Books take a lot of work. Months ago, I declared my first novel complete. The manuscript had gone through two full drafts, many changes, and as much revision as it took for the text to feel finished. I was proud of my work, both in terms of effort and the final product. My manuscript was not only good enough, it was great.
Wasn’t it? I knew it was good, or at least decent. Parts of it were. It was a weird book, I would say. I would make preemptive excuses as to why readers might not get into it. I was writing the sequel at the time, and knew it blew the first novel out of the water, but I told myself it was a necessary introduction.
Eventually, I realized the truth: my novel wasn’t all that good. Was it the form rejections that did it, or feedback from accidental beta readers? No, but they confirmed my fears, fears that had managed to lurk undetected in the recesses of my subconscious. I was not killing my darlings. So I put the sequel aside and went back to the workbench.
What Should We Do?
How do we know when our manuscript is good enough? We don’t, not really. Feedback is extremely valuable, but every change, every revision has the potential to make us feel like the text is that much better, like we’re ready to send it off to our editor or loose the queries.
So how do we know when better is enough? When we don’t know how to make it better anymore. That might also mean you need an outside look, which is why this is the perfect time to put it in front of readers, even in the form of agents.
We are often told not to second-guess ourselves. I say we should lend an ear to the whispers. They are our doubts, the buried knowledge that something is amiss, that elements of the work can be improved. And if they can be, they must be.
The title of this post is misleading. It is a fallacy. If we’re content with good enough, our books should never end up on store shelves. We should aim to make them the best they can be. That’s what I’m doing with my novel.