But isn't it demoralising when you read something you wrote (and published) a few years back, something you thought was as good as you could make it, and see that it needs some serious attention? Have you ever done that?
You know that (excellent) advice about putting your manuscript away for a month before you start the redrafts ~ I sometimes wonder if it ought to be two years rather than a month. When I read the first novels I wrote, over twenty years ago, I cringe, badly, at some bits. That's okay, they were my first attempts and if I couldn't see their faults I might as well pack it all in and do the housework; happily, I didn't bother to submit them to agents because I suspected they were not good enough, even at the time. But in the last couple of weeks I've re-read two of my earlier published novels, and did that 'ouch' thing again. Nobody's Fault, which I wrote in 2011, needs a good edit, I think. Far too many exclamation marks in dialogue, sentences not succinct enough, long passages that need splitting into paragraphs, a feasibility issue - and that's something I yell about in other books!
I also read What It Takes written in 2013, which is better, but not better enough. Both books have some very good reviews (after all, there is nobody more critical that the creator of any piece of art), but, now that I review books on a regular basis for Rosie Amber's Review Team, I can see that I would have given Nobody's Fault only 3.5* ~ fairly enjoyable, fairly well written, but needs some work ~ and What It Takes just 4* ~ good, but not memorable.
(Note Mar 5 ~ it's only 99p for the next few days, if you want to see if you agree with me or the reviewers!! HERE)
When I read my later books (Kings and Queens, Last Child, Round and Round and The House of York ~ they're all HERE) I feel proud of them ~ I wonder if I'll cringe at parts of them in a few years' time, too? And perhaps I shouldn't say that I'm critical of my earlier stuff ~ but in these days of so many writers using gushing superlatives from reviews to advertise their work (and I am guilty of that, too), maybe a bit of honesty doesn't go amiss.
I still like Dream On and Full Circle, with only a few reservations, although those were written in 2012. They're my 'lightest' books and quite a few people name them as their favourites of mine; it's a matter of taste, too, isn't it? I was reading through the almost-final proof of my yet-to-be-published novella, Best Seller, last week when my sister was here, and read out to her a sentence I thought should have been phrased differently, with my suggested amendment. She said she couldn't see the difference.
Maybe it's just that all writers have their best novels and their not-so-good ones, as even your favourite band will have the odd album you don't like. I love Aerosmith but am not so keen on Draw The Line and Rock In A Hard Place. One of my favourite writers is Douglas Kennedy; The Job, The Pursuit of Happiness and The Big Picture would probably feature in my all time top 100 books. I also loved Temptation, The Moment and The Dead Heat, but thought Leaving the World and State of the Union dragged on and on; I skip read and might have not even finished.
Maybe that's all it is, and I shouldn't worry too much.
Some writers never read their own books, as some actors never watch themselves on television. In reviews, I criticise books for the same mistakes I have made myself ~ which is why, whenever I write advice for debut novelist type posts, I always make clear that I am talking from experience. I recognise some of those flaws only too well.
In 1990 I discovered the novels of Susan Howatch. I read what I consider to be her five best ones (The Rich are Different, Sins of the Fathers, Cashelmara, Penmarric and The Wheel of Fortune), but when I tried a couple of novellas she'd written before them, I wasn't so taken with them. Perhaps if even maestros such as Ms Howatch have work that's less than compelling, it's okay for me to go 'ouch' at my older works, too, and I should stop giving myself a hard time. That, or re-edit the ones I'm not so keen on. That would be the best thing to do, I suppose ~ but I'd rather spend the time writing the new. On the other hand, if someone reads one of the not-so-good ones first, they might well abandon and never try another one by me. Maybe that's just the way the cookie crumbles, one man's meat, and all that (and yes, I always give cliches a wide berth :).
Do you cringe when you read your old stuff, too?