I know what this looks like. No, I’m not the kind of author who reviews my own book.
I haven’t been able to do much reading this past month. I’ve had my nose to the grindstone, working late every night, and trying to catch up to all my responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to reread Malfunction, Revelation, and Topside (the exclusive short story you can only get if you subscribe to my newsletter) to check for continuity before I publish Infraction on (hopefully) the 23 and before I get too far in Disintegration rewrites.
I thought I’d give you guys a little peek behind the curtain on what it feels like to be a writer reading your own book.
Actually, us writers have to reread our work a LOT. If you are a writer yourself, you’ve probably realized this yourself. About ⅓ of the process is actual “writing” and the rest is reading over your work, trying to take a balanced approach. And believe it or not, that is really hard. When you are writing, you know everything, but the moment you step into the “editor” role, everything you know about writing just flies out the window.
But we aren’t talking about editing. We are talking about reading. Just sitting back, taking it in, and enjoy the world you created.
As an author you are often told “Write the kind of book you want to read” but the problem is, once you write it, reading it can be shaky ground...at best. Many writers, in fact, will not touch an old piece of writing with a hundred foot pole. They will ask others to read it, sure, but to read it themselves would be torture.
And to be honest, I’m one of those writers. At least, I wish I could be. It’s not because I lack confidence. I know I’m a pretty good writer. And I say that without bragging at all. I worked really hard to get where I am, and I’m going to keep working to get better.
There are a few things that make rereading old work a bit of a nightmare.
a) A book is basically your blood on the page.
Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but when you write you are, in a lot of ways, bearing your soul. You are giving people a glimpse into your mind. Into your treasured thoughts. And writing it is exhausting. You bring your experiences and your emotions out onto a page and then you have to go back and read them again. Pick through them and decide which ones are “good enough.” It’s really hard. So reading back over that again brings up a lot of emotions. It takes you back to the place you were in when you wrote those words, and often those places can be dark and frightening.
b) You’ve Read it a Million Times
Parents, this is something you can understand. Remember how Frozen was a pretty cute movie when you first saw it? Or how you could actually stand Trolls. Or how Curious George even had an odd charm...once upon a time.
And then that adorable child of yours watched it over and over and over and over. You get the point.
Eventually, you get to the point where every word is branded in your brain and the thought of reading it even one more time is about as desirable as taking a sledgehammer to your toes.
c) You can’t fix It anymore
The final, and worst reason.
Have you heard the saying “an artist is their own worst critic”? Well, it’s true. And we are also our own biggest fans. Some days I pick up my book and read it and I get engaged, sucked back into the world that grew in my head and swept away with the characters that have become my best friends.
Other days, all I can see are the stumbling words, the broken “rules” and the missed chances. Some days I close the book feeling like I’ve dedicated years of hard work to something that is worthless, or that I should have tried a little harder, waited a little longer, gone over it one or twenty times more.
But it’s finished. It’s published. And I can, as a self-publisher, pull it down and work on it again, but then I would never move forward in my career.
The truth is, rereading my work sucks because with every book I become a better writer, and looking back at my old books is like looking at awkward high-school photos.
But maybe there is a better way to look at it. I am growing. And with each new book, I will strive to hit new highs. I’ll be a better and better writer.
I will never stop moving forward. And I’ll mistakes. And I’ll probably write a few *gasp* “bad” books. But that’s part of the joy, right?
There is something else that makes me feel a bit better when I put that book, the product of my own mind and hands, onto the shelf again. You, the reader, aren’t carrying all that when you open the cover. You have your own tastes and experiences, sure. And those will impact your view of my work. But you are reading it, experiencing it all without that weight of creativity behind you. And in that way, the writing process is for me, but the finished product isn’t mine anymore. It’s yours. Yours to experience as you will. Yours to add your imagination too and welcome into your mind.