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Writing Tip #13 – Muscle Through It

Sometimes, you get stuck on a scene that’s dry and stale and is incredibly hard to write–and the problem doesn’t have an easy fix, and all those writer blogs and articles are no help.  Sometimes, you just have to push through and write that stiff-sounding scene.  But as you push through, think in terms of little victories or progresses–two new sentences is two more than you had before.  One paragraph added is one more than you had before. If you disciplined yourself to write even though you didn’t want to, that’s good.

My sister finds it helpful to write funny notes to herself in parenthesis so she has something to laugh at as she reads back through the difficult scene.  I notice which phrases or snippets of dialogue are good even if the rest of the prose seems dry.  Listening to music is always a great motivator.  And remember, the sooner you muscle through and write that difficult scene, the sooner it’ll be over with!

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More About Lennox

So in this post, Lana wanted to learn more about Lennox, my character from the steampunk story (which now has the working title of Empty Clockwork).  So here is the long-promised post, complete with artwork!

First of all, Lennox didn’t grow up in England.  He was born in Brittany, France, but his artist father had difficulty finding work there.  The family moved to Switzerland, but faced the same problem, and so finally removed to Italy where the father found employment painting for wealth British, French, and Italian families.  Lennox grew up in Italy, speaks Italian fluently, and even after moving to England, he retains a faint Italian accent which becomes more apparent on certain vowels and syllables.

When Lennox was 18, he and his mother moved to England so he could get a university education, and he attended Cambridge.  (His father had died in an influenza outbreak some years earlier; see here.)  But Lennox ended up teaching himself much of what he wanted to know, particularly about chemistry and general science.  Mainly because he was curious about things that the curriculum there didn’t cover.

Random facts:

For all he’s a caring and friendly guy, he has a horror of tears.  He never knows how to handle such a situation.

When Lennox is around, there is rarely an awkward silence.  Or at least, it doesn’t last for more than a few seconds; he always finds something to say, especially if the pause is uncomfortable.

He always makes a huge mess whenever he gets a project out, such as paints or research; and if the work space is his own, he leaves the mess until he’s finished or until he gets tired of the chaos.

His mother taught him to play the piano, a skill he fought tooth and nail as a child because he thought it was a sissy pastime.  But his mother persevered, and Lennox finally learned to play in spite of himself.

His father also taught him to paint; Lennox didn’t mind learning this, although he says he doesn’t paint very well, didn’t practice enough.

He cannot swim, and nearly drowned after falling off a bridge once.  Fortunately, someone went after him and pulled him out.

He’s 23 at the beginning of the story.

He adheres to social requirements to please his grandfather, but he doesn’t give a rip about convention in the privacy of his home.

Lennox is the sort of person to pull a book off the shelf and then stand there in the walkway reading the volume.

Feeling just a wee bit lost in London society…

He cannot resist exploring new things and places…he’s incredibly curious, and sometimes even explores places he shouldn’t…

He never means any harm, he just wants the answers to his questions.

Now I forgot to link up with Beautiful People last month; the time for the link-up has expired, but I’ll still post the questions!

What’s his favorite place he ever visited?  Hard to narrow down; Lennox likes seeing anything and anywhere new.  He definitely enjoyed different parts of the Italian countryside as a child, as his family moved from place to place, seeking employment.

What’s one mistake he made that he learned from?  Erm…if this means during the story, I can’t say, because spoilers.  Before the story, however, it was probably something around the lines of “don’t perform chemistry experiments an hour before dinner if there’s any chance of a stench or a mess.”

What was his favorite subject in school? Or favorite thing to learn about?  Scientific history, physics, and chemistry.  He taught himself all three.

What’s his favorite flower/growing thing?  He likes painting landscapes, but I don’t think he has a favorite plant.

Has he ever made someone cry? What happened?  Nope, and if this ever happens, it will be a complete accident.  Lennox is the sort to go out of his way to make sure a conversation partner or friend is comfortable in the situation.

Would you consider him a reliable or unreliable narrator?  Unreliable, only because Lennox is too trusting.  And sometimes misses details, especially if he was focused on something else or just not interested.

