This question has come up a couple of times in recent weeks, so I thought it worthwhile to address the reasons I decided to revise some of my novels for new editions and the way I’m going about it. In May 2017, the publishing rights to my space opera novels—The Solar Sea, The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth—reverted to me and I faced the decision about whether or not to republish them as they originally appeared, or update the novels and publish them in new editions. The Pirates of Sufiro was my first novel, originally published in paperback in 1995. Children of the Old Stars followed in 2000. The Solar Sea was the final novel of this set. It was published in 2005 and was a prequel to the other three.
In the ten years between 1995 and 2005, I made a lot of progress in finding my “voice” and honing my writing style. In 1995, I hadn’t yet taken Stephen King’s adage “the road to hell is paved with adverbs” to heart. I wasn’t using the strongest verbs and I had a tendency to add in unnecessary hedging or distancing words. Also, while some readers seemed to honestly enjoy these novels, I noticed a few common themes cropping up in reader reviews in places like Amazon and Goodreads, where the novels hadn’t quite lived up to reader expectations. What I realized about those reviews as time passed was those points were, for the most part, fixable. They came about because I rushed certain scenes or didn’t describe things fully. Sometimes emotions weren’t quite genuine or characters didn’t seem quite fully formed. What’s more, the worst issues were in the earlier books, which is a great way to keep people from continuing on to the later, better books. It seemed important to bring the entire series up to a consistent level.
So that’s why I thought of this as a worthwhile exercise.
Executing the edits is a multi-stage process. The first part involves re-reading each chapter with both my own critical eyes and with reader reviews in mind. I start by making some notes on the manuscript as a whole and then I go through chapter-by-chapter. Followers of my Patreon page are familiar with my posts that include an original version of a chapter headed by my notes and impression of the chapter. I then make a first pass and revise the chapter according to my notes. In my second pass, I follow the guidelines recommended in Ken Rand’s book, The Ten-Percent Solution. The book presents a method of looking for common problem words and evaluating whether you can make the sentence they’re in clearer by tightening the language. Finally, I read the chapter aloud, doing my best to keep my critical mind engaged. “Would people really say that?” “Does it make sense that a character took a particular action?” “Is it clear why something happened when it did?” Finally, I pass it to my wife for one more round of proofreading. At this point, I post the updated chapter to Patreon.
But wait, there’s more! Once I get the whole book done, I read the whole book one more time to make sure everything still holds together and that I didn’t miss something between one chapter and the next. I’ve even started using text-to-speech as yet another tool. This allows the computer to read the book to me, which has helped me catch errors I’d miss other ways.
So, is this a worthwhile exercise or should I have spent my time writing something new instead? At a personal level, it has been worthwhile. I feel like each book is significantly improved. I’ll have a better sense whether this was lucrative after I finish both Children of the Old Stars and Heirs of the New Earth. If most people who read Firebrandt’s Legacy and The Pirates of Sufiro are sufficiently intrigued to keep following the series, then this experiment will have been an unqualified success. If you want to join me as I continue this experiment and see how it turns out, sign up over at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers. There you can see me put these steps into practice and get some fun reading the books along the way.