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Lessons from MANY GENRES, ONE CRAFT: The Danger of Perfectionism with Anne Harris (@jessicafreely)

Friday, March 21, 2014

In Many Genres, One Craft, award-winning author Michael A. Arnzen and Heidi Ruby Miller gather the voices of today’s top genre writers and writing instructors alongside their published students. It fosters the writing process in a way that focuses almost exclusively on writing the novel. Using a compilation of instructional articles penned by well-known authors affiliated with Seton Hill University’s acclaimed MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction, the book emphasizes how to write genre novels and commercially appealing fiction. The articles are modeled after actual “learning modules” that have successfully taught students in the program how to reach a wider audience for over a decade.

Excerpt from “Perfect Disaster: Don’t Let Perfectionism Squash Your Creativity” by Anne Harris

Many Genres-One Craft

Perfectionism destroys productivity, and what’s worse, it robs you of the joy of creating. After all, no one and nothing is perfect. Holding your work to that standard will only set you up for failure. Writing used to be an agonizing process for me. I dreaded it. I avoided it for days and weeks and when I finally did sit down and write, I’d type that first sentence, and then I’d rework it until it was just the way I wanted it. I would not move on to the second sentence until the first sentence was perfect and the same for paragraphs and chapters. Needless to say, when I got midway through the book and needed to change something I’d written at the beginning, it was tantamount to amputating a body part. The whole process was slow, difficult work, rife with self-criticism and second-guessing. It wasn’t much fun. . . .

Writers do not build careers on perfection. They build careers on consistency: being able to regularly produce stories that entertain their fans. That’s the meat and potatoes of a popular fiction writer. From a commercial standpoint, it’s better to have five good books on the shelves than one perfect one.

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Work Cited:

Harris, Anne. “Perfect Disaster: Don’t Let Perfectionism Squash Your Creativity.” Many Genres, One Craft. Eds. Michael A. Arnzen and Heidi Ruby Miller. Terra Alta, WV: Headline Books, Inc., 2011. 59–60. Print.

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