Daring greatly. Unless you’re me.

Today this beautiful comic from Zen Pencils popped up in my feed and ruined my mood for the rest of the day. Because it seems like it just doesn’t apply to publishing. Everyone’s all ‘perfection is the enemy of done’ until they start talking about books, at which point they’re trashing everything with a typo in it, let alone less than perfect characterisation, plot, pacing, worldbuilding, dragon anatomy.

This is just my experience, mind you, and no doubt vastly out of sync with everyone else’s, but how the hell do I know when what I’ve written is good enough to publish without striving for perfection? If I wasn’t so bothered about making stuff as perfect as humanly possible, I’ve have published a novel in 2011. It wasn’t perfect. It probably wasn’t even that good. But I thought it was done. Then I got some feedback from two people who disagreed with the ten other people who thought it was awesome, hammering it so hard that I haven’t looked at it since.

It’s hard to have faith in my editing efforts when any opinion of what’s ‘good’ is so wildly subjective, including mine. Currently I’m assuming that when the people who hammered my writing back then think it’s actually good, I’ll be ready to publish. But the thought makes me want to cry because I don’t honestly believe I’ll ever reach that point and it breaks my heart a bit.

I love writing but I’ve always wanted to share my work. Not much of it has actually made it into the world at large. To put this in perspective, over the last seven years I’ve written about 820,000 words. I’ve published maybe 60,000 of them, the longest of which is about 17k. I really can’t get past the possibility that I may never have enough faith in my work to actually publish a novel, which would make me one of those people who dies with a hundred novels on their computer, none of which have ever seen the light of day.

Yay me.


About Mhairi Simpson

Writer, dreamer. Magic, dragons, pink mice, cake. Come say hi!
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4 Responses to Daring greatly. Unless you’re me.

  1. Alan Edwards says:

    I understand how you feel. The number of times I see typos in works published by the major houses and authors always surprises me, considering the vitriol and uber-high standards that everyone seems to apply to independent authors. I look back on the stuff I’ve published and feel bad sometimes, because they – my children – are ugly, and it’s my fault. But I’m glad I have them. You will never, ever please everyone. I shifted my own metric to “does it make me happy?” If it does, then I’ll publish it. I’m always going to be harder to please than they will anyway, and nothing they do will make me happy at any rate.

    I think it would be a shame to keep all those words penned up (pun intended, apparently). If five people read them and it helps them, or changes their perspective, or gives them a few days or hours or minutes of joy, then I personally consider that an accomplishment to be proud of. I’m pulling for you.

    • Yes, I’m working on the “does it make me happy?” basis now. As you say, I’m way pickier than anyone else will be, but possibly on different aspects. Still. I just want to get it to the point where I think it’s as good as it’s going to be and then, (new challenge), put it out there and just move on to the next thing. Because even once you’ve got the book out there, the format you choose to release it in, and length and price and all those things, will probably also rub someone up the wrong way and to be honest, I very much look forward to reaching the point where I don’t bloody care – I just put it out and move on. Where I can make those decisions and be at peace with them, you know? Which I think applies to everything else to do with the actual writing and editing of the book too!

  2. K R Green says:

    If ten liked and two don’t, I’d wonder if the book is right for those people. I constantly read the blurbs on ‘bestsellers’ and think “eh, not getting into this, its not written in a style I like” and then I go and find a little novella a friend wrote, read the first page and then suddenly I’m at the end of the sample. Those are the books I like, and nothing will turn the former into the latter. Maybe give that ‘possibly-ready’ book a read now; show it to a new pair of eyes, and if you feel it’s “above 6/10” I’d probably give it a go at publishing.

    • 6/10? Really? Cool. I know I don’t write anything terribly literary or high-brow, or even slightly literary or high-brow, if we’re being perfectly honest. What I do write are stories people just whip through and then complain they’re too short. I can handle that. Will be interesting to see if I have the same response to a novel when I finally get it out there. That first (well, second actually) book definitely had some other issues and I still want to revisit it, but there are a bunch of other books I’ve written since which don’t need as much work, I think, so I’m prioritising them. Will see what happens!

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