Why Writers Should Read Their Own Books….

…even after publication.   Before, for instance, turning in the next book (if at all possible.)  At least read the old manuscript file.  Because otherwise a person who thinks she knows *exactly* what the end of the previous book was like (after all, it’s the last thing she revised, and proofread, and sent off to Editor) may find that the “join” between two related books…isn’t so much a join as a jog…enough to derail an attentive, intelligent reader.  Like you.   Because you would notice if the end of Book 1 did not agree with the beginning of Book 2 on such details as who was where, who was doing which job, when a precipitating event happened…wouldn’t you?

A mismatch later in Book 2 could be that the change just wasn’t mentioned in Book 2.   That time Gina went to the grocery store, that now makes you remember that Book 1 said Tina went to the grocery store…no big deal because maybe Author meant a different trip to the grocery store.  But right at the start of Book 2, when Book 1 made it clear the last trip to the grocery store before heading out to the mountain cabin (for an example NOT in INTO THE FIRE)  was Gina’s,  reference to the “last trip before heading out” that says it was Tina’s…will trip up a reader unless explained.  Is it a typo?  But there was a character named Tina, only she wasn’t speaking to Gina at the end of the last book, but…typo?  Continuity error?  As a reader this is the kind of thing I notice and then worry about and it breaks my reading concentration.

So now I need to rewrite the opening scenes of INTO THE FIRE so they’re congruent with the end of COLD WELCOME and I should have done that months ago.  Grump at self.  (I actually did read the ms. file quite a lot, but didn’t seriously compare end of one to beginning of the other.  Other things I fixed.  Not that.)   What experience gives a writer is the ability to look at a somewhat tangled problem and think out the most efficient way to fix it instead of getting bogged down.   So let’s see if I’ve actually got that experience.  (Opening INTO THE FIRE file.)


16 thoughts on “Why Writers Should Read Their Own Books….

  1. I would laugh maniacally but I know how hard you work on your books. I would also say relax and enjoy it, but you earn your daily bread from your writing so I guess you can’t.

    But before you contract for more of Ky, please take some time out for Ms. Moon.

    Jonathan up in New Hampshire

  2. If only paper books were dead, you could edit the end of Cold Welcome, push an update to the e-book, and leave us all confused when we go back to check our memory. 🙂

    It’s amazing how many updates are being issued for e-books (of the 221 books on my tablet, 41 have updates pending). I have updates turned off because there is no way to see what the changes are. Or were. Revisionist history could be coming soon to a library near you, accompanied by a drastic reduction in the number of typos.

    1. paper book “double-plus ungood references unperson”

      Elizabeth, will the anniversary edition of Paksenarrion fix any bloopers? (Sorry,
      slightly the wrong place to ask this question I know). I remember one off the top of my head.

      1. Wow–I hadn’t thought about that. Maybe we both should ask Baen (sometimes reader requests have more traction than writer requests.) The one I immediately think of is the “hills” when it should’ve been “hilts”(I think that was it) in Sheepfarmer’s Daughter. Others? I’ll post a query in the Paksworld blog, too, so those familiar can send me their list of typos, bloopers, etc. We can’t tinker with it much for various legal reasons, but fixing misspellings and such should be possible if we Act Soon. Thanks for mentioning it, Richard.

    2. Asimov dealt with revisionist issues in electronic records way back in the Robot series. Why I haven’t took the electronic plunge even though I’m in IT. Some people don’t get it. But having read Robot series and F451 I believe that artifacts (books) are a good thing.

    1. Jonathan: Do you have a problem with fixing typos, or with substantive revisions? Personally, I don’t mind if typos are fixed. In nonfiction books I might use as references, I don’t object at all to later editions having updated information (that’s what it’s there for) but I do object to “modernized” fiction. One reason I read old novels is to get the feel of that era. And I was annoyed when Husband tossed the edition of organic chemistry I’d used because “it’s out of date now”–I wanted evidence of the differences (not just useful in writing fiction, but for the sense of depth in a field. Electronic revision really bothers me–I want the paper trail.

