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Perfection in Writing. Does it exist?

perfection

We all have our favorite writers. We read their work and gloss over the odd clunky sentence or weird use of the English language. When the story or style engages us, readers tend to be very forgiving.

Listening to the recent episode of the Horror Writers Podcast, Stephen King’s pet sematary was discussed and one thing that struck me was how the book wasn’t perfectly written. I agreed wholly with this and felt are better books by King out there but Pet Sematary is a fantastic book regardless of it’s short comings. King is an idol of mine and others but for all his unique and vast talent he’s still human. He’s fallible. He’s not perfect. Reflecting on other books by King and other authors I love to read like Straub, Koontz or Barker, I can recall times when I’ve been underwhelmed by them but for some reason I seem to forget these passing moments.

I’m certainly not saying that I’ll suddenly become a critic and critique every price of prose to within and inch of it’s life but I do want to think of these authors and their works in a more humble light. I want to see the mistakes, learn from them or try to understand how they fit in the grander scheme of the work. Maybe they were meant to be there or maybe they add an element I haven’t managed to comprehend. Either way I want to see the work as fallible.

So as a writer should the aim be perfection of prose or getting a damn good story down in words?

Do you consider any writing to be a work of perfection or close to it?

 

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  1. #1 by kinginascendent on December 10, 2014 - 7:41 pm

    I feel as Philip Roth did. You should do the best with what you have at the time. I’ve written work that sucked but I’ve been determined to get better. So long as you can work then you just keep going. Perfection is like security, it doesn’t exist in nature. You’ll improve and develop but if you are conscious then you will use the insecurity to your advantage.

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    • #2 by David J Delaney on December 10, 2014 - 8:18 pm

      True and doing the best with the tools you have at the time is key. Thanks.

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      • #3 by kinginascendent on December 10, 2014 - 8:24 pm

        No thank you for sharing your ideas and thoughts.

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  2. #4 by Charles Yallowitz on December 10, 2014 - 10:49 pm

    I’d go with damn good story because no matter how ‘perfect’ your writing is, somebody will have a problem with it. A character is annoying, an action is ‘stupid’, wrong tense, etc. Honestly, I’m always confused when I meet authors who keep saying their going for true perfection and will go back to the drawing board whenever somebody has a criticism of their work. They’re kind of stuck in that loop until they realize that it’s best to go for when you’re happy with the end result.

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  3. #5 by Kat on December 11, 2014 - 9:58 am

    I vote for the damn good story. You can write perfectly and bore people to death but if you hook them with a great story, they will want to keep reading.

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  4. #7 by suecoletta on December 12, 2014 - 2:13 am

    Anything by Karin Slaughter. She’s amazing! And what a great name for a crime writer.

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    • #8 by David J Delaney on December 12, 2014 - 7:48 pm

      Yeah, you couldn’t get make it more applicable to someone who kills people in pose (o:

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  5. #9 by Kim MacDonald on December 14, 2014 - 8:08 am

    Impossible. I can edit forever.

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  6. #10 by tmorsecode on December 16, 2014 - 3:03 am

    There are books I feel to be “perfect” in the finished product, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the writing is perfect. I think a book can be perfect for that author at that time, but there will always be things to fix and tweak. There simply must come a time where you call it good enough.

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