Yes, I Re-Read My Own Books
By Jeff Salter
This week’s topic is whether we read our own books. My answer: absolutely yes. But let me qualify that response by explaining the difference between a WORKING read and a PLEASURE read.
In my standard process of creating a novel of some 75,000 words – roughly the average length of the 15 novels I’ve completed so far (among my 19 completed titles) – I will have carefully read that story at least six times (from beginning to end) before I even submit it for consideration by a publisher or editor. [And I will have read its first several chapters many more times than that.] If that novel is later contracted, I will read it carefully another six-to-nine times – through pre-edits, content edits, line edits, proof-reading, and galleys – before it’s actually published.
All those experiences are working reads… and usually no “fun” at all. It’s hard labor at the keyboard, sometimes literally sweating over paragraphs, scenes, and chapters. And during those 12-15 read-throughs, I develop a familiarity with the story that approaches exhaustion at times. It’s not that I’ve stopped liking the story… it’s more like hosting a beloved houseguest who has greatly overstayed his/her welcome. I’m just TIRED of being immersed in it.
For that reason – among others that we can discuss later (in another topic) – I rarely read one of my books right after it’s released.
Beginning in 2017, however, I’ve had occasions – of different kinds – to re-visit at least seven of my novels from years ago. The first of these was The Overnighter’s Secrets – almost five years after its initial 2012 release – because we were re-doing the cover and correcting a couple of content glitches and typos.
Two of these occasions (2018) were proofing the “tapes” of the audio versions – by the talented JACOB PHILLIPS – of The Ghostess & MISTER Muir and Called to Arms Again. While both were partly “working” reads, I also found myself quite relaxed and easily embraced by the flow of the stories. I’m sure that feeling was enhanced by the voice and creativity of their outstanding reader. [This, by the way, was my first experience with audio books! Back in 2013, I didn’t have the opportunity of proofing my first two audio books – TOS and RBTNGIT – and I don’t possess a convenient device that allows listening to audio books in comfort.]
The novels which I read (2018) solely for pleasure were paperbacks of The Overnighter’s Secrets and Called to Arms Again. [So, you can see that I was re-exposed to these two titles TWICE in those recent two years.] I also read Hid Wounded Reb – which I had not seen since its release in mid-2014 – and Stuck on Cloud Eight (un-read since 2015). [These four, I read at my mom’s cottage during my daily visits, on those occasions that she was also reading and didn’t feel like chatting.]
Folks, I found the experience – especially for those last two cited – quite exhilarating. I laughed at the funny spots, got goosebumps at the spooky places, got worried at the suspense points, etc. I would read a particularly nicely-written scene and think to myself, “Dadgum, Jeff, that’s pretty good!”
Yes, I found spots that I could write better, leaner, and smoother NOW — as others have stated this week, my writing has matured. [At least I think so.]
The most surprising aspect to me was that I’d forgotten so much of the content of those earlier books. [After all, I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words since then.] I’d find myself reading a section, a scene, or a chapter… and thinking, “Wow, don’t remember that at all.” It’s a glorious feeling to read something, notice how GOOD it is… and simultaneously realize – remember – that I’m the one who wrote it!
What about You? Do you re-read books / stories / poems that you wrote years ago? Why or why not?
[JLS # 446]