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An Exercise in Conciseness

If this past week is going to be indicative of the rest of the year, I’m hibernating until next December, writing goals be damned. I’ve been rather ill since the second, and though I think I’m on the upswing, this is going to be a brief post, possibly including a nap break somewhere around…

splat!

zzzz

*wakes up, stretches* Okay, where was I?

That’s what the past week has looked like. Every time I think I’m getting back to normal, I go splat! and end up napping on the closest flat surface. So, before I fall asleep again, let me ask you this: Have you ever taken one of your published books and reworked it so that it’s more in line with your current style? Did you just poke at the language, or did the reworking metastasize into a complete overhaul, including changes to the plot? Was the book in question part of a series? And most importantly, was it a success (more sales, better reviews, etc.)?

I ask this because I’m planning to do some serious work with the Garia Cycle this year, assuming I don’t end up sleeping away the next eleven months. This includes publishing the third and possibly the fourth book, but what’s relevant to the discussion is that the first book, A Kingdom of Glass, hasn’t aged well. The plot is basically fine; the characters are likeable, but the writing is choppy and vague, there’s almost no description- in a fantasy series; argh!- and it doesn’t sound anything like more recent books. It was the first thing I ever published, almost three years ago, and I’ve improved significantly since then. And- this is the kicker- the first book is sufficiently amateurish that I think a lot of readers won’t continue the series if it’s their first introduction to Garia. But I have a lot of irons in the fire this year, so I don’t have unlimited time to spend on fixing something that isn’t sufficiently broken.

So I’m asking y’all to do a sanity check for me. If a quick edit, updating the language and adding description but not changing any plot points, seems reasonable, say so. If I should run screaming into the night, say that. And if I should make changes, please pass along any tips on how to do it right without spending the rest of my life on the project.

splat!

zzzz

 

 

16 Comments
  1. Synova #

    I’ve been looking at some of my old stuff, not published though, and I definitely need to do an editing pass to fill in what I just skipped over (before completing the ending of course). So just as a data point, if someone told me I had to just finish the ends and leave the rest I wouldn’t do it. It’s not all even bad, just not good. The stuff in my head did not get as much on the paper as I thought it did.

    I’ve heard more than one esteemed authorial elder say to never go back, ever, just go forward. But others say make the changes, and do.

    So would your time be better spent writing new things? If you’re going to spend a sick year, maybe fixing the existing books is the best use of your time because the new isn’t flowing? Do you want to write more in this world with this cycle so that first book is always going to be an issue? Then, maybe the most effective use of your time is doing the edits.

    What I want to know, though, is how does that work on Amazon for people who already bought the book? Do you repub as a new version? Unpub the old? Does it just update the file and everyone who has it will get the updated version when they open the file? On the one hand, that seems like a good thing, on the other, well I sort of wonder about the odd person who might have liked having the first version. (I have the Michael Jackson David Weber Harrington cover, and it sucks but that’s why I like that I’ve got it. It’s a heirloom!) Though maybe if people want that sort of souvenir they need to buy a paper copy.

    I was thinking of adding a picture to the end-matter in my little short story but I’m afraid that making changes will blow it all up.

    January 8, 2020
    • mrsizer #

      Amazon tells me. On the “Your Content and Devices” page, the words “Update Available” show up under the title. I have not noticed any automagic updates, but I probably wouldn’t.

      January 8, 2020
    • Carrington Dixon #

      well I sort of wonder about the odd person who might have liked having the first version.

      Arthur C. Clarke massively rewrote Against the Fall of Night as The City and the Stars. He expressed surprise that the former refused to go out-of-print in favor of its successor.

      January 8, 2020
      • I much prefer the earlier version, myself.

        So far as advice goes (for what little mine is worth) – I’d look at the plot. Is it solid? Then rework to make the exposition of the same story better is definitely worth the effort. We are the successors of the bards, who were constantly refining the same stories.

        If the plot has major problems… Well, I don’t know. Fixing that could be as much work (and far less enjoyable) than writing two new books.

        January 8, 2020
        • Blake Smith #

          The plot’s fine, maybe a little ham-fisted, but I think I can smooth over some of that with nicer writing. Mostly, I want to add in some of the world-building that I’ve done since it was published, and make it more real to the reader, via more and subtle description. Even this edition isn’t terrible; it just doesn’t really resemble the later books of the series.

