You’d Better Believe It

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.

Artist_Revealed

I selected Rockwell’s quirky self-portrait because it shows him looking at a reflection of himself… but painting a different version.

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!

Question:

What about You? Do you re-read books / stories / poems that you wrote years ago? Why or why not?

[JLS # 446]

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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13 Responses to You’d Better Believe It

  1. It shows. The multiple readings, that is. I love reading your books.

    So far, I haven’t experienced the overstaying house guest experience with mine, but that may come at a later read-over. LOL And no matter how many times you read over your work, you’ll always find places to change. I’ve decided not to do that anymore, if it was acceptable the first time. Remember that cartoon about the writer who had to be dragged away crying out, “No, I’m not ready yet,” when the publisher took her book? You have to let it go at some point. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Thanks for your kind remarks about my writing.
      Yes, there’s almost always a few spots that an author will want to tweak.
      And, yes… at some point the author has to let go of her/his “children” and leave them to fly on their own.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Elaine Cantrell says:

    I recently reread my Flood for pleasure, Jeff. I did get immersed in the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Patricia Kiyono says:

    I’d forgotten about the audio book experience! Yes, that will also have you re-reading your book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I ‘re-listened’ to the one audiobook I have of yours, Jeff. I am glad that you enjoy your own work; I see nothing wrong with that at all.If a writer is not excited about their work, how can they expect their readers to be?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Listening to an audio version of your story would be exciting, especially if you have a good voice actor. I think it would be quite interesting to listen to a story you had written. I’m sure its quite different than reading it yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      I couldn’t completely turn off my “editor self” of course, because I needed to note any variances from the published story. But I was surprisingly able to go with the flow of the tale.

      Like

  6. jbrayweber says:

    I am a firm believer that with each book we become better writers. But I am also a very firm believer that at the time of publication for each of my books, I had written the best book I could have AT THAT TIME. We grow as writers. Like fine wine, we get better as we age in this career. At least for many of us with solid writing chops. I am sure there are those who cut corners and never really cut their teeth who don’t grow. But for me, I continue to learn as I write.

    Now, for rereading my book for pleasure… No, I haven’t. Not yet anyway. I have reread a couple of books that had been rereleased just to iron out missed mistakes—those were “working” reads. And like you, I’m pleasantly surprised by my skills. Izza purty gooed writer.

    Great post, Jeff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      thanks, Jenn. Yes, I agree — when we finally wave goodbye to our revised and edited and proofed manuscript galleys, we have produced the best story we can (at that point, within the limitations of who we dealt with on the editorial team and what the publisher’s restrictions may have been).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. JC Jacobson says:

    I certainly enjoyed reading The Ghostess and Mr Muir and Called to Arms Again. Great characters and story!

    Like

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