Changing things . . .

Over the past month or so, I’ve been serialising Regarding Avalon on WattPad. It’s an experiment in getting a bit more exposure for my writing, which by happy coincidence has also given me an excuse to read the whole book again. (Being a vain sort of writer, I don’t need much of an excuse to re-read my own books, but if I do it as often as I’d like then I’d have no time to read anyone else’s.)

Odd thing about reading your old stuff though: new stuff pops into your head. You think to yourself:

‘Oooh, now what if she’d said this?’

or

‘Now hang on; it would have been a lot funnier if he’d done that!’

Ideas that are sometimes better, sometimes just a different take on things.

In the bad old days, once your book was out then it was out. If you wanted to make sweeping changes then tough buns (This is probably why I’ve come across so many spelling mistakes in books over the years.) But now, with the miracle of digital distribution, you can go back, make changes and release it again. Hell, you can rewrite the whole book under the same title if you want to.

But that doesn’t mean you should.

For one thing, it’s a little bit unfair on the folk who’ve already bought your book, unless you can get the revised copy to them with a note of apology:

‘Dear reader; I woke up in the middle of the night and decided I’d prefer to kill Susan in chapter 4 instead of chapter 9. Here’s the new book; just start reading from chapter 4 – everything else is more or less the same.’

No, not fair, especially if, a week later, you decide that Susan’s one-in-a-million mishap with the power drill was better in chapter 9 after all:

‘Dear reader; you haven’t started on that new revision yet, have you?’

I’m a consummate meddler (I think the correct medical term is ‘George Lucas Syndrome’); if I let myself then I’d be changing released works every week. So years ago, I established a single, simple rule for myself:

Once it’s out, it’s done.

Sticking to the rule means that I don’t rush stuff out because I think I can fix it later. The book gets read, changed, edited, changed, read, edited, copy-edited . . . You get the idea; it has to be best it can be before I hit the ‘publish’ button.

And if I have new ideas and new directions for the characters then that’s what the sequel’s for.

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