As an author, there’s one distinctive characteristic of 2011 that will always stick out in my mind–I feel like I’ve been writing at the speed of sound. It’s sort of like when you’re watching a fireworks show and the report of the exploding rocket reaches your ears several seconds after you’ve seen the glittering fan of color spread out in the nighttime sky. You see, the publishing process can be slow, and I found myself working with editors on projects that had been written many months prior. The problem was, my writing had evolved since then, and it was as if I was looking at ancient history. I managed to ‘update’ the writing in the editing process, but it made me wonder where my writing would be months or even years from now. Does J.K. Rowling look back at Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and shake her head?
To any of the authors out there, I pose the question…do you ever find yourself re-reading your earlier work and wishing you had a reset button?
To readers I ask…when you read an author’s body of work, can you tell the difference between his or her first novel and the last one?
And finally, given that novels are works of art, should it matter?
~ S.G. Rogers
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20 thoughts on “Writing At The Speed of Sound”
IMO, it is a healthy exercise to read earlier writings with (hopefully) fresh eyes and more objectivity. One’s opinion of their work will almost always change, and it should; that’s a sign of the growth and development of your writing craft. Regardless of whatever it is your are aspiring to do (writing, painting, playing an instrument, being an athlete, etc.), the more you practice, the better you become. The early stuff is simply a gauge that subsequent writings can be measured against.
Only those who are unable to be critical of their own writing are the ones who will never reach their full potential as authors. (Of course, that’s what professional editors are for, right?) All works of art are merely forms of expression, and each person’s experience is unique, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. Some will like what you have to offer, some won’t; so what?
I wish you the best in all your writing endeavors!
As an author, I never wish that I had a reset button when looking at early works; I acknowledge what could be better and appreciate the fact that I have the ability to discern what is ‘quality’ and what needs to be tossed.
Well said, Kevin.
Thanks! We’re all here to learn and lend support to one another.
Interesting topic…love it! I have had the same feeling when I read my earlier stories….a reset button would be great. lol I would think all authors feel this way. You learn, grow and evolve with each book you write and your style emerges as you become more confident and comfortable.
But, as a reader, I’d have to say that it would be more subtle. I find that I don’t notice the author’s writing changing as much as I notice how they build their world and tell their story with so much more…in the way of description and characterization….if that makes sense.
You could be right, Christine, that the differences are subtle. It’s also possible that authors read with a more critical eye. When I find an author whose voice I admire, however, I take the good with the rough and enjoy the whole morsel.
I think Kevin said most of what I would say, except he said more eloquently. But one thing that’s different for me: I’m always wishing I could revise one or two things, but I’m better able to move on. After all, there are so many more stories to tell!
I agree, Patricia. There are MANY more stories to tell!
Good post. You’re an incredible writer! Would love to read your earlier stuff too! You’ve been writing up a storm! Wish I had half of your enthusiasm.Regarding my own work, I wrote like I was on fire early in the year, but in the latter part it was more like slow motion. 🙂 I’m hoping with a new year creeping in, that my fingers catch fire once again.
Going back over my older ms’s I find it easier to spot the reason(s) they were rejected, and what it would take to fix them. Time will tell if I actually give them my heart and soul a second time.
Good question about what J.K.Rowling thinks about her Harry Potter. My guess is, she’s mostly satisfied with how things turned out – but like most of us, she’s probably found things she would’ve done a little different!
Wishing you all the best that 2012 has to offer!!
I expect J.K. Rowling is glad she’s made people happy, despite whatever rough spots she might or might not discern in her earlier work. In the end, I suspect most authors just want to matter.
All the best to you, too, Jan. I look forward to your new releases in 2012!
As Kevin noted, it is always important to review one’s work especially errors and this applies to many occupations not just writers. I started my career as a nurse and my career progressed from there. Although, I was fortunate not to have made a nursing error in my career, I was certainly involved in reviewing them with staff. It was never done with the purpose of discipline(unless warranted), but instead, normally done as a group learning process to ensure that this type of error could not happen again. The same with file reviews, they were done so we could improve our techniques so patients could experience a better outcome. The importance of continuing education was stressed. I knew that continuing education was a must, since medical research quickly changed what is considered “Best Practice” and it is our responsibility to keep up. Updating your writing or updating your learning both are about growth & development in your field.
