Tuesday, March 1, 2011

To edit or not to edit

There has been an interesting discussion on one of my writer blogs about whether or not authors should fiddle around with their own books.

This wasn't even an issue a few years ago. When you turned in that final version to the publisher, they printed it and that was that. But now, many authors are re-releasing older books in e-book form. The writers have rights back, so they can technically change anything they want.

But should they?

Is this akin to George Lucas adding characters to the original Star Wars movies? Should creative people leave work alone already. Or would more subtle changes work better?

It's hard to say. It seems to be a very personal decision on the part of the creator of the work. Then again, when movie watchers or readers are involved, when does it stop becoming the artist's work and start becoming "property" of the fans who enjoy it?

I faced a similar issue back in November when I decided to re-release the first book in the Accidental Demon Slayer series. There are things I know now (after writing four books in the series) that I didn't know while creating The Accidental Demon Slayer. There are also a few things I would have done differently. So I did them.

Some readers have noticed and written (all positive so far), others reading for the first time would have no idea. I simply added world building details, bits of history, little slices of life that weren't present in the first version. Then there were a few words here and there that had been changed by editors that I changed back. Ha. My version. My rules.

It was a lot of fun, and 99% of the book stayed the same. The story is the same. All the characters are there, only better - or at least that's what I think.

So what does everyone else think about re-edits and re-releases of movies? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Or does it just depend?


SandyG265 said...

I recently read a re-edit Terry Pratchet did of one of his very early books The Carpet People. I've never read the original version but since it was published when he was about 17 I suspect it probably benefited from the re-edit.

Casey said...

I have a friend who has spent a lot of time editing books to turn into ebooks. Her books are years old, so she's updated references, given her characters cell phones, etc., etc., etc. I dunno . . . seems to me as a reader that when I'm reading an older book, I expect it to be an older book. I certainly wouldn't be happy reading about Miss Marple pulling out her I-Pad!

Angie Fox said...

Terry Pratchet published a book at 17? Dang. I was still writing (purposely) goofy stories for my friends about their alternate lives at that age. Wish I had some of those now. But yes, anything written at age 17 probably needs an update.

Angie Fox said...

Good point, Casey. I don't mind the old books, either. A friend of mine moved recently and cleared out some of her bookshelves. She gave me an entire bag of old, old romances. I'm talking The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss. That book came out the year I was born and it is fabulous. Old school, yes. Very old in style too. But it was also a refreshing change of pace.

It's hard to say when writers should edit already-published works. But I suspect we're going to start hearing more and more about it.

Sharon S. said...

I think it is a great idea. There are some stories out there that would benefit from an "update" . The books would pick up new readers of this generation. I love re-releases of movies too. Sometimes they fall flat, but sometimes you get something wonderful.

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin said...

I guess I lean towards "it depends." You can always change things. Some changes will be improvements. But... when are they worth the bother? When you go into an old novel to re-edit it, you aren't working on new stories. Sometimes it's worth the time it takes, but sometimes I'm not so sure. {Smile}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin