I’d recently decided to work on re-releasing my first Verdant novel, using a promotional plan I’ve never tried before to see if I’d get a better sales result. In addition to the promo plan, I knew at the very least that if I did I’d need to do a fresh writing/editing pass on the book. After examining one of my other novels a few years ago, I was sure there would be room for improvement in there, both in terms of story and overall quality. So when I had the time blocked off, I started working on updating the text.
Doing a rewrite can be tough, and not just committing and starting the process; your mind may tell you that good work doesn’t need to be improved. But I promise that if you look through your work, you’ll find some awkward phrasing that just begs to be rewritten. And once you do that, you’re on the road. Just go with it.
I’d already known about some of my earlier bad writing habits—I used to write “for long moments” a lot, for some reason… and actually, I used “actually” far too much—but Word’s grammar check is good at picking up habits you don’t notice. (Thank the gods for Word, since I can’t afford a live editor.) I found myself removing all kinds of words and phrases that I reuse waaay too often. I also managed to find places where I could tighten up passive passages and make them more active and immediate.
There were entire paragraphs that I originally thought were valuable background information for the story… but were really just unneeded history and exposition that ground the pace of the book down, in some cases, to a halt. Hack, hack: I may have cut altogether a dozen pages out of the book just getting rid of all that stuff. Too much youthful reading of Arthur C. Clarke, I think: Sometimes my writing sounds like a WWI Colonel regaling the occupants of his drawing room with fascinating tales of yore over sips of brandy…
And then there were the sex scenes… the totally overdone sex scenes that, at the time, I thought enhanced the story… OY. Not that I have a problem with sex scenes; but depending on the overall theme and style of the overall story, a sex scene can feel unnecessarily tacked on; and if you don’t match the tone of the rest of the book, they can drag a story to a halt just the same as awkward history or exposition scenes. And for this book, the proverbial “kiss-kiss-cut-to-morning” style was just a better option. Hack, hack… much better.
The improved story even inspired me to create a new version of the cover, which I needed anyway since I’m changing the title to Verdant: Entangled. Truth to tell, I was never happy with the old cover at any rate; the satellites I used were the only ones I could find to use rights-free at the time. This time I found a satellite that much better fits the style I envisioned for Verdant, and is a better image besides.
The entire editing job required about a half-dozen full passes for grammar, clean-up, passive to active tense and phrases, trimming excessive exposition and history, more natural dialogue, and a few et ceteras. Then a few more days to create the cover. But the result was totally worth the effort, and helped me decide whether the book was worth re-releasing. (Spoiler alert: Yeah, I think so.)
When it comes to improving your old material, you shouldn’t be afraid of just jumping in and redoing your old work. It doesn’t even have to be one of your earliest books (and I shudder to think of some of those); as time goes by, your talents improve, your perspective changes, and your past mistakes surface. Trust me, if you rewrite it, you’ll be happier with it.