What does he dream about at night?  Lennox says this is really nobody’s business.

He’s gone out for a “special meal.” What would he eat?  Definitely cake (spice cake with currents or sponge cake with frosting).

Does he have any distinguishing or unique talents?  He find and exploit loopholes like a boss.  He’s generally cheerful, regardless of the circumstances (on the other hand, if Lennox isn’t happy, ain’t nobody happy).  He can also see the potential in almost any idea.

What’s at least one thing he wants to do before he dies?  A lot…but one is definitely to figure out what to do with his life.

So, that’s a little more about Lennox!  Thanks for reading!

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Beautiful People Link-Up: About the Author

This month’s BP features the author of the characters instead of the characters themselves, which is a fun twist.  🙂  You can find the link-up and questions here.

How do you decide which project to work on?

It’s very rational: I sit down and calculate how many story elements are inherent in the original idea + an estimation of the time it will take to finish + how much time I actually have + how much coffee I’ll need to complete the project, and–

Just kidding!  Usually, ideas for characters grab me and won’t let go, and so I have to follow and see what the story is.  It’s  entirely out of my control, I assure you.  Other times, the process is a little more rational: sometimes based on whichever idea is the most vivid and interesting; sometimes it’s based on which story idea has the most pieces put together (e.g. one with the concept, conflict, etc. worked out); and sometimes, it’s whichever idea looks like one that I can finish quickly.

Which often turns out to be a complete fantasy.  🙂

Even when I settle on a project, I tinker with others on the side, and jot notes for any new ideas. Sitting now in my digital folders are at least 10 novel ideas (with tons of notes for each), along with notes for a couple of characters and concepts that don’t have proper stories, but that won’t leave my imagination either.

At the moment, I’m actively working on my semi-western Gentle Fire, and I tinker with my steampunk story here and there.  Also, the steampunk story finally has a working title: Empty Clockwork!  And speaking of, I’ll get that post about Lennox up sometime before the apocalypse hopefully soon.

How long does it usually take you to finish a project?

In the words of Ebeneezer Scrooge, circa 1850–something: “Why do you delight to torture me?”

I don’t finish quickly, partly because of my health problems and fatigue–but partly because my concepts end up fleshed out into a Very Long Novel that will take more than a few months to pound out.  But I comfort myself with the hallowed words of Charles Dickens:

“It is delightful to find throughout that you have taken great pains with it [the story] besides, and have “got at it” with a perfect knowledge of the jolter-headedness of the conceited idiots who suppose that volumes are to be tossed off like pancakes, and that any writing can be done without the utmost application, the greatest patience, and the steadiest energy, of which the writer is capable.”

Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?

I listen to music that matches the tone of my story (e.g. The Alamo soundtrack before I work on Gentle Fire) and sometimes crochet a little before I write, using that time to think about the story and what I’m going to write.

What time of day do you write best?

Always in the early morning, when the rising sun melts the grey sky into soft blush and liquid gold, and the house is a still and peaceful place where my imagination can soar–

*dog barks at someone walking by the house*

*a sibling gets up earlier than I expected*

*air conditioner breaks*

Kidding!  It changes from day to day, and I think it has to do with however much brain fog I’m dealing with.  Sometimes I write best in the wee hours of the morning; other times, I can barely comprehend English during that time.  Other times, I write best in the late morning; still others, late afternoon is the sweet spot.  Keeps things interesting, eh, what?

Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?

Erm…I have no idea.  I’d like to think I have a style like Dickens’, but it’s probably a cross between Bronte and Austen.  I asked my siblings, and Chris lovingly reminded me that he hasn’t read any of my stories because I haven’t finished one yet.  (Thanks, bro.)  Gingersnap said she couldn’t think of any comparisons and that I kind of had my own style.  Enkie said Louisa May Alcott, but also said that’s the only author she could think of off the top of her head, and that it wasn’t correct at all.  That I kind of have my own style.  Emmett also said he hasn’t read any of my stuff, and so he also couldn’t think of any comparisons.

Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?

I started writing because I always have story ideas bouncing around in my head, and at age 12, I hit upon one that I thought was good enough to become a book.  (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.)  But it was enough to start me on this journey, and I keep writing because story ideas still bounce around in my head–stories that I would love to read someday.

I also truly enjoy the process and the artistry of it all, despite how hard it gets.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?

Either the travel brochure for a writing class assignment (that brochure was as dry as ashes, people)–or the picture book I started in order to finish something before I die.  The picture book was hard because it was short, and I didn’t have room to explore or flesh out its concept.  It felt like shutting my mind up in a box.

Here’s a fun fact: Gentle Fire was supposed to be a short story.  But I kept wondering what brought Durant to the very situation in the opening, and also what happened after the story.  And then I thought of some answers.  And the ideas wouldn’t leave me alone.  See Question #1.

Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?

My English political novel with the working title of Method and Manner.  Actually, I’d love to focus on this one (Chris told me the other day he would put flowers ‘pon this story’s gravestone), but I don’t have time for the hefty research required.  When I have time for that research, however, I shall thoroughly enjoy it!

What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?

I hoped to finish the draft of Gentle Fire by the end of the year, but as it’s nearly August and only the beginning of the outline sits in my folder, that will probably not happen.  I hesitated to set any other goals because I so successfully fail at meeting them year after year.  It’s quite the impressive record.

Maybe I should switch to creating Mid-Year Goals?  Breaking out of the cliche box and all its expectations might help.  🙂

Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!

Help, coffee, help!

Kidding again!  It’s more like Think, Organize, Write–only that order gets shuffled around a little.  Okay, a lot.  With confusion thrown in.  Also a constant sparring match between my inner critic and artist’s soul.

And coffee does fit in there somewhere.  🙂

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Artwork Wednesday – A Small Twist

Today’s post will feature quotes from my characters, not pencil-and-paint work. Two reasons for this: 1. I have no artwork prepared for this week, and 2. I’m working on drawings of Lennox for my upcoming post about him (stay tuned!)  Hopefully, I’ll have drawings to show next week, but for now, I’ll post verbal artwork instead.

Now, not all these quotes will make it into the finished story–but they reveal a good deal about the characters.  🙂

Quotes from my unnamed literary novel (set in Yorkshire in the 1820s–30s):

“Tell me quickly,” said Charles, nearly exasperated.  “I am late already.”

“By a full two moments?” called Thomas from the other room.

 

“Charles, if Lord James thought our station an impediment, he would not pay me such marked attention,” Dorothea said.  “Are we not to trust his judgment as well as ours?”

Charles sat down.  “His judgment might be impaired by his need for money.”

Dorothea lowered her work and sent her brother a severe stare.  “That is not fair to Lord James or to his father.  They do need money,” she continued, resuming her sewing, “but Lord James is prudent and honorable.  If he feared our new wealth would corrupt his family’s rank, I do not think he would pay me any attention.  And we are honest with each other.  If he finds me lacking in any thing, he will tell me, and I shall attempt to satisfy him.”

 

“You will forgive me for being indelicate,” Dorothea said, looking up at her brother “but you apprehend a good deal that does not happen.”

 

“Really, James, you are newly-married and ought to be a good deal more punctual than this,” Harriet said, “–especially since you are escorting your wife.”

Dorothea was about to reprimand this remark, but James said, “At least I have made some improvement.  Where is Father?”

“Papa!” Harriet called down the hall, “Even James is ready now!”

 

James, as always, refused to take coffee; he had for years observed the peculiar sway it held over his otherwise self-controlled friend, and would himself remain free of such mastery.

 

“The only dissatisfaction I have with curls,” said Harriet, “is that they become untidy with the least provocation!”

 

“I am all right,” Charles insisted.  This was not as consoling at he intended, for he would say the same if he were in the final stages of consumption.

 

Alice suddenly pointed at the dog and announced: “Buppy.”

Mr. Carter smiled and knelt by the dog’s head. “Would you like to pet her?”

