Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Are You Seeking Excellence or Perfection? By Marie Wells Coutu

How long should it take to revise a novel? 

That’s a loaded question, of course, since very writer is different, every story is different, and every season of life is different. 

Given the weirdness of 2020 you may have had much more time to work on your writing this year—or much less. A more important question is, “How do you know when you’re done revising? When is the manuscript ‘finished’?” 

A writing friend of mine was recently told by her mentor that she’d worked on the first three chapters long enough, and she needed to move on to chapter four. We all, especially early in our careers, have a tendency to rewrite the beginning of our novels many times—perhaps to ready them for contests, for proposals, for submission to agents and publishers. Then when we get feedback from these sources, we make more changes, until it becomes a round robin. 

So how good is “good enough”? 

Scripture tells us, “Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly as though you are working for your real master and not merely for humans” (Colossians 3:23, GW). 

We take this verse literally and strive to make our story “perfect.” We can and should strive for excellence, but is it realistic to expect to attain perfection? 

The first is defined as “possessing outstanding quality or superior merit.” To be perfect, on the other hand, means “flawless or faultless; excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement.” 

There comes a point at which we must acknowledge our work will never be perfect. 

I heard once that Amish women intentionally include a faulty block in every quilt as an acknowledgment that only God is perfect. Yet one researcher labeled this a myth, pointing out that no one could produce a quilt with no errors or uneven stitches. To believe otherwise and to make a mistake intentionally would be, in fact, false pride. 

Believing we, as writers, must (or can) get every word and every aspect of our story perfect stems from either false pride or fear of ultimate rejection. The longer we work on a story, trying to “perfect” it, the longer we postpone that which we believe to be inevitable—that someone important won’t like it. But we also postpone putting our work into the world, and perhaps impacting someone with our story. 

We are not called to be perfectionists. We are called to write

Always strive to improve, but don’t expect to attain perfection. At least, not this side of heaven. 

Write your story, edit and revise it to the best of your ability. Seek excellence, but be practical about it. Then release it into the world and begin the next story. 

Only God knows how your stories will change the world.

Seek excellence in your writing, but be practical. Then release it and begin the next story. Only God knows how your stories will change the world. @MWCoutu @MaryAFelkins #SeriouslyWrite

Marie Wells Coutu finds beauty in surprising places, like old houses, gnarly trees, and forgotten treasures. When she’s not writing about finding restoration and healing through God-designed journeys, she enjoys taking broken things and making them useful. She is currently working on historical romance novels set in the 1930s. One manuscript won the 2019 Touched by Love Contest and the 2019 Sheila Contest, and a second novel also won in the Sheila Contest. Her published novels are women’s contemporary fiction. Her debut novel, For Such a Moment, won the Books of Hope Contest. The Secret Heart, her newest release, and Thirsting for More, the second book in the series, were finalists in several contests. 

You can find more about Marie and her novels on her Facebook author page and her website, MarieWellsCoutu.com.
Follow her on Twitter @mwcoutu or on Amazon.