When I go back and read that first book, it's almost painful at times. Yes, I've gone back and fixed several just plain errors, so if you have a newer version of it, it's a pretty clean read. It's that the writing is just okay. I know that this is partly because it was my first book and I've grown and matured as a writer so that later books will inevitably be better than that one. But it's more than that. If I could start again, I would do it differently. I would do it more like I do things now, such as:
- Remember the rule I harp at my kids about, which is based on Mark Twain's immortal words: "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." (http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/1119.html) I'm in the midst of my third revision of the novella I'm going to be publishing next month and at this point my main focus is to go through making sure each word is the EXACT RIGHT word to convey the message I want. Is it completely accurate? Is it too strong? Too weak? Does it perfectly fit the character? The situation? So many questions I barely thought about with my first book.
- Editing is way more than proofreading. Again, I tell my students this constantly, and yet I didn't seem to take my own advice. It's much larger than simply making sure all the words are spelled right and all the commas and periods and stuff are in the right place. It's closely examining how every word and sentence and paragraph and character and event fits within all the other words and sentences and paragraphs and characters and events. It's making sure to give out enough information at the right times and thinking about when it's better to just omit something and leave it to the imagination of the reader. It's paying attention to the arc of the story so that every little detail comes at exactly the right time. It's going back and rewriting page two so that the little thing that happens on page fifty has more emotional impact.
- There's no hurry. I have no intention of being George R. R. Martin slow, but cranking out a book every few months is, for one, not feasible while holding down a full-time job and, for two, not conducive to creating good stuff. And after all, I can publish all the books in the world, but if they're crappy then I've wasted my time and am not going to make any sales. After all, the ultimate goal here is to someday (I hope soon) to make a living doing this. So maybe two a year, or even one a year with a novella thrown in will be a more reasonable schedule. The point is, I'm not going to set artificial deadlines on myself. Each book will be ready when it's ready and only then will I think about publication. I think that will improve my ability to properly market books too.