      Daniel: What I said to Jonathan–like you, I’m concerned about the “invisibility” of electronic revisions, the way the past “disappears” in a way that it hasn’t since humans developed “records” at all. Paper lasts longer than e-records. Clay tablets last longer than paper. There’s always someone who wants the current lie to be taken for historical truth, but the truth matters. And the true historical lie matters–what information did people have, on which to base their understanding and their actions? Was that information factual or lies? What were the competing narratives (for any conflict there are competing narratives.)

  3. @Daniel Glover You can keep your own backups, yes? I mean, sure, some books have DRM*, but still.

    *Cold Welcome form Amazon had DRM *glare*

  4. On the plus side for electronic works over paper, they *can* track revisions and do so securely, it’s just not a feature that has been put into practice for e-books yet. When it becomes important to enough people (hopefully without a motivating catastrophe) it will get implemented. There are already a lot of neat tools for visualizing revision history in use by software developers; they just need to be made accessible and adapted to a different audience.

  5. I have one Nero Wolfe book which is considered wild because of a misspelled word. I also do not like redone fiction – I real a lot of fiction I get from Gutenberg. There was some surprisingly good stories written which have virtually disappeared today – also some really bad stories, but you find them today. Will the fiction of Ms. Moon be around a hundred years from now? I will not be around but it would be nice to think that many years from now Ky and Paks and Serrano will continue to be read.

    Jonathan up in New Hampshire

    1. Jonathan: While I like the thought of someone finding pleasure in one of my books a hundred years from now, I don’t expect it. If so, great (though I won’t be around to know about it) and if not, well, there’s a lot of good stuff almost no one remembers now. Survival is spotty, easily affected by everything from a change in fashion to wars and natural disasters. Someone targeting missiles at server farms, for instance, could remove a lot of data from the world’s memory. Some would be copied elsewhere but some wouldn’t.

      Butterwaffle: The problem is the wetware. Humans, like all mammals, have sensory input designed for a physical, not virtual, method of gathering data. I can’t even get my software–which is supposed to do this–to let me compare texts side by side the way I need to. Scrolling is vastly less efficient than paging through a book to find something (search is more efficient, but for that you need to have the right search terms. If what you want is “the name of the person holding the someone’s horse in Kolobia”–in a book, you have a tactile and visual memory of about how far through the book that was, and flipping a few pages will get you there. Searching the file…takes longer. Comparing one edition of a book to another, whether looking for changes or searching for a particular scene, you can have both books open, and work at different speeds in both, as it suits the particular researcher.

      Iphinome: Glare at publisher, not me.

  6. Apropos of none of the above, but meanwhile in Australia. …
    we are building a 11 meter sailing catamaran as i told you years ago….well my husband was struck by chronic fatigue syndrome. No energy. Coudn’t do any work on it for years…we
    think he has also got mild autism, is very perfectionistic, works alone…hadn’t done any work on the boat at all…now a boatbuilder friend of his brother’s has taken pity on us and is making great progress on it and we may even see the thing launched within a year, yayyy!!!!☺

    1. That would be great…though I admit an 11 meter sailing catamaran is way beyond any sailing I did (two-seater kayak with a sail rig we could put up.) Still, would be a joy to finally get your boat finished and in the water.

  7. Now my husband, Mark is back at work, so he can pay Nathan, the builder. Hopefully he will retire ill health at the end of the year….and let’s hope he’ll improve once we’re on the boat !!!

  8. I’ve seen some authors recommend outlining your book, not before you write it but as you write it, as a convenient way of keeping track of important details that might get lost down the road. Might be a good habit to get into, if one can get into it.

  9. Signed book question

    Hello Mrs. Moon,

    as a german fan, I would love to get a signed and personalized book from you.
    Are there any bookstore signings scheduled for Cold Welcome? ( I could then contact the bookstore to arrange a copy)
    Or is there a possibility to send you a book (with return postage of course) to get signed & personalized?
    Many thanks,

    Sven-Hendrik Magotsch

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