Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough
If I were merely interested in selling copies of the second Dakota & Svetlana adventure, The Rich Are Different, I would probably release the novel now. According to reviews of the first book, there is certainly a demand for the second. And by the standards of most readers, not to mention many other writers in the detective genre, as it stands now The Rich Are Different is entertaining, compelling and engaging enough that fans waiting for the second installment would be pleased.
The case is sufficiently complex, and Dakota & Svetlana’s repartee is enjoyable. There’s ample humor, variety of scene, and a balance of action and reflection. Overall, when compared to similar works in the detective/PI genre, the novel is “good enough,” and most other mystery authors wouldn’t hesitate to release it.
But here’s the thing: while I would love to sell 25,000 copies of The Rich Are Different tomorrow, it’s more important to me to put out my very best work. I want you readers to have the best experience possible, and in order to accomplish this, I have to have the attitude that “good enough isn’t good enough.” I have to pursue excellence.
A reviewer at IndieReader, Maya Fleischmann, writes of A Real Piece of Work (ARPoW), “Action, lust, danger, style and witty repartee, Orcutt’s A Real Piece of Work is a work of art.” Naturally, I was pleased by her comment because when I wrote ARPoW I set out to create a work of art first, and a detective novel second. In other words, I wanted to make the novel as much a piece of art as I could—within the limitations of the story, characters and genre. This is what I’m after with The Rich Are Different as well, and all I can say is, it’s not there yet.
As you’ll see when it does come out, besides being a mere detective story, The Rich Are Different is meant to be an homage to two works I love deeply: The Great Gatsby and Westerns. Therefore, until the novel is a compelling mystery that pays sufficient tribute to Gatsby and Westerns, I can’t release it. I sense there are still tweaks I can make to bring the novel closer to my original vision for it: a detective story that combines the urbane sophistication of the affluent East with the rough and wild nature of the Old West. We’ll see whether I realize this vision.
Paradoxically, reviews of ARPoW and comments from readers—almost unanimous in their gushing praise (no pressure)—have made editing The Rich Are Different a highly torturous process because I want readers to be even more wowed and moved by the sequel, and I don’t know if that’s possible. In fact, I’ve spent the last 2 sessions with my psychiatrist discussing whether, with ARPoW, I might have created an act that is impossible to follow.
Fortunately, besides being an excellent doctor, she is also an avid reader of mysteries, and mystery series in particular. She assures me (as do my wife and best friends) that readers of series are in it for the long haul, that they don’t expect the next book in a series to trump the previous one. Referring to the creator of the Spenser series, Robert B. Parker, my doctor shrewdly asks me, “Is every one of Parker’s novels better than its predecessor?” I think about this—especially the second in the series, God Save the Child—and I have to answer with an unequivocal “No.” Yet, she points out, once a year readers would line up for the next installment.
Now, I hope I don’t sound defeatist here, because I’m confident that in many respects The Rich Are Different surpasses ARPoW. It’s just that, in addition to the Sisyphus-like labors of editing, I’ve been grappling with the intimidating notion of having to follow a critical success. And in case you can’t tell, it hasn’t been easy.
Rest assured, I am working on The Rich Are Different every day, and every day it gets a step closer to completion. Thank you for your continued patience.