Elizabeth Vaughan is the USA Today bestselling author of books like Warprize, Daggerstar, and her latest, Warsong. She’s also a frequent contributor to anthologies, such as Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books. Most recently, her story “Echoes of Stone” appeared in Hath No Fury, a book celebrating the power of women as warriors of all kinds. Here, she talks about how she is not a good writer, and how that helps her to be a better one.
So I am going to share a secret with you. Just between us.
[whispers] I am not a very good writer.
[waits for the gasps of horror]
No, it’s true. I am not a very good writer. My grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word usage would make an English professor reach for a new box of red pens and a bottle of whiskey. I consistently use two spaces at the end of a sentence, and yes, I still hit “tab” and oh dear Lord, let’s not talk about em-dashes, honey. And word repetition? Sweet Jesus, have mercy. Then/than still haunts my nightmares. Lay/lie/laid? Shoot me now.
And I confess to being a comma abuser. Honestly, I should be incarcerated for my comma crimes.
But what I have discovered is that I am good story-teller. I love creating characters, weaving stories, playing with the reader’s emotions, chortling evilly to myself as I… but I digress.
But for many, many years, I thought I had to be perfect in order to be published. Perfect in every way. And it was never perfect, never as good as I had envisioned or thought it should be.
Here’s the thing—and I am quoting Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, who is paraphrasing Voltaire: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Only, I am going to add to it. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good or the done.”
See, all the things that make a good writer? All that technical stuff? Those are all second, third, fourth draft issues. All things that can be fixed. Yes, it would be awesome and amazing if my stories emerged from my forehead fully formed like the Goddess Athena, perfect in every way. But I am a human being. I make mistakes.
I suffered from perfectionism for the longest time. I thought it had to be as perfect as possible every time, and it stopped me dead in my tracks. How can you write or even finish a book if you think it has to be perfect from the beginning?
To be honest, even after the fourth draft, editing, and copy-editing, there are still mistakes in manuscripts. Because we are flawed and imperfect human beings. I have gotten better. Well, marginally better. That comma thing, tho. [shakes my head in cold, hard despair]
I have learned not to let my imperfections get in the way of my joy. I have learned to just write. I give myself permission to make mistakes. To screw up. I get the words down on the page. Create worlds, create characters, and problems, and heartache and sorrow and joy until I reach “The End.”
Then I go back and fix it.
Because otherwise, I wouldn’t create at all.
About Hath No Fury:
Mother. Warrior. Caregiver. Wife. Lover. Survivor. Trickster. Heroine. Leader.
This anthology features 21 stories and six essays about women who defy genre stereotypes. Here, it’s not the hero who acts while the heroine waits to be rescued; Hath No Fury’s women are champions, not damsels in distress. Whether they are strong, bold warriors, the silent but powerful type, or the timid who muster their courage to face down terrible evil, the women of Hath No Fury will make indelible marks upon readers and leave them breathless for more.
Includes stories by Seanan McGuire, Philippa Ballantine, Carol Berg, Delilah S. Dawson, Nisi Shawl, and more!