November Writing Challenge Day 5: Perfection Paralysis

Nov 5 graphicDo you find yourself writing, writing, writing; always adding another chapter, thinking of a new small piece of information that just must go into your book, changing a sentence only to change it back again … and again … and …? Well you get the picture. At some point it is time to say, “Enough, already!” and just stop writing. Perfection paralysis is one of the biggest obstacles that keeps people from finishing their books.

“I don’ have perfection paralysis,” one budding author who was over a month past her deadline told me. “I just want to write the best book possible. Surely you understand and agree with that.” One of the first symptoms of perfection paralysis, it seems, is the inability to recognize it in yourself.

Wanting to write the best book possible is a really excellent goal. There are way too many poorly done books in the world, no need to add one more. But there is a big difference between accuracy and perfectionism. Accuracy means that you double check your facts, make sure that your references are correct, watch your grammar, and give your book to a professional editor for a really good going over. Then, when all the changes have been made and the book is formatted, have it proofed by a professional proofreader before you go to print. Perfectionism, on the other hand, is agonizing over each sentence, each word, each comma in the book. It is changing a sentence to improve the sound, then changing it one more time, and then another time, until you realize that you are back at your original sentence.

When you have gone over your book a reasonable number of times (I think four or five, not ten or twenty is reasonable), had it looked at by a professional editor and perhaps a colleague in your field, it is time to say, “Enough, already! This book is as perfect as I can make it.”

No matter how hard you try, there will be an error somewhere in your book. There will be a dropped letter, a misplaced comma, a quotation mark that is turned around. Something. And your very best BFF will delight in pointing it out to you. Or, she (and it is usually a she) will delight in finding an “error” even if it isn’t really an error, but a matter of style. “You should never start a sentence with the word ‘and’,” someone will tell you, in a hushed voice, as if you had just farted in public.

Don’t let your fear of not being perfect stop you from FINISHING YOUR BOOK!

Tomorrow we will talk about criticism – and how not to let it stop you from completing your book writing challenge. Let us know how you are doing with your November Writers’ Challenge. Send an email to if you would like to be added to our email list for daily tips on writing your book. Tweet us @Publisher_KHM, check out the ODP Facebook page and take a look at Pinterest.

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