There is no right or wrong to writing a novel. It comes as no surprise that you’ll hear “do this” from one author and “definitely do not do that” from another. “This works” from one and “avoid that” from another. “I did this” from one and “that will never work” from yet another. However, amongst all these contrasting opinions, there is something I’ve heard from multiple successful authors and it used to baffle me. I couldn’t possibly wrap my head around it.
You see, so many authors will tell you, “I never read my book once it’s published.”
Psh, sure, I used to think. Whatever you want to say. There’s no way they don’t read their books. I thought this for so long. I thought this even as I was finishing up Doors. I’ve read Crossing Lines so many times since it’s been published. And then I stopped to really think about it. No….I hadn’t.
When I stopped and looked back, I realized I have never once sat down to read Crossing Lines since it went to print. Sure, I’ve picked up the paperback and thumbed through it. I’ll open up my Kindle app and zip to a particular section I’m thinking of or double check on past things. But I’ve never read it as a whole since I did final edits on it. I never opened the hard copy and read it cover to cover. I’ll admit, I’ve tried to read it on my Kindle from the start multiple times. The furthest I’ve ever gotten was maybe December.
I find myself yet again in the same position. I’ve had hard copies of Doors for days now. I have barely even touched them. I have the Kindle version downloaded on my phone just like you do. I’ve tried to read it. I haven’t made it past the seventh page.
Do my books suck that much that I can’t even make it through the whole thing?
That’s not it, though. I guess I can’t ever fully understand this phenomenon but I’ll do my best to explain why I think as an author you can never go back and read your own book once it’s published.
I’ve spent so much time with this book. Months. Countless hours. Countless versions. I’ve read and reread. I’ve plotted and outlined and drawn timelines and storyboards. I’ve pieced together and gone back to reread to make sure it all aligns. I’ve read from the beginning and rewrote chapters. I’ve read a version I hand-wrote in a notebook, one I was typing in Word, one I edited in Docs, one a hard copy printed from Staples, one in a proof. I’ve written a chapter and reread it before moving on. I’ve sat down to write a new section and reread the previous chapter. I’ve read this book so many times. I wrote this book. I know what happens. I know these characters. I know this story. Is this why I can’t read my work now that I’ve finally released it to the world? Maybe.
Another thing I’ve heard from multiple authors: “You will never be completely satisfied with your own book.”
That’s a hard thing to hear, don’t you think? You’re probably wondering, how can that be? They released it. They spent months writing it, weeks editing it, and now it’s ready to go. How can they not think it is ready?
It’s true. As I try to read Doors now, I catch where I should have split a paragraph instead. Where a comma could go. How one speaker tag should have been different. How my wording in one section sounds clunky. I can never read Doors without finding something that needs to change. I can never read Crossing Lines or Doors without the eyes of a critic, an editor.
So to those other authors, I agree. I’ll never read my own books once they’ve gone to print. I can never step far enough back to simply enjoy the story and lose myself in that world. But I hope you can. I look forward to hearing how you enjoy it.