Alice glanced up at her mother and then ventured forward, but she looked at Mr. Carter very seriously.  “He bite,” she prophesied.

“No, she will not bite. But let her sniff your hands first.”

 

“Will you sit down?” Alice asked. Mr. Carter nodded and sat on the small chair nearby. Alice stared at him and patted the grass with both hands.

“Oh, on the ground,” Mr. Carter said, lowering himself to that level. “My mistake.”

 

James raised an eyebrow.  “Are you flirting?”

“Yes,” Dorothea answered lightly, “but with impunity, as we are already married.”

James laughed.

 

The whole plot is kicked off by Dorothea and James deciding to marry–so there’s no point in keeping that secret!

 

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Weekly Artwork Round-Up

No point in calling it Artwork Wednesday, because this post is (a) not featured on Wednesday, and (b) ridiculously late.

One art problem I’ve faced recently is how to deal with reference photos. Printing every photo I want to draw from uses a lot of paper and ink. Sketching with my laptop precariously balanced on my knees is not only bad for the laptop and my arms and legs, but eraser crumbs get between the computer keys. So…why don’t I just rest the laptop on a table? Because I hate, hate, hate people seeing the reference photo on the screen or seeing my drawing when I’m first sketching. It’s not so bad if the drawing looks like a human with clothes on, but before I get the sketch to that stage…

Anyway, I have  five pictures to show this week!

First up is Sanchia, a character from my semi-western story with a working title of Gentle Fire.  I picture Sanchia so vividly that it was great to capture that on paper more or less easily!  Also notice that the wool skeins drape over her wrists so that I don’t have to bother drawing hands like yarn skeins do in real life.  Especially since she’s paused her work to listen to someone talk.

This is the cabin that Durant and his family live when they first move to the western colonies.  The table is just slabs of wood set on sawn logs, and there are no proper shelves, cupboards, or even beds yet.  But it’s their own house on their own property, and that’s enough for them once they survive the journey.

Nonetheless, Wilson promised to build proper shelves and beds as soon as possible.

I drew this with charcoal–and there’s a funny story to go along with it.  Ever since I began drawing, Dad tried to get me interested in charcoal drawing, because we had a kit and tutorial series somewhere in our detached office.  I was too busy learning to use pencils, however, to turn my attention to charcoal.  Fast forward a couple of years to when I bought an art set only for the little art mannequin to use for drawing poses.  But charcoal pencils were included in the set–and out of random curiosity, I used them to draw this.  And–

I. Love. Charcoal.

I promptly informed Dad about this and thanked him for mentioning that medium and the art set out in the office.  And for the record, my parents are right 99% of the time.  🙂

My brother Chris suggested I draw concept art for my story to get an idea of the atmosphere and aesthetic–so I took his advice and started watercolor sketches in my leather sketchbook.  This is the rancho of another character: Barros (father of Maria, whom I mentioned here, and Teresita, whom I haven’t mentioned yet. 🙂 )

Another watercolor sketch, this one of the books Durant brought to the west.  The bottom one is a book of natural science; the next one up is a biography; the third is a small volume of poetry; the fourth is a novel of some sort; the fifth is  a brief history of the nation; the sixth (the long, grey one) is a primer; and the topmost book is Durant’s personal record book where he jots down financial information, a brief description of the day’s events, and sometimes his nephew’s antics.

Speaking of nephews, here’s Alex, Durant’s eldest nephew.  With his uncle’s hat on his head–Durant has a habit of dropping his hat on the head of whichever nephew is nearest!

Part of me wants to draw Lennox again, and get back to A Tale of Two Cities fanart–but I can’t stop drawing my Gentle Fire characters!  So who knows what artwork I’ll have to showcase next week!

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The Writer’s Tag – A Sort of Resume

I love tags and memes.  Have I mentioned that?  So when I came across Lana’s post, and saw that she tagged any reader who wanted to do it, I was immediately interested.

The tag covers all kinds of subjects, which is why it feels like a unique writer’s resume–but a fun resume.  🙂

What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

Genres – Mostly Crossover!

