The last time I will read this book…

The new book takes place on the set of Gone With the Wind in 1939.

The new book takes place on the set of Gone With the Wind in 1939.

After many long months researching, then writing, then revising, then editing STARS OVER SUNSET BOULEVARD, the galleys are here at my house, which means this will be the last time I read this book that I love so much. After this last pass with the pages, I will sign off on it, as will my editor and the production staff and the next thing you know, the book will be printed and the warehouse will be waiting for the turn of the calendar page to start shipping it off in January. I seriously doubt I will ever read it again.

Does that surprise you?

I was talking to a friend the other day and I told her that I don’t read my books after they are published and she was amazed. Why not? she said. I could only shrug and say that I don’t really know other than I’ve already read the book a dozen times by its release date, and that it’s hard to read it after publication and be totally okay with it. I am thinking there would be too many little things I would do differently, change up, change back. Change.

Once you release a printed book into the wild, it really does feel like it’s now out of your hands. An electronic file can be amended now and then; if I really wanted to change something in the one book I have on Kindle Direct Publishing, I could. But that just seems weird to me; to be continually revising a printed novel that has already been released into its own time and space. A work of non-fiction, like a textbook or a how-to or self-help, can and most likely should be revised, as the pertinent facts and figures change. But a story is a story.  Wouldn’t it be odd if Ernest Hemingway could somehow revise A FAREWELL TO ARMS from beyond the grave? If he could, and he did, I’d read it and probably be irked. Because it wouldn’t be the story I read way back when he first released it.SOSB_type_4

Were I to read a book of mine after the ink is dry I might love it less, promote it less ardently, worry more over what I could have done, should have done. It’s been said that a poet never finishes a poem. There’s just comes a point when he or she must abandon it.  It’s the same with novels, especially when you are on a contracted deadline. The day comes when you just have to say, “It’s done.”

I think it’s probably wise that we authors don’t routinely read our books after publication; at least I think I am in the majority here. I would love to hear what fellow authors think and do.  I don’t know what there is to be gained by re-reading one, unless I couldn’t remember its details. But that has never happened to me.

So what do you all think? Fellow writers, what do you do? Readers, what is your take on this? I would love to hear from you!

Author: Susan

This post has 8 Comments

  1. Ariel Lawhon on August 28, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    I can’t do it. I simply can not read my novels once they’re published. Possibly because I’ve already read them so many times. Or it could be the fact that there are no surprises left for me. I know how the rabbit was smuggled into the hat. I know whodunnit. I’ve tried to read a scene here or there and all I can think is, “Oh. I remember the day I wrote that. I was at Atlanta Bread. I spent eight dollars on lunch.” My relationship with the book, as its author, is just so different than that of a reader.

  2. Amy Sue Nathan on August 28, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    I’m with you, Sue! I don’t reread the whole book after the galleys. I do read a paragraph here or there, jump around to remind myself of a scene or two to prep for upcoming events. One thing I shared with readers at events after my debut novel came out, was that after a book is published it doesn’t belong to me anymore. It belongs to whoever is reading it.

  3. Susan on August 28, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    So very true, Ariel. We know too much. And Amy, this is brilliant: “After a book is published it doesn’t belong to me anymore. It belongs to whoever is reading it.”

  4. Cassandra Dunn on August 28, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    I agree. Once a novel is done, unchangeable, out there, it doesn’t help to revisit it. My internal editor is alive and well, always, and finding things I wish I’d done differently would probably inhibit my creativity on the next book.

  5. Kristina McMorris on August 28, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    I totally agree! I think of them like old crushes. Or a favorite movie from the ’80s. I’d much rather remember them as perfect as they were in my mind than ruined by reality from revisiting them!

  6. Susan on August 28, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Yes, Cassandra. I don’t think a re-read inspires anything for the new book I am working on. And, Kristina, I agree! It makes more sense to remember them in the euphoric state of their initial unveiling!

  7. Tori Whitaket on August 29, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    Fascinating discussion ladies! And yes, I find it surprising. As an aspiring author, I always think I’ll want to read my published book when it comes out, to see it through the eyes of a buyer bringing it home — yet I already know that I too will find imperfections or will have learned something new by then, something I wish I’d known before. Susan, I’m excited to hear about your new novel! Do the chapters shift between the past and present?

  8. Kate Hilton on September 2, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Couldn’t agree more! Actually, I have had to do just this, as my book is coming out in the US after being released in Canada last year. I just got the galleys yesterday and it is very weird to be reading them again. Since I’m halfway through another book, and my head is full of new characters, it is jarring to shift back.

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