Wednesday, May 6, 2009

WIP Wednesday aka Perfectionist Hell

For a period of about four weeks, spanning January and February, I wrote almost nothing. My characters pestered me to move forward, but I was afraid to write the ending, afraid it would be awful. So, I procrastinated. I edited and edited and edited what I had already written. I spent a lot of time researching query letters and everything involved in getting published--a very daunting process. And I spent a lot of time learning how to improve my writing.

One of the things I read over and over was rewriting is necessary. Not reworking and making what I already have better, but actually scrapping the old stuff and starting anew. On the same book! Pure insanity. That’s what I used to think. Since then, I have scrapped and rewritten small sections, but nothing too major. Until now.

Remember I said I spent a lot of time learning how to improve my writing? It was just two paragraphs back. You really should remember. Well, I think my writing did improve. I think it improved a lot. It’s still far from perfect, but so much better than eight months ago. Problem is, the stuff I wrote in the beginning? Total crap. I’ve been over it a gazillion times making minor edits and changes, trying to make it better, but I’ve never been totally happy with it. It wasn’t until I got a super awesome critique a few days ago, from the amazing Tere, that I realized just how awful it is. My sincerest apologies to all my beta readers who were subjected to it.

I still can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’ve decided to rewrite at least the first four chapters. So, how does one just delete 12,000 words and start over? I don’t know. Maybe I’m crazy. I’m feeling a little like that today. And I won’t really be deleting it, just putting it in a computer file, to sit untouched, never to be looked at again. For some reason, I can’t delete anything.

So, what I thought was my almost complete, almost ready to be seriously queried work in progress, is now my incomplete work in progress. Again. And now there’s a new story brewing, thanks to the short story challenge the other day.

I have made some progress this week. The first chapter rewrite is done. Though I didn’t truly rewrite the whole first chapter, just most of it. That one has been stripped to the bare bones six times since I started this project, so it’s less crap than the rest.

Does anyone else live in this perfectionist hell? I think I might lose my mind soon--if it’s not gone already.


  1. I don't know if you could call what I exist in "perfectionist hell". I can tell you though, that I had to recently go back and completely re-write my opening chapter. I also had to change my whole perspective on my WIP, because I had been missing a very obvious element to the story. So while it is difficult, things like this are sometimes very necessary. There's nothing wrong with being a perfectionist, as long as you don't get caught up in editing for the sake of editing. Trust in your heart, trust that you've told the story well enough, and then move on.

  2. You are so brave, Abby! I'm totally proud of you that you are taking this awesome/exciting/terrifying risk to make your novel even stronger :).

    And you're right--NEVER delete anything! Keep it for later. You never know what kind of diamonds are hiding in the rough.

    Keep at it! You rock!

  3. Fellow perfectionist reporting. ;-) I'm trying to kill that perfectionist bug, but it isn't easy. I'm glad you found a way that works for you, and that you have the courage to do it!

  4. Eric - I've done the opening chapter rewrite several times too. Twice where it affected the whole storyline. I guess that's what I get for not using an outline. Huge pain, but it made it so much better, so it was totally worth it.

    Becca - Brave? You're too kind. The word my husband used was exasperating :D. He's actually very supportive. I think he's just getting tired of reading the same story over and over, even if the writing is better.

    Windsong - Is there a way to kill it? I've been trying my whole life. I think my bug's immortal.