I made the enormous, much-debated decision to self-publish. I announced it, planned for it, drafted one of the best marketing plans I've ever seen.
Then I reread the story, Conventional Demon, for the umpteenth time. Only this time, it had been about three years since its last viewing.
It wasn't good.
It wasn't bad. It was a solid B, if I were grading it. Good, but lacking. Good, but definitely not great. It was flawed in subtle and large ways.
For starters, it's a story I wrote five years ago. It feels like a story I wrote five years ago (or was it longer?). It's no longer the story I would choose to write. It's no longer a story I would choose to read.
The writing wasn't there. Isn't there. It would take another substantial edit or two to bring it up to speed, and even then...
I am pleased to know, without a doubt, that my writing has improved. I can see it, very clearly. Conventional Demon was a really great second novel. It had a full story (after a few rounds of edits). I figured out the writing process (mostly—that's an ongoing endeavor, but I learned how to start, write, then edit a novel in less than a year). It had a fun main character. It had a few really good secondary characters. (It had some really hot male characters.)
But as far as a published story, it is lacking polish, depth, and umph. I look at the stories I love, then back at my novel, and I can see its failings. I can see the amateur writing and the amateur plotting. I can see the underpinnings of the story, and they're ratty and old and frayed. They're definitely not ready for public eyes.
For a few weeks, because I'm rather good at both mild denial and lowering my head and running at a goal like a bull, I plowed on. I'd made a pact with myself (and announced the world, friends, and family) that I was going to self-publish.
Fortunately, my vanity outweighed my stubborness. I want to publish really good stories. I want to publish great stories. I want readers to be wowed and chomping for more. I don't want to publish something lackluster simply because it's "done" and I made an announcement.
So I pulled back and reexamined my options. I could edit Conventional Demon again. Polish it. Then publish. I could abandon it and try with something else. I could take the characters from that story, move down the timeline, and write a novel later in the action, more where I'd want to read it. I could take the characters and my verbosity and stuff it into a short story. I could abandon writing all together.
Okay, the last wasn't ever an option. Even as I was working to self-publish, I've been writing the next novel. There is no stopping. If I was going to give up, it would have been ten years and six novels ago. Writing isn't for wusses. It also isn't something you do unless you're compelled, because the abuse isn't worth it otherwise. I've proved to myself that I've got the dedication, tenacity, creative drive, and compulsion to keep going.
Of the rest of the options, trying something else as well as writing a short story in the Conventional Demon world hold appeal. I have a lovely novella that needs some major character rewrites that would be a good self-publish debut.
I was thrown from my plan to self-publish, but I've picked myself up, dusted off my bum, soothed my bruised pride, and I'm eyeballing the saddle from a different angle. In the meantime, the learning, the writing, and the editing continue. As long as these never cease, I never fail.