I sent Through Dragon Eyes, my third novel, to the formatter, and, as usual, all the errors stand out. Only after I think it is ready and I can’t make changes without significant cost, do all the errors in the darn manuscript stand out. They spite me because four rewrites and four rounds of editing just isn’t enough, apparently. I’ve learned to let this go, mostly.
Writers are ever-evolving creatures. We’re creative spirits, easily distracted, excellent procrastinators, and are possessed by the obsession to tell our stories.
The problem with writing? Just writing isn’t enough. To make a living, you’ve got to have some business sense. Gone are the days when you passed your writing to a publisher, signed the contract, and moved on to the next manuscript. As a self-published author, that’s doubly true. There are no get-rich-quick options in the world of writing. There’s a myth that we make a lot of money. I read somewhere that the average author makes $10,000 a year. I don’t know how accurate that is and saw no supporting data, but I would bet it isn’t far off. I make far less, especially considering it takes about that amount to publish one of my novels.
Maybe it is because I’m an editor, with a lien towards accuracy-bordering-perfection, and an author who cares about the product I offer to my readers, but, I hate my books.
I hate my books.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my novels. I love the stories.
They are creative time capsules which show my progression as an author. But that’s why I hate them too. I loved the writing process. I loved the creative drive that held me captive with the need to tell the story, but, then my love affair moved from infatuation into the ‘building’ stage. I had to actually create the product which would reach readers.
I can only see what is wrong with them. It’s why readers and support systems are so important. We can be our worst critics. It’s also what makes us grow. I look back now on my first and second novels, and even my third soon to be published one, and cringe. I am reminded of my elementary school writing. Writing laced with embarrassingly juvenile but emotionally charged discovery of story. It feels like I haven’t been writing and editing professionally for over ten years, which I have.
That hate is what also makes me realize that I’ve grown. The fact that I can identify where things went wrong, means I’ve learned better ways of writing. Why don’t hold on to them, perfect the stories, and then publish? Because.
The stories make me do it.
One, life is short. I don’t know how much time I have left, and need to tell these stories.
Two, the stories will drown me if they don’t reach the reader. It’s not enough to just write. If I don’t put it out there, the significance of that story doesn’t get heard by the right people when they need it. The stories make me do it. I’ve got so many fighting to get out; I need to move on to something new.
Three, there’s a certain point in creation where if you don’t walk away and let it be, it becomes worse for the changes, not better. Too much editing can make it worse. Plus, there are so many potential paths a story can take, not publishing it means changing it, and not always for the better. It’s good writer sense to know when to stop.
Four, there is no such thing as perfect. None. I learned to let go of that illusion a while ago.
And so, my little time capsules, my novels. I love you, but I also hate you.