It’s got to be perfect?


‘The trouble with you is you’re a perfectionist,’ said my mother. ‘I’m not,’ I replied. ‘I’m not good enough.’

new shoots

new shoots

Virtually all of my writing hours so far this year have been spent redrafting and editing. First there was the second edition of my novel, “Strong as Death”, which took a conservative six weeks longer to complete than I had planned. Then there was a quick redraft-reprieve whilst I planned my next project (I always like to leave ideas alone for a while. Once I stop poking and prodding them, it’s astonishing the new shoots that sprout whilst my attentions are otherwise engaged.) Then came the current marathon redraft of my next novel, “Selkie”.

Last autumn, I spent some time discussing my work with a very experienced editor who has published many novels. Although this had costs, both financial and time-wise, I think my money and hours were well spent. The major change I took from those consultations, and which I then decided to implement, was to write my YA crossover novels from one character’s perspective rather than from multiple points of view. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that multiple view points are somehow inferior. Far from. I am currently enjoying Kate Mosse’s “Citadel”, in which she uses differing character perspectives, as well as slipping between centuries, to unfold her tale. Even within her third person voices, she also handles omniscience with skill. But, apart from not being as experienced as authors such as Kate Mosse, I decided that my novels warranted a different approach.

One at a time, please!

One at a time, please!

Both the second edition of “Strong as Death” and my up-coming novel, “Selkie”, are now written from first person perspectives, Minnie Shilling in the former and Sam Harris in the latter. This technique has its challenges, and at times I find myself grappling with how to unfold part of the story, or reveal things without just interjecting an authorly aside or some sort of contrived plot convolution. However, the pay off works (I hope), as readers go on exactly the same voyage of discovery at exactly the same pace as the protagonist, adding tension, suspense. (Unless, like me, you are blighted by a read-the-last-page-first compulsion, something from which, I am happy to report, I am in recovery).

So, where does my mother’s observation come into all this? I have been known to spend upwards of an hour revising just two or three sentences to get it ‘just right’. I want sentences that slip almost unnoticed past a reader’s eyes whilst at the same time touching their hearts. The challenge: how to produce a beautifully written whole without over-written individual parts. So, ever mindful that my mother was so often (annoyingly) right, it’s time to get a move on, after all there are plots to plan, characters to fathom, worlds to create. And I mustn’t forget to peek at those shoots that have been sprouting all by themselves whilst I’ve been poking and prodding my words.

Look out for news of “Selkie” coming out at the end of May


15 thoughts on “It’s got to be perfect?

  1. What’s that old saying? “Listen to your mother!” Or something like that? Perfectionist or not, at least you get writings out and published. Mine sit gathering cyber cobwebs because so many sentences fail to come together the way I would like.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perhaps all those line that are gathering cobwebs are really just sending out shoots? One of these days, you’ll start to gather them together and there they’ll be, all your cobwebs woven together into something lovely.

      And you’re right, ‘Mother knows best.’ I tell my two that all the time 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have rewritten BLOOD TOY from the bones up three times. I know the perfection which you seek. It doesn’t exist but if we don’t strive for it, we will never get close:)


  3. It is such an individual form of art, isn’t it?
    I write as it comes and don’t have time for perfection. It might also not exist. It could well be that many a perfect book has been written that are unreadable.
    So, enjoy the words is my motto. I do enjoy yours Julia.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a terrible tendency to overwrite things, and get so lost in details that I lose track of the overall impact of what I’m doing. Have been involved in planning a new project for months now, but still haven’t started actually writing it! I wish I could just write freely and be happy with whatever comes out!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ” I have been known to spend upwards of an hour revising just two or three sentences to get it ‘just right’. I want sentences that slip almost unnoticed past a reader’s eyes whilst at the same time touching their hearts. The challenge: how to produce a beautifully written whole without over-written individual parts.”

    This is me.

    And what’s frustrating me about my novel is that I’m unable to get the structure right so I can go do my favorite part, polish the language till it looks natural, easygoing, as if no time was spent on it. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know that feeling well. When it comes to structure, for me the best thing was the input of a really good editor. She was able to pinpoint a couple of issues which proved to be ‘lightbulb’ moments that motivated me to unravel and re-weave strands. As for the language, I don’t think I’ll ever feel satisfied.

      Thinking of you as you grapple with your novel. I look forward to it slipping past my eyes and touching my heart – I have faith that it will.


  6. Hello Julia. I aplogise for my slipshod version of ‘following’ other blogs but unlike others I can’t say something glib like, ‘you know … life just takes over,’ and why can’t I use such an excuse? It’s pretty simple really, writing takes over my life, pretty much to the exclusion of all else, except reading, eating and sleeping (but dreaming about my plots).
    I love this post and I’m glad I’ve made a point of dropping by today. Like you, I can spend an age trying to make narrative and dialogue work well together. It is worth it though as you’ve proved.
    Now, is it just me or has your blogging matured a bit over the months? You’re looking good and I’m looking forward to Selkie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for dropping by, Tom – it’s always a pleasure to hear from you. I identify with the ‘writing taking over my life’ experience, but I wouldn’t have it any other way and neither, I suspect, would you.

      As far as the feel of my blog is concerned, all I can say is that it’s been a great tool for me developping my writing skills, increasing my confidence and coming across some great individuals over the past sixteen months.

      I continue yo be astonished by the pace at which you work, never letting your high standards slip and always aiming higher.


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