Half the stories I write or plan to write are genre crossovers.  The story set in the tropics in the year 1781 looks at face value like a high-seas and island adventure with the necessary pirates.  But it’s actually a mystery, one with an island setting (and therefore called “Island Mystery” at the moment.  Aren’t I clever? 🙂 )  The semi-western story has the trappings of a typical pioneer story–but it’s actually a fantasy-of-manners set in the 1820s–30s west/southwest.  And with an emphasis on politics.  My British political novel looks like…well, a political novel–and it is, but it’s technically alternate history and social critique.  And my steampunk story looks like any number of genres, but is a solid combo of steampunk, social sci-fi, hard sci-fic, and social critique.

Now that I think about it, a lot of my stories could be listed under “social critique” as well.

The funny thing is, I didn’t plan on writing genre crossovers–I just thought, “Hey, what if X historical event happened differently?  And I’m annoyed by Y, so let’s make that a plot point as well.”  Or whatever.

The only problem is how to market these stories.  I read an article that recommended putting it like this: “It’s a (particular genre), but folks who like (other genre) might also enjoy it.”  Except that my crossovers thus far have been so solidly blended that to market one genre would ignore another key foundation of the story.  I’ll figure it out, hopefully before I publish anything.

Styles – It Varies

Really, this varies with the story setting and time period.  If the story is set in 1830s America, I try to match the general style of language in letters and diaries from the time.  If the story is set in the 1890s (such as my steampunk story), I try to match the style of novels written during the turn of the century.  I read a lot of period fiction written during the same decade of my story to get an idea of the style of the day.

However, the writing styles I aspire to generally are Dickens, Bronte, and Tolkien.

Topics – Rather Obscure

If any of you readers know of stories with these kinds of topics, feel free to say so!

Settings in the 1820s–30s

British, American, Irish, you name it–a lot of my stories are set in these decades. I think it’s my tendency to explore the ignored questions/aspects of history; compared to the more popular Regency, Victorian, and Wild West eras, the 1820s–30s are slightly obscure.  Which baffles me, because interesting things were happening socially and politically in both England and America!  On the other hand, I have a taste for social mechanisms and political complexities, so this could be a personal preference thing.  Speaking of…

Politics

I cannot keep politics out of my stories.  I’ve tried.  It keeps slipping in.  Of the 10 novels I’m planning/writing, only 3 don’t feature politics…and even then one of those three might make political statements in the subtext.

Tejanos (Mexican Texians)

This began after I watched the 2004 film The Alamo and re-read the American Girl Josefina stories.  Now, at least five stories feature Mexican characters!

Multitudinous Character Casts

Blame Dickens and Tolkien for this one.  I’m not afraid to cut characters who end up being superfluous (though they often reappear in a different story), but I definitely start with a large cast.

Couples who marry long before the story ends

This happens in nearly every story!  It’s just more interesting to see how the couple pursues their goals with a significant other.  Anyway, romance in my stories often contributes to the main plot–usually as a further exploration of a character’s values, goals, and motives–but at the same time isn’t the ultimate point.

As such, I’ve wondered whether to keep who-ends-up-with-whom a secret.  One the one hand, it’s almost pointless if the couple gets together before the end.  On the other, I do like to be careful about spoilers.  What do you readers think?


How long have you been writing?

Officially since I was 12 or 13; un-officially all my life.  I’ve been making up stories as long as I can remember, usually adventures with the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings characters.  One of my favorite stories to play was having these characters stumble into our world around the time the movies were released, and me and my other friends having to keep them hidden–otherwise, fans of the movies would freak out and mob them, or blackmail them, or try to turn them into celebrities.

When I was little, I did write and illustrate a six-book series (in the style of the American Girls books) starring me and my 100-Acre Wood friends.  These stories were published by School Scissors & Stapler, Inc., despite having no plot whatsoever, only vignettes that somehow connected in my six-year-old-mind.  🙂

Then at age 12, I got a idea about a some kids who stumble into another world (so original!) and journey across the mountains with grown-up comrades.  It seemed like the best idea ever, so I began to write it down, and never looked back.  Even though that story never panned out, it gave me the discipline and momentum to write more stories!


