Saturday, July 14, 2012

Writers, Take Heart!

The thing about being a novelist--or anyone who tells stories with the written word--is that the medium offers you a million ways to fail. Someone who excels at plot may be weak at characterization, while a writer who has mastered both may still fall short on scene setting. An author who is apt at mood creation might have trouble convincing readers to suspend their disbelief. And so on. There are a million different ingredients that go into the storytelling process, and very few people are experts at all of them. In fact, I'm not sure anyone is.

Does this sound daunting? It shouldn't. To me, it's a source of tremendous relief. The fact that you are certain not to write a perfect story (does such a thing even exist?) frees you from the obligation to try. Which isn't to say you shouldn't try to write a good one, or even a great one--flagrant disregard for your readers is disrespectful and insulting to them. But it means you get to make mistakes and do things imperfectly--everyone will. Work as hard as you can to make your story the best you can, but if it's strong in nine ways, don't spend too much time panicking about the tenth.

Remember that most readers will not be going over your work with a fine-toothed comb or a score sheet, giving you marks on each aspect. They're in it for the experience as a whole--for the forest, not the trees. If you have an engaging plot and make your readers feel what the characters do, those readers probably won't care if one or two of those characters are one dimensional. And remember that you won't always be consistent between stories, either--not every set of characters will be as great as the ones in that one novel, not every plot will be as gripping as the one you came up with for that short story.

In short: don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Getting nine out of ten parts of your work right is damn hard as it is--don't drive yourself crazy if you don't get the tenth. Trust your readers to stay with you for what you did right--because usually, they will.

No comments:

Post a Comment