them? Sometimes. But loving something means embracing the flaws as well as the strengths.
I guarantee that
some of all of the best sellers out there right now are imperfect novels that a critic could easily tear apart. Even the Harry Potter series is not perfect. But there is something which makes them endure, something which makes their readers ignore any gaffs and embrace them as good reads great books.
So what is it? What is that elusive quality which makes a book someone’s favorite?
Oh there’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Why does one book take off, when there are thousands of better-written books, or even better plots, or more likable characters, or a million other reasons you shouldn’t even pick up that best seller off the shelf.
One word: Magic.
As Caroline Gordon said for this week’s quote of the week:
“A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way.”
There is something magical about a book with a well crafted plot. Why do I pick on plot and not characters or good writing or any of the other myriad writing crafts? Because plot is what keeps most readers reading.
Even though a reader may love character driven novels (as I do), and prefer reading them, the reader’s interest will begin to fade if nothing happens, i.e. if there is no plot.
If there is no plot, there is no story. It’s that simple.
But there comes a moment in the writing of your novel when you have to accept imperfection. We all want to have that “perfect” novel where no one could criticize it and everything is exactly what it ought to be. But there will never be that novel. No novel is above criticism. Even the best novels out there have their critics–probably hundreds of them. Some will hate a bestseller simply to hate a bestseller, but others will have valid reasons for why the story didn’t resonate with them. And you know what, they’re right. Those who loved that book are right, but so are those who hated it. There is no right and wrong for a reader. If they loved it, great, if they didn’t, great.
We, as authors, cannot create perfection. As imperfect creatures, we can only create imperfect creations. We must accept that. Until we do, we will strive blindly along the quest for perfection, angry whenever we don’t reach it, and afraid to put our work out there for fear of rejection.
As I grow older, I realize that the only certain thing in life is rejection. Maybe that sound cynical, but it’s true. Life is full of rejection and imperfections. We cannot control either. We may think we can work and work and work until something is “perfect,” but we can’t. Because in a week, a month, a year, we will look back at our “perfect” work and see the imperfections in it.
The only answer is to let go. Don’t fail to put in the work to make your story as good as you can, but learn to recognize when it’s finished. Learn to recognize that moment where if someone comes up with a criticism for it, it’s okay.
Because instead of focusing on perfection, you should focus on the magic of your story itself.
A reader is not going to choose their favorite novel by perfect grammar, perfect plotting, or perfect characters.
A reader reads on a more emotional level. An analytical reader is one who reads in college for a paper.
A true reader is going to be looking for an emotional connection with the characters, a fun plot to ride, and an interesting world different from theirs.
We as the author must give them that. We must not deliver perfection, but flawed characters who live in a flawed world, even with a flawed plot.
After all, if we write a perfect novel, there will be no one to complain about it–and then what would all the Amazon.com and Goodreads.com reviewers have to say?