For everyone who writes there are a million ways to get those words down on paper. If you’re anything like I am you stress over the perfect word wondering if your reader will get it. Is it as compellingly written out as it was in your head? You may even be tempted to labor over every paragraph for days at a time moving from page to page until the last chapter rings in your head like prose from a NYTBS. And even then, you aren’t sure, so you rewrite it—again. You could take months or even years with this routine and still not have a finished novel. The truth is, although there is no right or wrong way to edit and rewrite, working that prose like a drill sergeant with OCD can kill your flow and leave you feeling creatively bankrupt.
The problem with perfection is that it truly does not exist. But that is not the only problem. Passion and creativity are the driving forces of fiction. Sometimes it is easier to simply let it flow to get it out. Trust your instincts. If you think the first scene is too early to kill of the father, you’re probably right. You may think, well, I’m new at this so I’ll get the opinion of a couple of other folk. Well, you’ve seen that show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Remember the episodes when the contestant asks the audience and gets practically the same margin in response for all choices presented to them? It is then the frustrated contestant actually has to make his or her own decision. Imagine. Go with your flow. One false move, such as fixing it to please someone else well inevitably lead to another false move and then another and then…well you get it the idea.
I try to keep in mind while I’m writing that I could indeed be wrong. This entire novel could be headed in the wrong direction. But I also know the worse that could happen is that I’ll have to rewrite. But once the story is done how will you know when you are indeed finished? You will know. The story will be told. The issues will be resolved. You will have created tension and your characters will be developed. When this sense of completion hits you, stop writing.
Writing is like housecleaning—there always something left to do. There will always a paragraph that could’ve be written tighter, stronger. There is always room for more intense character developed. Stop. Save it for the next novel. Now it is time to send it off to your editor and let he/she take a stab at it, or, even better, take it to your beta reader. But stand in the confidence that you have written the best story for the experience and skill and creativity you now possess.
And look on the bright side—the next novel will be even better.