I used to read back every word I wrote in my blog posts (several times).
That lasted about a week.
Sometimes you need to write what you feel, do a quick skim to make sure you haven’t committed too many serious grammatical mistakes (except when the purpose of the post is those mistakes), add a sentence here, tighten a word or two there, and hit publish.
But books are different.
Even in this self-publishing wild west world in which we now live, a sloppily edited book comes off as such. We understand, in fact we embrace the idea, that you’re circumventing the gatekeepers in the publishing houses to give people what they actually might want to read. But really you need to string two sentences together or the reviews might kill you.
On the other hand books can languish from over-editing, over-obsessing. If a book is up to a certain standard the back and forth feedback from reviewers, bloggers, and a wider circle might actually help you to write better material. It might be hard for some writers to hear this, but maybe there’s not really a good excuse for keeping things in a drawer anymore. If it’s been rejected by publishers, but is still a story some niche might enjoy then publish.
But a bad story can set a tone two. One reviewer I read recently thought that the writer had some imaginative and original ideas, but that the characterizations were terrible, and the writing poor. They looked forward to reading future more polished works. This is the unusual case. Usually if someone has paid money for something, and it turns out to not be that good, that will cement their impression of it for a long time.
So what do we do? Do we push something out the door, or do we wait and wait til its perfect?
My other line of work is programming. This may shock you, but most programs are not perfect on their release day. They need patches, bug fixes, and feature enhancements (Yes you Linux users may say otherwise, but even your software gets patches and updates). Weirdly enough, the book of today is more like a program than a book. I know several eBook published authors who are rewriting their novels based on feedback and either republishing under the same title, or creating another book. Kindle supports updates to books, and eBooks reading may overtime have more of a patch structure, with user feedback and further ideas allowing an author to enhance their work, to fix it.
To some this is frightening (me kinda included). I love all my stories, don’t get me wrong (please buy Surreality in Jan-Feb ’13 🙂 ), but the thought of revising them after I hit publish can seem a little never-ending. Maybe a set time frame would make sense. It’s definitely something I’d be open to trying.
But this assumes a book is good enough to start, to get people interested in telling even more story. Otherwise the book leaves a bitter taste.
Ultimately the decision about whether a book is ready is up to you, more than ever. Set a deadline, work your butt off, and get it out there. I can’t wait to read it!