Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Mirror

by Hannah

Unlikely there is anyone out there who ever wrote a perfect first draft. And how many writers revise and revise and revise until the piece is a shell of what it should be, as the path through the threads and plotlines and the point of the whole thing is lost?

Indeed, someone noted the other evening that there is no such thing as the perfect novel. At the least, an extremely rare thing. Even if I were to achieve my idea of perfection as revisions to my current project hit the home stretch, I suspect there would always be elements tempting me to tinker. In turn, my writers' group will have its opinions, as will potential agents, then publishers, the public.

So where is this headed? Somewhere in between, and I offer up the suggestion that this is not a bad thing.

Somewhere in the middle -- between first draft and overwrite -- does not mean compromise, or a lack of principle or daring or beauty. Somewhere in the middle is a spot where the story holds up a mirror to reflect a truth the author wishes to explore and paint in such a way that the rest of the world might see it anew. At that one particular angle, the author and a large number of readers do, indeed, see into that story. It may not be perfect; there might be a very slightly different angle at which even more readers could be drawn in, but to aim for that could, perhaps be overkill.

After all, as we develop our work, if we hold the mirror one way, only the author is reflected. Yet to over-revise means the author cannot see herself at all. The mirror is a tricky tool, awkward in our fingers as we try to hold it, shift it, get just the right perspective.

Maybe the goal is not perfection. Maybe the goal is to get the angle of the mirror just so, so that we can still see ourselves fully, and so a respectable number of readers see not just author effort, but a piece of themselves as well. That's not so bad, is it?

7 comments:

The Writers' Group said...

Hannah, this is absolutely profound. Thanks for giving me a fresh perspective.

Amy

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Oh, Hannah, I second Amy--this is such a wonderful view of what we try to do. Mirrors can be tricky, but when the angle is just right the reflection can be beautifully true.

Now I'm off to try to get the angle right. Thank you for this!

kristen said...

Yes, thank you. It's always a matter of perspective, and this one gives me something interesting to think about as I go about my day...

The Writers' Group said...

Thank you! There's always that moment before hitting "publish," when you think, am I being clear? At our meeting Monday night there were different bits of discussion that started to gel into this, and I'm glad it seems to have come out coherently!

Hannah

Lisa said...

What a great analogy. This makes perfect sense to me. I have been hovering over the first 25 pages of my first draft; have printed and edited 3 or 4 times over the last couple of weeks and each time, I make small tweaks that I think improve it, but a voice in my head questions whether it's an improvement or if I'm painting myself or possibly some of the initial creativity out? I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle. We shall see...

The Writers' Group said...

Hannah,

You really captured our "there is no perfect" discussion beautifully. Thanks for sharing it here.

Lynne

Larramie said...

Good writing is seen through the eyes of the reader and, if s/he can see a familiar reflection, so much the better.