Weird experiences for a Writer

Okay, so, first: If you write, do you ever go back and re-read a book of your own that you wrote some time ago?

I sometimes see comments here and there about this, so I know that, like practically everything else, this varies widely, with some authors never re-reading their own books and others doing so rather routinely. I’m in the latter category. There are two reasons I re-read books of my own:

a) I’m writing a series novel and I need to re-read one or more earlier books or stories in order to remind myself what happened and also to recapture the appropriate voice(s). I tend to fall back into a specific character’s voice easily, but re-reading definitely helps.

b) I just feel like it.

Oh, one more reason, come to think of it, that is sort of a subset of those above but also kind of distinct:

c) Somebody wrote me a really nice letter about a book of mine and that made me want to open up that book and re-read at least parts of it, maybe with an eye to a possible sequel for the future and maybe just because.

That happened a few months ago when several people wrote me nice letters about The Sphere of the Winds in one week, thus prompting me to re-read The Floating Islands and The Sphere of the Winds almost straight through and then take extensive notes about a possible sequel. (Extensive for me; a three-page synopsis with a couple of “then stuff happens” fillers.)

However, for no reason in particular, I recently just felt like re-reading The White Road of the Moon. So I did. I started by opening it in the middle and reading a bit of one scene, but then I went back to the beginning and read the whole thing straight through.

The White Road of the Moon by [Rachel Neumeier]

What a strange experience! Turns out that I remember the original unpublishable trilogy — working title, the Ghost trilogy — quite a lot better than the final version of this book. Or you might say, I remember both versions, sort of superimposed on each other. I would hit scenes and wait for a character to appear even though I remember cutting that character! I would think doubtfully, “But doesn’t he get at least a couple of lines in here someplace?” Nope. Completely gone. Which I knew, but had a hard time believing.

Also, I really did not remember details of a lot of the scenes. There’d be all this stuff going on, and maybe some quite funny dialogue, and I’d be reading this in some surprise because I don’t remember writing that! I mean, I do remember the broad outline of the scene, plus the original scene it was based on, but not all the details and definitely not all the dialogue. I’m thinking of the prison escape scene in particular, which changed a lot between the original version and the final version. In this book, the first third is almost straight from the Ghost trilogy with only an ordinary amount of revision, then scenes change more and more, and almost nothing from the final third came out of the Ghost trilogy, and that has very perceptible to me as the story felt less and less familiar as I read through it from front to back.

White Road came out in 2017, which means, I guess, that I probably wrote it in 2016, maybe even earlier. So it’s been at least five years. I haven’t ever picked it up and read bits of it since then, so I guess it makes sense that I don’t remember it that well?

Still, that was very different from re-reading the Tenai book as I broke it up and revised it into the Death’s Lady trilogy. I think the difference was, I had the original Ghost trilogy AND the original Tenai story just about memorized, but the Ghost trilogy changed a lot as parts of it morphed into The White Road of the Moon, while the Tenai story, as much time as I put into revision — which was great heaping gobs of time, believe me — changed much less in terms of the broad story.

Another surprise: Wow, is The White Road of the Moon fast-paced. Re-reading it makes me sort of feel like setting that as a new challenge for myself: write something even more breakneck than this. Whoosh! Once the action starts, well, I think there’s one scene where the characters get a chance to catch their breath, maybe two, but overall, pretty darn nonstop.

I do see some things I would do differently, mostly small-scale things. I promise I am taking beta readers seriously when they say, “Is this sentence repetitive?” Probably, yeah. I’m doing the final revision of Keraunani now, and any time a bet a reader says “Repetitive?” I am just taking out that sentence without bothering to scan up and down and look for other places where I might have said whatever that was. I bet I could have trimmed fifty repetitive sentences out of White Road. When you’re revising, it’s actually pretty hard to see this. You forget you said something two pages ago because you’re going back and forth so much rather than straight ahead, or whatever. But this is something I think I’ll be more conscious of now.

Overall, I liked this book quite a bit. It does make me want to go re-read some scenes from the original ghost trilogy. Maybe even clip some of those scenes, drop them in new files, and put those files on the desktop, where I keep stuff I’m currently working on or want to work on in the fairly near future. (I’ve got a lot of stuff on the desktop right now, you bet.)

I will also just note in passing that The Year’s Midnight, which came out this year, has 46 reviews on Amazon, while The White Road, which came out five years ago, has just 16 reviews. This is largely because publishers are absolutely dismal when it comes to getting people to leave reviews. If you have read The White Road of the Moon and liked it, but haven’t left a review, how about clicking through now and writing a couple sentences?

Also, 50 is a nice round number that is widely suspected to be noticed by Amazon algorithms. It’d be nice if The Year’s Midnight collected another four reviews.

As always, if you have already left reviews for either or both books, thank you!

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2 thoughts on “Weird experiences for a Writer”

  1. Yeah, I just did this for the first book in a series I’m in the process of drafting, and . . . boy, did things change from the 2nd draft to the 3rd! For one thing, I didn’t realize until I got to the final spate of scenes that I was reading 2nd instead of 3rd draft, because most of the middle was pretty much the same. But I did add some little scenes to bridge gaps and actually finished the ending (kind of important) in the 3rd draft, and when I went back and reread those I was like, oh yeah, that’s why what I was reading didn’t make sense.
    And of course there were moments where I was like, “I wrote that? Really?” – in both directions, delight and disgust.
    May all your writing endeavors go well!

  2. Yours too, EC, especially if you’re using NaNoWriMo to give yourself a push! I hope everyone who’s aiming toward Nov 30 winds up somewhere close to where they’re aiming.

    We shall pass lightly over the horrified, “OMG, did I really write that?” reaction with which we are all, alas, probably familiar. My worst ever may be in the draft of the Death’s Lady trilogy I sent beta readers: I had completely missed smoothing out a transition, and therefore at that spot the narrative suddenly jerked in a way that made no sense at all. Ouch. That was very embarrassing. Everyone who pointed to that did so more gently than I deserved.

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