Why do you write?

Because I have stories in my imagination that I want to read someday!  I also love exploring my own thoughts and ideas and intriguing concepts through writing (one of many reasons why I cannot write a short story–simply not enough time to flesh out a concept!).

I also love creating and playing with characters.  They provide a good mirror of reality, and often help me see life in a new way.


When is the best time to write?

I grab any time available.  I prefer to write in the early morning (don’t laugh; I do prefer this even if my habits are night-owlish) and definitely prefer silence and solitude.  However, I’ve learned to tune out my surroundings–closing my eyes helps and helps me focus on my mental image–and stick earbuds in to block noise.  🙂


What parts of writing do you love, and what parts do you hate?

Love:

  • That flash of inspiration for a character idea/story idea I know is good
  • On a similar note, the thrill of a new idea
  • Ideas coming together, especially after a struggle to get them there
  • Creating and developing characters
  • Writing a scene I know is awesome!
  • Writing more than I thought I would during the allotted time
  • Getting other people interested in my ideas and getting great feedback
  • Exploring my own ideas, clarifying my thinking through writing, and inspiring myself by it!
  • Writing characters I absolutely love
  • Writing fun or fluffy scenes as a break from dark or dangerous plot threads

Hate:

  • Short stories.  Not enough to work with, people; come on, give me concepts to flesh out!
  • Having to write scenes that are boring, but necessary to the plot
  • Having to cut a plot or character I like (though I often re-use them in another story)
  • When the characters won’t talk to me and explain what they want to do in the story!
  • Non-writers assuming that (a) I’ll have a book finished fairly soon and (b) I’ll definitely get it published
  • Repeated questions about when the book will be finished and published
  • Consistently having to say “no, not finished yet” to the above questions
  • Knowing people are judging/confused about this
  • No, I’m not annoyed by that; why do you ask?
  • Having a whole day/hour/block of time to write and NO IDEAS
  • Writing slower than I expected to

How do you overcome writer’s block?

One of two ways: muscle through it, or take a break.

I  start with the first and often ask, “Okay, what is the problem?  Why is writing this character so hard/planning this segment so difficult?”  After a little thinking, I’m usually able to realize that I’m forcing the character into a box rather than letting him do his own thing, or that I don’t know the character well enough, or that there isn’t enough conflict in this part of the story, or that a plot thread doesn’t contribute to the point.  Identifying the problem shows me what to focus on instead, e.g. I need to get to know this character better, or to remove those ideas that don’t contribute.

If I’ve tried all that and remain stuck, I take a break.  I’ll get unstuck eventually.   🙂


Are you working on something at this moment?

Yes, the semi-western (with a working title of Gentle Fire).  I also jot ideas for other stories as they come!


What are your writing goals this year?

Well, I intended to finish a draft of Gentle Fire  by the end of the year…but the year is half over and I’ve barely started.  Not sure whether to keep that ambition and get as close as possible to the goal, or to drop it in favor of something more attainable.  Beyond that, I’m really not sure; new health problems have cropped up, and I need to manage the symptoms and work around difficult nights/days.  So I generally take it day by day, e.g. today, I’ll do a little character development and draft the rest of that scene, and then we’ll see.

Okay, I tag Julia and Bella, if they’re interested!

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My Preteen Poetic Spirit

I wrote this poem when I was 12 or 13. Other “poems” of mine will never be revealed, and will be discovered in a long-forgotten folder after my death, because they had no meter or rhyme whatsoever. But this one amused me when I remembered it last night. 🙂

For many people

Springtime brings

A number of wonderful

Beautiful things

Like birds and trees

And flowers and bees,

But for me

Spring

Only brings

Allergies.

