Way back in 2011, I blogged about the Dynamism of Writing, which takes many forms. I concentrated mostly on the ability of a project to take over the story from my conscious brain, but touched on another aspect as well, and that’s the “doneness” of a book. As I wrote back then, I think I could look at one of my books every day for a year and probably think there were 365 different ways to make it better (sometimes changing things back to what they were before I changed them!). Even our illustrious lady leader, K.S. Brooks, wrote about the wisdom of letting a book sit and looking at it with fresh eyes before publishing.
This whole issue was brought to my unhappy attention when I began to re-read one of my older books. First published 25 years ago, it’s one of my favorites and I do re-read it periodically just because I enjoy it so much. When the original publisher felt it had had its run, they let the rights revert back to me and I published it through iUniverse (the only game in town at the time), then years later cancelled my contract with them and republished it through CreateSpace. At both of these junctures, I went back through the book and made minute changes, caught a few typos and pronounced it good.
So imagine my surprise when I started reading it recently and found within the first few pages a glaring misspelling! Ack! Of course then the reading-for-fun immediately turned to proofreading, and I’ve found many things that I’ll change, a handful of typos but also—I swear—things that I don’t think I would ever do! Where do those come from? Did someone edit my book? Who’s hacked into my Kindle and changed things? (Probably the same person who somehow gets into my DVD collection and adds new scenes to movies I’ve watched a dozen times before!)
Coincidentally in a recent discussion, another author friend asked the question, “Is a book ever really done?”
I would love to say yes, but I’m honor-bound to say no. At least not as long as we keep looking at them.
I mean think about it; some days we wake up feeling refreshed, energized, ready to go accomplish great things. Other days we might feel sluggish, short-tempered, churlish. Or maybe depressed. Or grateful. Or open. Closed. Happy. Sad. Bullet-proof. Overwhelmed.
Do you really think you could read the same book every one of those days and actually see the same thing, feel the same thing?
One day the book is good; it’s whole, complete, done. Next day it needs work. Ok, then it’s done. No, next day it needs something else.
Where does it stop?
Well, the fact of the matter is, it probably doesn’t. Not unless you close the book, put it away and never take it out again.
The way I see it, I’ve got two choices: I can do the above (put the book away and never touch it again) or I can revisit it periodically and make whatever small changes I feel it needs at that time. I honestly don’t think I could do the former. And the latter, to me, feels like polishing, like the slow, deliberate caressing with a soft cloth to really bring out the shine, the loving care that is accorded to family heirlooms that are timeless in their value. This is part of the lifelong process of caring for that treasured story, taking it out every so often, burnishing it gently, then returning it to its place of honor on the shelf.
At least that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.