Do We Read Our Earlier Books?
I am often asked if I ever go back and read my earlier works. Authors whom I have met and chatted with say they are asked the same thing. Our collective and emphatic answer is No.
The reason is simple: to pick up and read an earlier book is agony because we immediately spot places we would like to change but can’t because a novel that is already published cannot be altered, and this leads to great
frustration. Writers are by nature re-writers. We can’t stop fiddling with our work (which is why sometimes we don’t know when to say “Enough” and send the completed manuscript off to the publisher). We are always looking for ways to improve a paragraph, make a character more interesting, lift a scene above the ordinary. For me and many published authors I have met, the process of writing a novel never ends. But, of course, the time comes when the book must be published, and then it is like a baby bird that leaves its nest, out in the world and no longer in the writer’s nurturing care.
The reason I bring this up now is because, at the moment, I am being forced to re-read one of my earlier books, "Butterfly," written under my pseudonym, Kathryn Harvey. This is because I am now writing the fourth in the series, which I am tentatively calling "The Ladies of Indian Springs" and therefore I must go back through "Butterfly" and re-familiarize myself with Kathryn Harvey’s “voice” (which is different from Barbara Wood’s). And while I find that I love Butterfly as much now as I did back then, I cannot help but look at a paragraph, a sentence, a word, and just ITCH to fiddle with it.
However, what I CAN do is focus on the new book and, as I write it, make sure that every word is as I want it to be, that characters act as I wish them to, that each scene is as perfect as I can make it. And after this fourth Kathryn Harvey is finished and in print, I won’t go back and read it again.
Unless, of course, I am inspired to write a fifth. :)