          January 9, 2020
  2. Reziac #

    Moorcock completely reworked the original Elric books that way. They’d already been dead-treed; this didn’t stop DAW from pubbing the new versions too. I own both sets. They’re very different reads.

    While I haven’t yet pubbed my everlasting Epic, I’ve been doing much the same to the old parts, to bring ’em up to code. Cuz otherwise it would bug me forever that they’re not a quality match to the newer parts. Even if I hadn’t discovered rather late that my people are not human, which explained a lot and needed a lot of detail work.

    January 8, 2020
    • Carrington Dixon #

      And the original Elric books were themselves a reworking of a series of stories that had appeared in magazine.
      Much of there material DAW added consisted of new adventures that took place before or between the existing stories. As far as I know, Moorcock is still writing Elric stories, but the current supply exceeds my interest. I much prefer the conciseness of those original two books.

      January 9, 2020
  3. mrsizer #

    The reviewers don’t seem to have a problem with it. The worst one (3 stars) is titled “The world needed more building, but the writing is solid.” The four star reviews are old-me, before people here convinced me that star-inflation was important; they liked it.

    With no one screaming “OMG! Stay away!” I would work on the next ones. Perhaps after you run out of steam on the series or you get stuck on a cover, then go back. As a reader, I’d rather push past one newbie effort to the rest of them than wait and wait for the next book.

    I’m probably not typical. I was reading The Kurthurian Gambit as it came out. The first few did have severe copy-edit problems and they have since been updated. The updates were “window cleaning”; that is, if no one sees a before/after picture, no one notices you’ve cleaned your windows because windows are supposed to be clean and clear. The middle of the Emerilia series (the end finally went KU so I finished it – great ending) desperately needs a pronoun editor. “It raised his arm and fired their gun” – not a _exact_ quote, but yes, a sentence that short with three different pronouns for the same referent. Note that I kept reading because of the story, regardless.

    That said, if you can update it quickly and make yourself happy with it, that has its own value.

    January 8, 2020
  4. BobtheRegisterredFool #

    If you rewrite at all, you probably want to do so according to some rule that will prevent you from trying to rewrite after every new book you write.

    I haven’t read either of the Garia books, but I realized after finding the sample that I am not thinking or feeling well enough to give that a fair look. Nothing to do with the execution, the genre looks like one where I would need to spend more thought or emotional energy than I have. (The local current recent pressure change probably explains the headache, and hence my lack.)

    My thought on hearing your concerns was that book one is probably good enough. Pace and character cover a lot of sins, and ‘not beautiful enough’ easily turns into an inescapable hole.

    January 8, 2020
  5. Since you intend to put out new books in the same series, I would definitely recommend doing some cleanup on the first book. Since you’re so busy, maybe not a complete rewrite, but do go back in and try to add more description and adjust the style to more closely match what you’re writing now. There is no point in putting out new books in the series if there is a good chance no one will read past the first book.

    January 8, 2020
  6. It would bother me if the version available to the public was not what I thought to be my best work.

    January 8, 2020
  7. OldNFO #

    My .02, do what feels right. If you WANT to rewrite, do it. But I would be careful about going too deep into it and making major changes. None of us likes our original work… Trust me… But we learn as we go along.

    January 8, 2020
    • Blake Smith #

      I DO want to take another look at it, for my sake and because I think new readers will like a 2nd edition better than this one. I hesitate to call it ‘rewriting;’ it’s more of a surface edit, like polishing an old but serviceable pair of boots. If I get my act together and finish the series, it won’t need to be repolished down the road because, even if my writing improves over the next few years, at least all of the books will be a cohesive unit of okayness.

      January 9, 2020
  8. Mary #

    Revising old stuff can be a trap.

    January 8, 2020
  9. TheOtherSean #

    “Brevity is the soul of wit.” – Shakespeare

    January 9, 2020
  10. I’ve made a few changes to my earliest work. Better dialog tags, a little smoothing of scene transitions, yet another copy edit.

    I recently reread a middle of the series book and realized my later worldbuilding was at odds with details given in this “first story actually on this world.” Not an important plot point, so I’ll go back and change my master copy to match the new stuff, where it is a plot point.

    I just have to not get stuck revising, and stop writing.

    :: sigh :: New covers, too.

    The ability to easily revise is both the boon and bane of eBooks.

    January 9, 2020

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