Robert Lowell Russell* is a writer and trophy husband (obviously). He is a SFWA member and a member of the Writeshop and Codex writers' groups. He is a former librarian, a former history grad student, a former semi-professional poker player, and is now pursuing nursing degree (say "ah!").

Rob has also just noticed how outdated and lame his website has become and will be modifying it in the near future.

Update: Check out my NEW website (still in progress) at robertlowellrussell.com (it redirects to a wordpress account, but it's nice.

His stories have appeared (or will appear) in Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, Penumbra, Digital Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction (thrice!), Stupefying Stories (fice? what's the word for five?), and a whole bunch of other places (see complete list on the right side).

*RLR finds it a bit silly to write about himself in the 3rd person.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Screw perfection: A rant against typos, fear, and other irritants.

I recently replied to a blog about typos, and I went a little off topic.  The original blog entry was written by author, Gary Wedlund, and appears at Loconeal Press's website

I have mixed thoughts about all of this, and when I reread what I wrote below, I think I go well beyond the issue of typos (but I think you were trying to make a larger point in any case, so I think I either added to it, or hopelessly muddled it up).

I agree that sticking a story or novel in a drawer (literally or figuratively) for a while can give you those “fresh” eyes when you take it out again. I think this is a good technique to polish a story before sending it out, or even fixing a flawed story with some promise. It’s also vital for a writer to have others take a look at his or her work. A good writers’ group can spot the picky stuff your brain skips over, or maybe they’ll even let you know when something you thought worked, didn’t. At my most recent writers’ group meeting I tried something a little different with the beginning of a novel I’m working on, and I got a pretty clear message that what I tried just didn’t work. I don’t always agree that the problems others spot are actually problems, but when you get several people telling you the same thing, you can be pretty sure you NEED to make some changes (it gets trickier when just one or two say something is a problem). I’ll do a rewrite of the beginning of the novel and see how it goes.

The reason I have mixed thoughts about all this, however, is I think it’s possible for a writer to become paralyzed by the pursuit of perfection. I know a handful of writers who are sitting on pieces I think are really great, but no one knows about them because instead of submitting their work for consideration, these writers keep polishing their work over and over again trying to make them “perfect,” make them “ready.” Ready for what? Months and months of waiting for what’s likely going to be another rejection anyway? Fire away, stop worrying, and write something else in the meantime.

While I think it’s true that a writer generally gets just one shot with any particular publisher for any given piece, and writers don’t want to blow their chance to reach the widest possible audience over careless mistakes that might get a piece rejected out of hand, I think there’s too much danger in trying to make any one piece “perfect” and as a result, writers keep that one piece–and worse, OTHER pieces!–out of a publisher’s hands (and they can’t say yes or no if they don’t ever get to read it).

Writers, your story or novel is never going to be perfect. Polish it, polish it again, then fire that sucker out and hope for the best. If a story is a good enough, a few flaws won’t sink it, and if it’s good but not great, maybe it won’t get published at the highest tier, but at least it gets published. In the meantime, write something else. Write something BETTER. Experiment with stuff. Maybe that NEW idea is going to be that one story that breaks you into the market you always wanted to break into (or win that award, get that contract, whatever it is you’re hoping for)

There are a few pieces of mine that have been published or will be published that I wish I’d held back on a bit longer before firing them off, but to heck with it, someone is going to read them and they’re good pieces (if not perfect). A writer is really never going to know what ONE story or novel is going to capture the interest of a reader who then goes back and reads EVERYTHING else that writer has written (and then everything else that comes later).

I’ve been writing and submitting fiction for just over a year now. Not everything I’ve written has been published at the “pro” or “semi-pro” level (some pieces have), but everything I’ve sent out has been published or accepted for publication–except for the newer pieces I have circulating right now which I’m confident will also be accepted sooner or later.

Damn the typos, full speed ahead! (you can always fix it when you reprint it)

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