I'm a day or two away from delivering the final revision to Below Zero, the sequel to Rise Again. With every revision, the work gets better. Hence revisions. But the hard part is with every effort to improve the story, I'm better able to see over the top of the mountain to the next mountain. I envision ways to strengthen the narrative, but they would take ages to mull over and implement. They represent another revision.
There is a professional aspect to writing books that helps propel you toward the finish. Bills to be paid, obligations to meet, an audience, with luck, to supply with stories. Ultimately one draws a line and says 'it is done', regardless of how much untapped potential there might be. It would be nice to have the power to go back and change things and make them better once the public has had a chance to respond -- to end-run critics and make one's personal canon better by hindsight. But that's a rare opportunity.
In the past, the first edition might be revised in subsequent printings. The Hobbit is an example -- Tolkien changed the scene in which Gollum and Bilbo exchange riddles in order to reflect material in the more recent The Lord of the Rings, and made further revisions years after the original publication, in order to incorporate ideas from The Silmarillion. These days, such alterations are seldom performed. It's seen almost as heresy, in fact. If JK Rowling went back and altered any aspect of the Harry Potter series, fans would probably react badly. Even if the changes objectively improved the narrative.
Now, I'm not writing Harry Potter or Hobbits. This is zombies, and a ruined America, and conflict-ridden people struggling to survive the worst that nature (and their own natures) can fling at them. There aren't further books in the series to consider later on. When I finish this draft, it's more or less done forever, unless my wise editor has suggestions to make. No writer wants to make a thing and have it be less than perfect. But we must move on. Books must be published and read and new ones written.
So it's back to the manuscript, and searching for those things that could be better right now, with the understanding that posterity gets the material hereafter.
3 weeks ago