Keep Writing, Keep Improving

iStock_000009700656XSmallLike a number of my author friends, I took a good long inventory of my publications when Kindle Unlimited went live. There are, and probably will be, so many variables to the success of this program, and I’m leaving those for the other minions to write about. In fact, Lynne Cantwell wrote a really good article about KU recently. But I needed to make some calls about my own participation. Did I want to move any stories back into KDP Select? Move any out? Write a couple new ones for the program? A tough call, because recently I’d spent some time and energy prepping three titles for Smashwords and their online distributors.

While I was making these decisions, though, I landed on a short story I’d written a few years back and loaded up to Amazon: one of the first stories I’d self-published. It reminded me of how excited I’d been about the process. Learning how to do my own formatting. Screwing up my own formatting. Designing my own cover. Learning I had no business designing my own cover. Getting input from wonderful people in various writing groups. Wanting to punch walls because the paragraph indents refused to cooperate, because I couldn’t find the perfect stock image. I got some help from the lovely KS Brooks, I made some mistakes, and I eventually published it.

But when I looked it over last week, I realized a few things. Mainly, how much I’ve learned about self-publishing and writing in a relatively short period of time. For one, and for lack of a more genteel term, my cover sucked. I mean…can you say “self-published author and burnt-out graphic designer with enough Photoshop skills to be dangerous?” Yeah. It was practically broadcasting the fact in neon lights.

Then I started reading it. The story was fairly sound but clunky and wordy in spots. And—oh, facepalm—there was a typo in the FIRST PARAGRAPH. I am an editor. These things are not supposed to happen.

Well, I changed that right away. And the cover redesign is in progress. But as I read the story, I realized that being unsatisfied with my older work is a good thing—a really good thing. Okay, my dreams of being an Olympic gymnast or of playing second base for the New York Mets are probably not going to pan out. But twenty-five years in, I’m still growing as a writer, still learning, still wanting to improve. Still seeing places to improve. And that’s an amazing feeling.

I’m glad I looked.

Writers, what are your personal benchmarks for growth in your own work? Readers, ever gone back to the early works of a favorite author and noticed the difference?

Author: Laurie Boris

Laurie Boris is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and former graphic designer. She has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of four novels. She lives in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley. Learn more about Laurie at her website and her Amazon author page.

17 thoughts on “Keep Writing, Keep Improving”

  1. I many ways ways I’ve been through the same process. When, a few years ago, a reviewer mentioned some editing errors in my first book I panicked because i did not feel I had the skill to correct them and re-publish. I avoided it for a long time. But, as you say, we keep learning. So I recently did the edit and re-published it. And that only deals with the editing and formatting, and a few sentences that I knew needed re-wording. When I read how I wrote then and how I write now I see, improvement. That makes me happy. On the other hand, while I still love the story and characters in the first book, I toy with the idea of a re-write to improve the wording and style. So far I’ve convinced myself It’s strong enough, based on the reviews, but one day I may no longer be able to convince myself to leave it alone.

  2. Patricia Briggs, who now writes urban fantasy, republished (well, her publisher re-released) her first novel, an epic fantasy, a while back. She said upfront that it was a freshman effort and that she’d made some changes. But you could still tell it was her first book.

    I’m afraid to re-read The Maidens’ War, to be honest. Good for you for tackling the project, Laurie.

    1. Thanks, Lynne. I love that with self-publishing, we can do these things. Wonder if John Irving ever thinks about taking a whack at those first four novels his publisher put out after Garp became a hit?

  3. Great post, Laurie. Every single time I reread any of my older stuff I end up changing something. I guess that’s a good thing, or at least it’s one of the biggest benefits of self-publishing. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Melinda! There’s another school of thought on that, too, one I just remembered an old writing teacher used to tell me – that we were different people when we wrote the older stories. And would probably write a different story today.

  4. I’ve pulled a couple of my old short storied (never published) and nearly swallowed my tongue – so bad! But the story concepts were good. So I tossed them aside and told the story from my new writer point of view. Much better now… I love to see that progression and growth. Makes me proud that I keep on trucking.

  5. I am honored that you think I helped you! 🙂 My old stuff can’t be rewritten. It needs to be shot, shredded, burned, shot again, then buried.

  6. Very inspiring post to keep us writing and learning. One of the hardest parts of the publishing process is allowing ourselves to be less than perfect. Like Walt Whitman, we can go back and revise and republish. Thanks for the inspiration Laurie. I know I need to keep honing my work, as pointed out by readers. I am grateful for their input because I realize my writing needs to evolve, and that takes time and diligence.

  7. Laurie, great post. Must be something in the air, because I just sent one off to EM and Kat on a very similar line. I’m re-reading some of my older books, and can’t believe the amount of mistakes I’m seeing. Argh. But this is the great thing about self-publishing: we can fix those things immediately. I love that we can be as responsive as we want to be, especially since it seems to be an endless process. And it’s all a learning curve, right?

  8. Thank you Laurie for reminding me to go back, check, and check again. I’ve had more than a few OMG moments asking myself, “Did I really dare put those words to paper?” I am in total agreement about that amazing feeling. Our roots tap deeper, and our branches spread. Wow.

  9. One thing I’ve learned in life: once you think you’ve arrived, you haven’t even begun. You’re so right. You have to keep writing. You just don’t get it down once, and then you know it. A dog learns “Shake,” and never forgets it. There’s more to writing than that.

    I try to keep re-reading my favorite books on writing, and try to improve each time, each word. Writing is like your golf game, in that if you’re not careful, it will abandon you before you even know it’s gone. What could be worse than pumping out words that nobody wants to read anymore? Words that fail the reader? Words that used to work, but have since lost their punch. What’s more sad than watching Tiger Woods flounder around to a diminishing crowd, too pathetic to even hate anymore?

  10. I’m reminded of EM’s post on striving for perfection – we seem to do it no matter how hard we try not to. I’m still pretty happy with what I’ve published, but I do try not to revisit either book too often – the urge to go back and polish some more is hard to resist. 😉

  11. Great post, Laurie, and I totally agree. I’m just going through the process of going from eBook to print with most of my books and that meant at least reformatting… Well! A damn sight more it seems.

Comments are closed.