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Writing Tip # 11: Skip Ahead

Who says you have to write your story chronologically? It can be helpful–but then again, it can also get you stuck. If you know generally where your story is going, you can jump ahead to a less difficult spot, to a segment where you know which events happen and what the consequences are. Jumping ahead and working on a different part of the story could spark ideas for that trouble spot as well.  Anyway, the story is a draft, right? It doesn’t have to be a smooth read from start to finish that first time. 🙂

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Writing Tips for Perfectionists–That Elusive Perfect Standard

The problem with perfectionism is that it is both an extreme standard and a constantly changing one.  In the first place, no human being will create perfect artwork or writing.  We are imperfect creatures with imperfect ability, and perfection simply cannot come from imperfection.

In the second, place, your standard for perfect will always change, and the market standard for perfect (or simply for good artwork) will always change.  Say that you’ve gotten your piece of writing as nearly perfect as you can make it.  Finally, it’s ready for the world!  Then you take a quick look at it again.  You are going to see something you want to change.  And if you make that change and then look at the work again later, you’ll see something else that could be improved.  (Cue an indefinitely delayed publishing date!)

Even if this specific scenario isn’t a problem, you will grow and change and mature as a writer or artist.  And your standards for your work will constantly improve—meaning that your old stuff just won’t match that mark.  Remember, it’s not a matter of throwing away your standards.  Just of accepting that “perfect” is unrealistic because those standards will change as you grow and learn.  In fact, that change is a good thing—it means you’re  improving your craft and learning more about it.

So, recognize what is good about your current artwork.   Also recognize what is still good about that old art or writing that you wish you’d never shown to anyone.  Acknowledge that it was good for your skill level back then.  Now keep improving your artwork.

Not only will your personal standards for your artwork change, the market changes.  Constantly.  Grab a Dickens novel off the shelf and read a page.  (And if you don’t have a Dickens volume, get one.  A Christmas Carol is a good place to start.  :-))  Then read a page of Tolkien’s work, a page of Stephen Lawhead’s, and finally, a page of whatever YA book you happen to have on the shelf.  There will be marked differences between all four volumes.  Once upon a time, writers used run-on sentences, lots of narration, and multiple qualifier words.  Nowadays, writers can’t get away with that—at least, not if they want to be traditionally published (generally speaking).  Point being, pursuing perfection in hopes of being published is futile.  By the time you finish 10 years of revising and polishing, the market standard for good writing will have changed, and chances are, your novel will be dated.

Again, it’s not a matter of throwing away high standards for work.  Just of accepting that some of those high standards are unrealistic because the market changes, and because you will grow and improve in your craft.  Embracing growth is better than wrestling a piece of artwork into “perfection” anyway.  And guess what?  The more you learn and improve–the closer your work will be to your high standards!

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Writing Tips for Perfectionists – Of Artistic Vision

I think it’s obvious by now that I am a meticulous planner/outliner and a perfectionist. I’m forever trying to get the artwork on the page to match that perfect vision in my head. Just imagine the nights of anguish when time after time, that didn’t happen.

But I’ve learned to fight (and occasionally conquer) my perfectionism. It’s not a matter of lowering standards–merely of approaching them from a different direction. Because here’s the thing: we perfectionists have incredible artists’ visions. We have drive and discipline (when we’re not procrastinating out of fear, that is). We have the willpower to make those visions a reality. And that’s a good thing.

What’s not a good thing is poring over the work so long that it never sees the light of day.  Or driving yourself into the ground. Refusing to finish in pursuit of that elusive perfect standard. The whole idea of making good art is to enjoy it, right? Creating something for you and others to admire. But that cannot happen if you refuse to let it go.

So here’s the deal: recognize that your vision for your work is good. That your high standards for your art is wonderful–because, let’s face it, a lot of mediocre work gets put out there. (Fantastic Four remake. That is all.)  So congratulate yourself for having high standards and the willingness to pursue them.

But then assess what is most important about your artistic vision.  In the case of a writer–is the goal to write beautiful prose, or inspire, encourage, make readers think?  A watercolor artist–is the goal to have every detail perfect, or to capture the emotions of the viewer?

That’s not to say details should fall by the wayside, but you should assess what your ultimate goal is for the artwork, and what you can realistically do.  And then pursue that rather than focus on making every aspect perfect.  The good news is, the more you work, the better you’ll get!