If you are a writer, you have no doubt stared down a sentence or two while trying to wrangle out the perfect way to say what you want to say. And, no doubt, you have engaged in pitched battle with said sentence, at times feeling like you would loose to it.
Sadly, we authors are a fickle lot. Most of us strive for what we perceive as perfection rather than just what works. That’s not always a bad thing, except when good enough is already staring us straight in the face and we just won’t accept it. Then we spend hours, perhaps even days trying to improve on what is already good.
I recently had this experience while editing my novel, Under the Darkened Moon. In once scene, the main character, Kyel, is in pitched combat of his own and I just didn’t like this one sentence:
“Kyel ducked the wild blow, placing himself in position to answer the attack with a strike upwards.” (17 words)
So I changed it to:
“Kyel ducked the wild blow, placing himself in position to answer the attack. His strike swung upwards.” (17 words)
For some reason though, within minutes I decided I didn’t like that either. It then became:
“Ducking the wild blow, Kyel placed himself in position the attack with a return strike upwards.” (16 words)
I was happy and went to bed. The next day I rewrote the sentence again:
“Kyel ducked. The wild blow swung over his head. His response was an upward strike of his own.” (18 words)
An hour later it changed again:
“The wild blow ducked, Kyel placed himself so that he could attack with a return strike upwards.” (17 words)
The next day it changed to:
“The wild blow ducked, Kyel was in position for a return, upward attack.” (13 words)
Still not done, it changed the next day to:
“Now, Kyel was in position to make a return strike upwards, having ducked the wild blow.” (16 words)
The kicker? A week later I deleted this scene entirely from the story because it didn’t do anything that any number of other scenes already did. It was just a pointless battle that actually was stupid to occur where it did and created a plot problem with why Kyel was off fighting in this battle rather than something else he should have been doing.
So I wrestled with that sentence for absolutely nothing.
Now, looking back on it, I see that all of these sentences/descriptions were just as good as any of the others. There was no reason to have fretted over it as much as I did. All I was doing was wasting time searching for perfection. But perfection does not come about from one sentence in a 150,000 word novel.
Now, when I catch myself fiddle farting around with things like this I force myself to move on rather than go crazy trying to find that perfect wording for something that doesn’t need it.