Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tip O'Day #334 - The Drive for Perfection

Guest blogger Kenneth Weene asks, “Do I really want to edit it again?”

I’m sure it will be done soon. I mean it has already taken a year and a half. The book is titled The Stylite. It is in many ways my best work. The language is poetic. The characters reach the heart. The plot is unexpected. The imagery and use of metaphor are excellent. At least that’s what Jake, my editor, tells me. He absolutely loves the book. So do I.

There is no question that my writing is good. Reviewers tell me that it is. My writing group compliments it. Word is getting out and people are buying.

Even better, my work keeps improving. I take great pleasure in that improvement. As powerful as Memoirs From the Asylum may be, I must admit that Tales From the Dew Drop Inne is a better-crafted book. The shorter pieces I have written since I finished Tales are even better. And The Stylite may even be as good as Jake says. I want it to be.

Therein lies the problem—the drive for excellence, the hope for perfection. I keep worrying at this manuscript like a dog who can’t give up a bone. I just keep gnawing. This must be the fourth time through since I came home last October. I had taken three weeks at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow to finish the book. It had been a delightful time, writing to my heart’s content. And Eureka Springs, Arkansas, is a lovely town, a place that encourages artistic effort. And, yes, I had come home manuscript in hand.

Since then, I have read that manuscript three times, read parts of it with others, read it with Jake and listened to his suggestions. Over and again I’ve worked each sentence, each word. Hopefully this, the fourth time, is the last challenge. I want to make the science fiction sections of the book work with the evocative literary fiction, which is the novel proper. I want the two to fit snugly together. I have to make sure that the sci-fi novel, which is excerpted within the larger story, works for the reader while being written in a clearly different narrative voice. I demand of myself a seamless whole.

This last task is underway; it will soon be done.

But then what? Will I start over? Do I really want to edit it again? When is enough? That is a question that good writers must ask of themselves. If Jake hadn’t told me how good this book is, if I hadn’t found myself reading and rereading portions just reveling in the words, I probably would have made an end already. But maybe I’ll take another run through. Just a quick one, just a little tweaking.


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