Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I'm a Chicken

By R.J. Harlick

Pretending there are no time constraints, would you ever get the urge to sit down with your own published work and read?

I love reading. No matter how busy I am, I always find time to read. It’s one of life’s pleasures that helps me chill out after a busy day. I want a book I can relax with, a book that will help me escape to another world.

Now you ask, would I chose one of my own?

You have to understand that by the time one of my books is released into the big broad world, I will have read it three times.

The first time is after the first draft is complete. While I am writing this first draft I never go back and read what has already been written. Only when it is finished, do I go back and read it. But, honestly, you can’t really call this reading, at least not for pleasure. I’m working very hard when I do this first read.  I want to know if the story hangs together and if the characters make sense. I want to identify where changes need to be made, which parts of the story need working, which characters need fixing, which if any chapters should be cut or characters removed and so on and so forth.  I also look closely at the words themselves to make sure they do what I want them to and to identify changes when they don’t.

The second time I read the complete text is after the second draft is finished. Again, this read can hardly be called a read. While I would like to do a complete read of the text before jumping into the editing, usually I don’t have this luxury because I am bumping up against a deadline. Instead I will read a chapter at a time, which I then edit. This third and final draft will be the one I send to my publisher. So, during this so call ‘read’ I am wanting to ensure all the changes work and the words make sense. I also use this draft to reduce the word count to that required by my contract. Since I tend to be rather voluminous with my words, this becomes an exercise in deleting. Not much pleasurable reading happening here.

Once this third draft is complete, I hit the send key and off it goes to my publisher without another read through. You no doubt are asking yourself how I can do this. My answer is I dare not. Because if I did, I know I would be into another round of editing. It would be impossible for me to leave it alone.

The third and final read is when I proof the manuscript that is now in print ready form, ready to be shipped to the printer. But once again this is far from a relaxing read. Though I’m reading every word, I’m looking for typos, editing mistakes and so on and so forth. It’s the last chance I have to make any changes before it is beyond my control. Occasionally I forget myself and read it for the pleasure of reading it, but when I do, I lose my concentration and miss the problems, so I have to go back to ensure I didn’t miss anything. In case you are wondering if I read the manuscript after my editor's changes have been incorporated, the answer is no. I never do. 

Many months later, I finally get to hold the printed copy in my hand. A thrill I never tire of. But do I read it?

Nope, I don’t. Not in its entirety. I will do an out loud, short reading, usually the first chapter, at library and other events, but I have yet to pick up one of my books to read it the way I would any other book, for pleasure.

I suppose it is in part because I’m intimately familiar with the story and definitely know whodunit. But that doesn’t keep me from rereading other books. No, I suppose it has more to do with my being chicken. What if I don’t like it? Nothing I can do about it now. But say I do like it, really like it, I know I wouldn’t be able to prevent myself from noticing where improvements could be made.  I would read it like an editor and end up getting absolutely no enjoyment out of it.

Though all seven books sit on my bookshelf, it is safe to say that they are the only books that I have not read in my library. And when Purple Palette for Murder comes out in October it will join them and it too will remain unread by me. Oh dear, I’m beginning to feel rather sorry for them. Maybe, just maybe, many years from now I will summon up my courage and read them.

But that’s not to say you shouldn’t read them. Please do. Because you will be able to read them as a reader and will be able to escape into the mysterious world of Meg Harris.

What about you other writers? Do you read your books once they are published?


Paul D. Marks said...

Robin, I'm afraid to read books or stories after they come out. I'm afraid I'll find errors, sometimes typos, sometimes bigger things that one wonders how several people missed them. That said, I do occasionally read a section here and there and like you sometimes parts of things for readings at various events.

James Ziskin said...

Nice post, Robin. Chicken. ;-)

Unknown said...

I feel the same. Fear of finding out my own work is awful is like a boogeyman under the bed - the more I don't look, the awfuller it gets! :P Hope you have a great time at Women Killing It in Picton! Sorry I'll miss it.

RJ Harlick said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only chicken, Paul, Rachel. I'm looking forward to see whether my fellow minds are equally chicken.

Susan C Shea said...

I'm not afraid, but like you, Robin, I have read them so many times already that I can't quite face them other than to read aloud what I hope is an enticing snippet at a bookstore event.