I can still remember the excitement of seeing my first novel in print. Most authors take their photo with the box of books or holding it or even kissing the cover. We’re all different, but one way we are the same, that first book is like a baby’s first steps. We crawl, we stand, we take two steps, we learn to tetter around the room, and finally we learn to run. This article is about running.
Seasons was my first novel published by Barbour Publishing in 1998. I was thrilled and, again this year, excited when the rights reverted back to me and I could bring this book back to life.
But changes have happened since then as it has happened to you or will happen. Our writing grows, changes and improves as time moves on. With each book, we learn a new technique or we perfect an element of writing. We study the art of writing, we read magazines and books on writing. We attend conferences and workshops. We associate with other authors and learn what they have learned. We dissect everything we read with a critiquers eye.
Today after 64 novels, my writing has changed. It has improved and when I look back at those first books, I’m startled to see what I did then…and when I see it now, I cringe. I do because all writers must continue to hone their craft.
So when I had Seasons in my hands again, I could not add a new cover and send it on it’s way with a notation that it was a re-issue of an old novel. No, I had to rework it to correct the things I didn’t like and improve it as much as possible. Today I have many new readers who know my writing and I want to give them the best I can.
It’s impossible to change a whole novel without a full re-write, but I did make lots of changes. The story is the same story and a good one, I think, but I wrote for the publishers guidelines so certain aspects follow what the publisher’s readership enjoyed. That’s not all bad. The books sold well.
Let me give you an example of a change. To help create deeper POV, I no longer use dialogue tags. I find that some dialogue gives a clear understanding of the reader, but for most dialogue, I would rather use an action beat, an emotion or a character’s thought process, which makes the speaker clear.
From Seasons — Brad and Sally meet while attending a program for widowed men and women. Brad’s POV:
Concentrating on the presentation proved difficult. He couldn’t keep his eyes from Sally. She followed Jack’s every move. Her expression reflected Jack’s words, her head nodding, her mouth curving into a fleeting grin.
To his surprise, Sally turned toward him with a questioning glance, her skin tone rising to a shy schoolgirl pink. Tenderness surged through him. Before he could force his attention on Jack, the presentation concluded.
“Jack’s right.” Sally shifted in the chair. “It’s what you said. You can’t sit around waiting for life to happen, you have to find a new life, make new friends and new traditions. Sounds easier than it is.” She rose, and he followed.
“I couldn’t help but think of my cousin’s good intentions at playing matchmaker. A horrible experience. I wasn’t ready at all. Haven’t been, yet. Not one date.”
Sally’s eyes brightened. “Nice to know I’m not alone, and it’s been longer for me. A co-worker asked me to dinner, and you would think he asked me to eat worms. I panicked. I disappointed myself.”
“Maybe he wasn’t the right one.” His pulse fluttered as a faint ray of hope rose inside him. “One day it’ll happen for both of us.” He delighted in her lovely eyes as his mind filled with images. Maybe someday you’d like to have dinner with me.
She smiled, and his stomach took a dive. He prayed he hadn’t spoken his thoughts aloud. “Did I say something?”
She grinned. “No, but you sound like my neighbor. He said when the right one comes along I’ll know it. In my heart.”
“And how old is this neighbor?” His question hid an aching fear.
She looked at him slyly. “About a hundred, maybe.”
This example will give you the idea of how editing an older novel can improve it by bringing the characters to life in a more powerful way.
You can find Seasons on Amazon.com Just click the link and you can read the opening scenes.