Battling Perfectionism with #laboringaway


Photo by Kristin Nador

There’s a Harry Potter marathon on the Space channel this weekend. I’m not watching it. Instead, I’m doing my own marathon. I will be writing from the moment I get up on Friday until as late as I can manage on Monday night. That’s right, four solid days of writing.

This marathon is not just about butt-in-the-chair time. This is about changing my ways. Breaking bad habits. Writing more freely…and quickly.

My normal approach to a writing session involves spending the first few minutes reviewing my last few paragraphs (or last few pages). But I don’t just read over them. I tweak. I move sentences around. I read out loud to make sure the words of this rough draft sound good to my ears. And then, after this highly effective running start (note the sarcasm), lasting anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour, I begin writing new material.

My writing sessions are generally less than two hours long. Often less than that. You can imagine forward progress happens in small increments. Sometimes immeasurably small.

This is not good.

Many people have said to me, “Well, just write faster,” or “Don’t worry about being perfect in the rough draft; just write.”

Yeah, no. This is not my personality. Who would have thought perfectionism would be a character flaw?

But now I’m about to start a new novel. I’d like this one to take something less than a decade to write. Perfectionism stands in my way. But how can I break the habit?

A couple years ago, I discovered the 3-Day Novel Contest. It’s exactly as it sounds–contestants have three days to write a novel. At first I was disdainful. What kind of piece of crap novel can you write in three days?

Hey yeaaahh, what kind of crap would that be? Well, it might be crap that is done. And once done, it can be revised.

It’s worth a try.  And what better time to try it then when  starting a new novel?  I’m not doing the official contest, but I’ve set a goal of 25,000 words in four days. One hundred gloriously imperfect pages. As a secondary goal, I’m hoping to finish Part I of the novel.

And because insanity loves company, I’ve invited others to join me. Jonathan Allen is in for the duration with a goal of 50,000 words (!!!). I think he plans to replace his blood with green tea. Aniko Carmean is joining us, aiming for 15,000 words–she is losing part of the weekend to other obligations. And Daughter the First is joining us to jump-start her first full novel.

If you’re curious about our progress, you can follow us at #laboringaway on twitter. You can even join us, if you like.

About Marie Loughin

I love reading, writing, and editing speculative fiction of all sorts. My current focus is on writing contemporary fantasy, where I get to play god with characters from myth and legend. My Norse-based urban fantasy, Valknut: The Binding, is available at Kindle Books and other e-book retailers. You can find me at my blog ( and on Twitter (@mmloughin).
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12 Responses to Battling Perfectionism with #laboringaway

  1. Ready, set, go! 🙂


  2. Pingback: Welcome to Day One of the #laboringaway Marathon… - Shaggin the Muse

  3. Cheering from the sidelines. Good luck to the whole group.

  4. I won’t join but I’ll cheer you on! Check in on twitter every now and then, k?

  5. juliabarrett says:

    The perfect is the enemy of the good – Voltaire. Go for it. The best thing I did to get over my quest for perfection was to write a 5000 word short story in five days. I’m excited for you!

  6. Char says:

    Good luck! I’ll be watching the tweets and cheering you on, except for perhaps on Saturday when I’m playing in KC with my daughter. I’ll sacrifice a writing day for some quality time…

  7. Pingback: How To Write A Bad First Draft | Book Editing Expert

  8. Pingback: work in progress Wednesday – and we’re off to Nottingham! | The Many Worlds of Char….

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