The Insecure Writer's Support Group - May Edition

The Insecure Writer's Support Group in a once-monthly blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. The idea is to provide authors with an avenue to share their doubts and concerns, and to offer one another encouragement and guidance. Every first Wednesday of the month we gather to connect with one another and share our insecurities.

Since this is my first time joining taking part, I thought I'd start with my single biggest problem/issue/concern . . . being a perfectionist. I wish I could just sit down and write, just start banging away at the keyboard and letting the words flow. Really, I envy people who can just let their mind ramble away and trust in themselves to polish things later. I just can't do it.

That first line? It has to be the single greatest first line in history. That first paragraph?  It has to be absolutely perfect. That first chapter? It has to be so polished that it metaphorically gleams. After all, there's no point in continuing with the rest of the story if the opening isn't perfect, right?

Bullshit. If I keep telling myself that, some day I may just believe it.

I know I'll end up rewriting that chapter in the first major revision, possibly even scrapping it in the second, and maybe restoring a version of it in the third. You never know exactly how the book should begin until you know exactly how it will end - and when a book is going really well, sometimes that's a total surprise. There's no point in obsessing over the opening details, especially if that means you never get to the end. Yeah, there's probably a bit of procrastination involved there as well, and maybe some confidence issues as well, but it all comes down to just letting the words flow, to establishing foundation, and then trusting in yourself to manage all the cosmetic details later.

How about you? How do you get beyond that first line, first paragraph, first page, or first chapter?


  1. Bob - you are a writer after my own heart. I too write, rewrite and then revise it all again when I type it up. I do not know how the book will end - so the beginning frequently gets tweaked along the way.

    You are correct - we should not spend hours stuck on that first sentence - but should get on with it. Perhaps a cup of tea first...?

    Great post and glad to meet you on Insecure Writers' Blog. Will add you to my blog follows.


  2. Bob - I learned to just not spend to much time on the first sentence, paragraph or chapter right off the back because like you said, you might scrap the whole thing down the road. Don't fall in love with anything you write until after it's published. haha

  3. Freewriting - just taking an idea and typing as fast as I can - it ensures honest, sometimes crummy writing, but it gets me past the first line.

  4. Hello :) Stopping over from the support group.
    I am not a perfectionist until I get it all out. First I have to just get the scene and the ideas out, then I go back later, read through, and correct the errors. Fix sentences that aren't well phrased, etc. Have you ever tried spinning? This is a technique where you take a piece of paper and write a scene in short phrases. You go down the paper, writing what you picture. Single words or short phrases. Lots of action and descriptor words. The only rules: No complete sentences. NO PUNCTUATION.
    The theory here is that it taps into the less critical part of your brain, turning off your editor and tapping into the pure creative part. You can go back later and type up the scene with punctuation and those sentence...things :) But it's a good way to prime the pump and to let go a little. I also use this when I have a scene burning a hole in my brain, but don't have time to sit down and write it. It gets the raw emotion down and I can come back and connect with that later. Hope this helps!

  5. Wish I could just get a story out of me and onto the paper! I think perfection stems from other areas of your life as well, so just start with one thing that you know doesn't have to be perfect, let the idea of perfection go and maybe it will cross over into your writing life? Good luck!
    -MJ here from the support group

  6. Hey Bob! I'm a new follower via the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Welcome to the party!

    I'm a perfectionist, too, and I want my words to be just right from the moment I put them to "paper." But I would get nowhere that way, so I suck it up and keep in mind that I have plenty of time to make it perfect later. the hardest part is just getting it down and done. Revisions are where the story comes alive.

  7. Not a perfectionist though more of an 'editing as I write' syndrome afflicted which can b e a different kind of writing hell hole.
    I am a panster and the first line just pops up and stays put unless it really needs to be tweaked.

  8. I'm visiting from the Insecure Writer's Support Group.
    The most difficult part of the process is getting the basic story written... add to that the fact that I'm a plotter, with an inner critic who rears his ugly head at every corner and questions every little dot, comma and dash-
    I know how you feel!

  9. As a fellow perfectionist, I can attest that it is difficult! I'm not a faster writer anyway - add the need for the words and sentences to be correct and I write even slower.
    I wrote my second book during NaNo 2010 and that was probably the best thing I could've done. Forced me to move faster!

  10. I have perfectionist tendencies, too--my crit partners can probably tell you better.

    I give myself permission to make a mess just to get started. I can only get to perfection by writing. Even then, I don't always feel I got it yet. But I chip away at what I call clay on a page. Shaping & shaping. Eventually it looks like an ashtray or something.

    Great meeting you, Bob. Glad you joined us.

  11. I used to be the exact same way. Never happy with what I wrote. One thing that helped me was NaNoWriMo. I didn't have time to obsess over what I'd just written, I had to keep going to reach my daily wordcount and get to 50,000 by the end of the month. I wasn't able to think about how good what I had written was. It was actually really refreshing. :)

  12. It was hard for me to, early on. Then I realized that my ideal of what perfection was kept changing.

    I eventually went to the other extreme and now I have a hard time finishing things. I always think I'll just go back and fix it later, make it all pretty and eloquent. Sigh. If it isn't one thing its another.

  13. I just tell myself the first draft is going to be crap, I can fix it later, and keep on going! I think it's useful just to write that draft out without stopping, otherwise I would get bogged down and never be finished!


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