The neuroses behind working on a novel can be a bit overwhelming at times. When is a novel “good enough” and when is it “great?” When I released The Godslayer I felt that it was good enough and my stance on it has changed quite a bit. The same could be said for Terminus Cycle. I still find strengths and weaknesses in both books, but when I released them I felt that they were “good enough.” Since then that phrase has haunted me for quite a while.
Maybe “good enough” is just an excuse to get something out and then if it falls short of expectations or people aren’t wholesale satisfied with it I can look at it and say, “well, you know, I just wrote it off as ‘good enough’ and I guess it wasn’t.” I’d read through passages and say, “well, this might not have the level of detail that I wanted, but it gets the job done, so it must be ‘good enough.’” In a way, my whole process was based upon past performance. I’d remember back to college and writing workshops where there were a few people who took them seriously but the rest were just hobbyists in the early ones. In the later ones everyone was in their own world and so worried about just finishing school that everything felt jumbled.
There wasn’t much motivation to really push beyond what I was doing because, well, my peers did not leave much to be desired. I could bang out something the night before, run through it a few times to tighten it up and bring it into a workshop and it’d be one of the better pieces that we’d talk about that week. Things weren’t much different when I was younger and my work was heralded as great for my age. After a while of being good at something and not needing to exert much effort it starts to spill over into the rest of your life. Sadly that “good enough” can no longer cut it for me because my work is no longer just being shared among friends and classmates.
Releasing a novel to the public means that my peers went from that guy obsessed with Lovecraft that aspires to write chapbooks and the girl who was told by somebody at some point that she should be a writer to the heavyweights of the industry. Now releasing a science fiction story for me no longer means competing on a small level, it means that I’m competing for the time and money of readers while the goliaths loom on the same marketplace. I’m not competing with the lost souls of the world, I’m competing with the Scalzis, Leckies, Coreys, Clines and Howeys of today and even classic authors like Asimov, Herbert, Dick and more that I grew up adoring. Hell, I’m even competing with the retiree who always dreamed of writing a novel, sat down, banged something out, didn’t bother with much of a cover or editing but occupies the same market space that I do. That’s a lot of competition and “good enough” might be able to separate me from the dregs of the pack, but won’t push me much further beyond that.
This means that I have to put more into my work to take it to that next level. I finished my first draft of my upcoming book a few weeks ago and recently finished my first revision of it. Now I’m going back and running through another round of revisions before I’ll probably do another and another and not stop until everything feels as tight as it could possibly be. Why? Because “good enough” meant a few quick passes before shipping it off to be edited, polished up and published. That “good enough” might satisfy someone who was looking to simply release a book and hope that someone liked it, but it doesn’t satisfy someone who wants to make a career out of writing. Some would be ecstatic with 25 Amazon reviews rounding to 4.1 stars and the 15 reviews on Goodreads tallying up to 4.23 stars. There are some good reviews, some honest reviews, some brutal and rude reviews, but all-in-all there are reviews. People have been buying, reading and reviewing my book and if someone were to glance through an Amazon listing for it they’d look at it and think that it is a moderate success. It is a moderate success, actually, but I have no intentions of stopping here.
I now feel like I know what will take me to that next level and know the basic steps to get myself there. All that I have to do now is continue putting in the work.
Once again thank you for following my journey and supporting me in whatever way that you have.