By Lindsay Harrel
As someone who suffers from perfectionism, I want everything I do to be the picture of…well, perfection.
That includes the books I write. But the reality is – and I’m sure all of you know this – writing books is just plain hard. It takes time to learn the best ways to develop a character, to take our reader on a journey she didn’t expect, to write prose that will make someone sigh.
Instead of beating our heads against our desks at our inability to create a perfect product every reader will love – an impossibility, by the way – we may need to change our goal.
I’m not saying we get lazy. In fact, just the opposite. Do we want every book to be as good as it can be? Yes, of course. But that level of quality will inevitably change as we grow as authors. That means my best today will not be the same as my best two years from now. At least, I hope not.
That, then, becomes my goal – to get better with every book.
But that’s easier said than done. I considered how to practically go about doing this, and here are three steps I can offer:
• Decide what “better” means to you. Does it mean the storyline is more complex? The characters better developed? The writing itself more poetic, making better use of symbolism? The plot more riveting? Consider what “better” is and create a plan for getting there.
• Choose one aspect of writing to focus on. Then, do some intense study of craft in that area before writing the next book. Character development, plot twists, storyworld, even grammar – these are all areas you can work on improving. By focusing on one specific area for each book, it’s easier to see visible progress toward becoming a better writer. Plus, you won’t become overwhelmed so easily as if you just state that you want “to get better at writing.”
• Focus on what you can control. When thinking up your definition of “better,” don’t say you want more book sales or a contract for more money. Instead, think about those elements of story and craft you can actually change. If you make your goal something you don’t control, you will drive yourself crazy with potentially unfulfilled expectations. This makes for a very dissatisfying career – and life.
Remember – even if you aren’t a perfectionist – as believers, we are to try our best and not become complacent in our work. As the Bible says in Colossians 3:23a, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” Let’s go forward then, friends, and get better at our craft in order to reach more souls and be more effective for the Lord.
Lindsay Harrel has a bachelor’s in journalism and a master’s in English. Represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Management, Lindsay was a 2013 ACFW Genesis Finalist and a 2014 Genesis Semi-Finalist (Contemporary Category). She works in marketing as a copywriter and has worked in the past as a business writer and curriculum editor. Lindsay lives in Arizona with her husband and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. Connect with her on her blog or via Facebook or Twitter (@LindsayHarrel).