Just like I was surprised to realize I had been journaling for ten years (now up to 12 years), I’ll be participating in my 10th National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November. It’s weird to think that I’ve written nine books with this challenge over the years, even to the point where I’ve used the experience I’ve gained in doing so to publish other books outside my self-imposed NaNoWriMo publishing cycle (like the Cinema Connections book slated for release this September).
Back when I wrote First Name Basis, I was so excited CreateSpace offered me five free proof copies of my book just for finishing the NaNoWriMo challenge. I really wanted that physical copy of the book I had just spent six weeks writing, but I also knew it needed some polishing so I’d be proud of what I had created. I asked some friends to help beta read, and I took their notes and performed a number of edits before finally clicking that “submit” button. I liked what I had created, so I also made it available on Amazon in case anyone else was interested.
A compressed schedule was bound to have some mistakes slip through.
This cycle continued for the next two books in the trilogy. Once I completed this three-year project (not knowing it would be this big when I started), I collected everything together, made another pass of edits for continuity, and added an appendix for the trilogy collection now known as The Fluxion Trilogy. I learned a lot in those three books, and I like them for what they were: an author figuring out this whole novel-writing and publishing business.
Sure, they’re not the greatest stories ever written, and I didn’t hire an editor or a cover artist since I didn’t have the money to spend on these projects. Still, they were a milestone in my journey as an author. Having realized that I could better serve my readers if I didn’t publish at such a rapid turnaround, I ended up taking a break from publishing anything new. Even so, I kept writing new stories. I just wanted to finish each saga so I could edit all the pieces as a collective whole.
These books weren’t the best, but they were a milestone.
In 2017, I decided I was going to take my writing a bit more seriously. I dusted off The Fluxion Trilogy and put it through another self-edit while at the same time giving them covers that weren’t just the simple “cover creator” style provided by CreateSpace. While this added a little more polish to my first books, I still didn’t hire an editor for them. They might look a little nicer, but they’re still basically the same books I wrote back in 2010 to 2012. I know some people have not finished reading these books for the very reason that they need an editor. I also know others who have found them enjoyable, despite these flaws.
If I was going through the trouble to update these books, why didn’t I spend a little more money to make them that much more professional? The way I see it; they’re like my “original trilogy.” Sure, I could go the George Lucas route and add new scenes, or tweak the story based on some complaints, but I’d rather they stand as mostly untouched works so that my readers can see how much further I’ve come as a writer. Even though it is possible for me to go in and polish them to perfection, at what point would I consider it “good enough”? Perhaps this is why some writers don’t even publish in the first place.
Perfectionism has killed more manuscripts than rejection letters.
I think my most recent book, Fourteener Father, shows how far I’ve come. I hired an editor for this book, mostly because I wanted to get that professional polish to it. Also, in the years since I released The Fluxion Trilogy, I’ve had a lot of good beta reader feedback from new and different people, thus revealing to me areas where I could work on improving my writing.
Similarly, I became a voracious reader. Since 2010, I’ve read at least 488 books. Some were well-known books that helped me find techniques to improve my storytelling. Others were by independent and self-published authors. These were a little tougher for me to read, as I was able to see all the mistakes in my writing that beta readers had pointed out to me over the years. As these authors would often send me a book for an honest review, I would have to honestly tell them that they’d either need some beta readers or an editor (maybe even a better editor). I had received similar reviews of First Name Basis that had initially stung but helped me improve my writing since then.
While I’m definitely more serious about my writing, it’s still a bit of a hobby for me. I’m not quitting my day job to pursue my writing (not just yet, anyway). I think it’s easier to be able to go back and see how far I’ve come with this hobby by leaving my early works intact. If anything, this is so I can see the advancement and know that I can always become a better writer than where I am right now. Heck, in 10 years, I hope to be publishing books that are much more professional than Fourteener Father, but I won’t know unless I leave it alone as another marker on my journey as an author.
What about you? Do you go back and polish your already-published manuscripts after receiving negative/constructive feedback? When is a manuscript “good enough” to publish? When is it “good enough” to leave alone?