Rereading Your Own Work

The First One's Free and Gimme ShelterThere is something to be said about rereading your own books. Not for ego but for consistency.

As I prepare to send The Children of Amargosa out for blurbs, I realize that I myself am going to have to reread it straight through.

“Wait. Didn’t you just edit that book? What gives?”

Actually, Stacy Robinson reread it. Several times. I looked at sections that had comments or needed major revision. I did not look at the book as a whole. I went back to sections that had to be referenced, but I also realized that there are several references in this book to Gimme Shelter. The uninitiated reader might not care if I get those details wrong, but someone who’s read the novellas might get a tad upset if I contradict myself.

And so I need to keep my details straight as I move forward. Fortunately, Broken Skies and Warped are only tangentially related to Amargosa. The first takes place over Amargosa in the beginning, but there is no interaction with any of Children‘s main characters. But Tishla picks up days after the end of The First One’s Free and is indirectly affected by the events of Children.

Eventually, this is going to be enough to make your head swim. I wonder how George RR Martin or Stephen King does it. I’ve pretty much given up on figuring out what Tolkien did.

But it goes beyond that. I did interviews for Northcoast Shakedown when it was out as a traditionally published novel. I remember getting caught not remembering certain incidents in the book, a problem time has only magnified. Now, as I get ready to rerelease Nick Kepler and Road Rules, I may have reread them before sending them out into the wild again.

And then there’s good ol’ Holland Bay, the epic crime novel that underwent so many revisions that I almost forget what happens in the draft I’ll release in early 2017.

I am by no means the first author to have to worry about this. In doing a review for The Rap Sheet back in the day, I had to approach a well-known crime author about a book I’d read five years earlier as I was writing a long piece on his latest work. The author, very well respected and a contributor to one of the best known crime shows on at the time, confessed he could not remember what the character in question did and had to go look it up.

Perhaps the greatest solution to this was Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Starczynski’s. JMS had a long, elaborate storyline for his classic space opera series. Writing most of the stories himself, he frequently found himself hitting a wall when referencing something that happened during earlier seasons. His solution? He encouraged fan web sites that tracked episodes and summarized them. If you have a franchise that is beloved by a dedicated fan base with several sites devoted to it, you can check several sites and cross-check them for errors. Mind you, word processors were still somewhat a novelty during B5‘s run. Sure, that’s when the computer George RR Martin writes on was built, but JMS had to not only write an entire show but run it. He didn’t have time to dig through piles of hard copy or sort through stacks of floppy disks (by then not so floppy).

It’ll be a while before the Compact Universe can build a fanbase that dedicated. In the meantime, I’m going to have to read my own work periodically both for publicity and for consistency. On the other hand, the farther I get from its initial creation, the more I can read it as a reader than as its author.

That’s actually kind of sweet.

Until you find that one novel you stuck in your trunk vowing never to set it free.

1 Comment to "Rereading Your Own Work"

  1. March 28, 2016 - 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I run into this same thing with my time travel novels. Right now, I keep having to check things in Book 2, as the novella I’m working on overlaps it a little bit (focusing on different characters). But isn’t it great when you read your own work and still enjoy it?

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