Monday, August 8

That was then...

Bestselling author Patricia Kay, a long-time cyber-friend who was instrumental in my original publication by Harlequin, recently posted the following on Facebook.
"I'm in a quandary. Got the rights back to my very first published book, CINDERELLA GIRL, (12/90) quite awhile ago. Finally working on getting it ready for the digital market and have discovered that I relentlessly head hopped in the book. Now I don't know what to do. As a writing teacher, I counsel my students not to head hop. I stress again and again that they should discipline themselves and learn to write in one point of view per scene. Period. So how can I put a book out there with non-stop head hopping? Problem is, I love the book and the story, and to rewrite it without head hopping would take me longer than to actually write something new. In fact, just thinking of doing so gives me a gigantic headache. So I'm leaning toward publishing the book as is -- with only minor changes -- and let the criticism fall where it may. The other choice would be to never let the book see light of day again. Any opinions?"
Pat got opinions. Lots of opinions, mine included. She needs to publish it as is, she needs to re-work it according to what standards have evolved to, she needs to do what feels right to her, she needs...oh, yeah, lots of opinions.

The conversation made me look closer at the book of my own that I'm working on preparing for digital release. Always Annie was published in 1999. In it no one had cell phones, I had me some unrealistic (albeit adorable) teenagers going on, and my use of POV was...well, shall we say soft? My voice has changed since then. It's matured--too much in some ways--but it's also become both stronger and more fluid. I'm much more sure of myself not only personally but professionally as well--life teaches us much if we let it.

But I liked my old voice. And, as Pat says about hers, "I really like the story and there will always be a soft spot in my heart for the book since it's my very first sale..." Yeah. Me, too.

So I'm thinking, and so is Pat. I would imagine some other trad-going-hybrid authors are, too. What do you think, authors and readers alike? Do you want a re-release to be spiffied up or would you rather read the author as she was then?


Part Two

I was done with this post. Really. But then I thought of something that answered the question for me.

I go back often and read books from my keeper shelf. Old series romances by Muriel Jensen, Betty Neels, Nora Roberts, Cheryl Reavis, Patricia Kay, Kathleen Gilles Seidel, and Jennifer Crusie, to name but a few. I'm pretty sure I've read some of them often enough to recite some of the dialogue verbatim. And I love those books and am comforted and satisfied by them in ways most new stories don't offer. I'm still bitten hard by envy of Kathy Seidel's voice, Jenny Crusie's humor, and Nora Roberts'...well being Nora Roberts. But, while there is envy, there is more admiration than anything else. And there is gratitude to them for sharing their--this may not be a word but it should--splendidity.

Most of these writers' voices have gotten better with experience, I suppose. I read and love the new stories written by my auto-read authors just as I did the old ones. But in truth, the old ones are my favorites. If they re-release those books that are that shelf, I don't want them "fixed." (Except for the ones that are held together with scotch tape, but that's a different story altogether.) I want them just as they were then.

Question answered for me. How about you?



21 comments:

  1. It's a great question Liz (kinda goes back to my post about when to type "the end, and I mean it" ;-)
    George Lucas had the same quandary about his original three Star Wars movies, and he changed them to better fit his artistic goal and to benefit from newer CG technology. Old fans like me were enraged because he messed with a major catalyst of our lives. New fans, well, didn't seem to care because they didn't know any better. If you're putting it out on digital to gain new fans, would they more critical of these "issues" or would they look past them? And, I don't have an answer to that question :-(

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    1. Oh, drat, Ava, I didn't even think about new fans! Can't it ever just be about me? Lol.

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  2. I'm never happy with a remixed, or re-edited version of songs and books.

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    1. I am happy sometimes with songs, although I ususally have trouble with movie re-makes.

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  3. I think, unless there is a cutting-room-floor scene that you originally left out and regretted or something else along those lines, leave it. Sure, go through again looking for typos, etc, but I think spending a ton of time reworking an original story can sometimes make us fall into that trap of 'just one more tweak' when what we need to do is just move forward (and on).