One point, I would like to point out, however, is I did go to school before I plunged that needle into your arm to take that blood sample and even if it was my first “poke” on a “real” patient, there were quite a few practice sessions done on volunteers prior to jabbing you. My point, well, I find it extremely distracting, when attempting to read a piece of literary work when it is filled with grammatical errors. Being the age of computers, there is hardly any reason for punctuation errors, yet, I see them, over and over again. A writer, just starting their craft, should have their work reviewed by others. If they are unable to afford an editor, there are plenty of volunteers who will assist in reviewing and editing books, if the author wishes this service.(it has to be easier than finding someone to practice “poking” for blood”)
I am not the only person who is annoyed by this problem. I often see the comment that “the work was littered with punctuation and grammatical error to the extent that it detracted from the story”. I am not talking about a few errors here and there, I mean sentence after error filled sentence.
With the advent of self-publishing, this problem has become rampant. Whose responsibility is it to protect the reader from purchasing books & eBooks that do not meet a minimum standard of English? Should there be a button so that readers can remove a book from a site for “editorial review ” if it has an over abundance of grammatical and punctuation errors?( Rules could be set to determine the number of acceptable errors/page) The first editorial review could be arranged by the author but the site that hosts the book would also review the book before re-posting the book for readers. They can use volunteer editors that they have screened if need be. I am sure that they could find volunteers willing to help edit, given how helpful writers seems to be towards other budding writers.
Most of the time, I can tell a writer’s earlier books from their more recent works. The character development has often changed and is better developed but more concise, the story itself often has better direction. However, with some authors, their earlier works are sometimes better since their later works have become somewhat repetitive/predictive, so, in fact, it is often refreshing to read their earlier works to get a glimpse of how they wrote at the onset.
I am glad that authors do not have a “reset” button because I fear that they would update their stories to make them all “feel” like today. Yesterday was just as important since it gives us our history and in the writer, it is a part of who they were.
Interesting insights! I particularly like your comment about past works being a part of an author’s ‘history.’ Sometimes imperfection can be exactly what makes something delightful.
OMG. When I look at the first book I had published back in 2008 I can’t believe the publisher actually put it out there. I can barely look at it without cringing. I’m just glad that I’m getting the rights back next year so I can hopefully fix it and make it better.
One person’s cringe is another person’s good time. Before Madonna was famous, I remember watching her perform on some music awards show. I thought “Ooh, that girl just made a fool of herself on television–poor thing.”
I have looked at earlier works and wished I could change things, make a tweak here and there. I think it’s inherent in writers. We always want to make the things we’ve written better.
i believe it’s all about the process. What is written is written and that’s where you ‘were’. As the saying goes, ‘You’ve come a long way baby’ – that’s the lesson. Loved your thought-provoking post, Suzanne!
I’m often reminded of the phrase “It’s the journey, not the destination, that’s important.” But…it’s a challenge to ‘let go’ and ‘let it be.’
Fabulous post, Suzanne. So true!
When I dug out Dark Deceit after three years in the drawer, unfinished, I read through the whole ms before I continued to write the end. Oh, my! 😉 Even though the earlier chapters were critiqued during my Creative Writing studies, and through writers’ groups, they were nowhere near my current level of writing. At times I shuddered at the numerous exclamation marks, the awkward prose and the stilted dialogue. Shows that, as a writer, you’re always honing your skills, moving forward, learning. Life as a writer is never boring.
Good way to put it…always moving forward. Thanks, Cathie!
Yes, J.K. Rowling probably cringes when she reads some of her earlier prose. And yes, it absolutely matters. If reading your own work from a few years ago doesn’t make you cringe, you’re doing something wrong.