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    1. I agree with that. Ava gave us food for those thoughts earlier. Sometimes we can tweak ourselves right out of a good scene!

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  4. I recently reread an old Evanovich book. She changed POV three times on the page, and guess what, didn't bother me at all. I still loved the story. It wasn't distracting. I knew exactly what was going on. Sometimes I think we are too hung up on POV changes. If the story is good, the story is good.

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  5. Hmmmmm...dunno whether to answer as a reader or as an editor. The head-hopping would probably make me nuts because it's my job to be driven nuts by that sort of thing. On the other hand, I think Ava makes a great point about new readers and frankly, digital readers have no problem trashing books in reviews if they find one tiny thing wrong. Interesting case in point would be Robyn Carr's new release from Harlequin, Swept Away, which as it turns out is a re-release of her novel, The Runaway Mistress, and apparently, they didn't reveal this fact when they put it out with a new cover and a new title. 48% of the reviewers on Amazon gave it one star because they felt cheated. believing they were getting a brand new story from Carr and instead got an old book with a new title and a new cover. That said, however, re-releasing your backlist is just that and you shouldn't have to rewrite the dang book if you are selling it as a re-release. No help from me at all, eh? ;-)

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    1. I admit, I'd rather be told when something is a re-release, but if a person is indie-pubbing their backlist, it's kind of a foregone conclusion. There are sure different ways of looking at it.

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    2. I went over to read those reviews. Several readers admitted they didn't read the entire description, which did indeed state that the book was a reprint of The Runaway Mistress. It was said at the end of the description, but it was there. Sounds as if the readers should be madder at themselves than the publisher, and not mad at Robyn Carr at all.

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    3. Ah, I see it--sort of an afterthought. But it's up front in the paperback version's description, which it probably should be in the kindle version as well. No, not mad at Robyn at all, you are so right. And reading everything is important...or you miss vital stuff. ;-P

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  6. Wow, this is a tough question. My first thought was of course she needs to edit it, but after reading the comments I'm not so sure anymore. If it's just head-hopping and the lack of cell phones Pat is worried about but the story still holds up, maybe she should leave it alone. I've got a story I got the rights back to that I was considering releasing myself, but as it was one of my first (if not the first) story I actually finished, I'm not so sure the story holds up. I don't know that I want to release something that's not my best work.

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    1. That was my first thought, too, but not my last one. :-) But, if I didn't think the story held up, that definitely makes a difference.

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  7. After reading everyone's comments, I'm not sure whether I've gained any insight or not. I've thought about old books I've re-read and how I felt about them, but even that doesn't really help me because most of the older books I've read again were books I loved before I began writing myself. And now I see all the flaws in the writing that I never noticed as a reader. So maybe, for me, that's the answer. I need to fix the things that bother me, the things I know I can make better, and forget about everything else, because the readers probably aren't going to care ... or even notice. I'm leaving point of view alone, though, because I do agree with those who said a writer switching point of view doesn't bother them as long as they know who's thoughts they're in. I did decide to write an Author's Note at the beginning of the book to explain that the book is the very first one I sold, more than 26 years ago, and that my writing style has changed a lot since then, but that I still love the story and hope they will, too. Liz, thanks for continuing this conversation. I think it's made all of us think, and that's a good thing, isn't it? :)

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    1. I think the author's note is a good idea--it explains things to the new reader.

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  8. Oops. I needed an editing button on my post. Should have written [whose] thoughts, not [who's] thoughts. Now THAT'S the kind of thing that makes me crazy when I read it! LOL

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  9. I agree, except for obvious errors they shouldn't be changed. However, I reserve the right to feel differently when that time comes with my books.

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  10. Not going to lie--I wish this was a problem I had. LOL I think just adding a note to the reader either before or after the text telling them about the time you wrote the book and how times have changed and how you've matured as a writer would suffice--once you get through the minor technicalities :)

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