Author Topic: Are you better now?  (Read 1379 times)  

Offline I am a unicorn

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Are you better now?
« on: July 06, 2020, 05:49:49 pm »
For all of you authors out there with multiple books, do you think your books are better now than when you first started publishing? Do you consider it good or bad for an author's later books to be of better quality than their earlier books?

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    Online Usedtoposthere

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #1 on: July 06, 2020, 06:20:46 pm »
    A question I have pondered a lot. Yes, I am a much better writer after 31 long books--a good 4 million words or more. But a lot of people like the first books best. Especially the first one, which was my first fiction.

    Why? Maybe because my writing was simpler and more accessible? Because it was filled with a kind of excitement, possibly? Because I didn't know what I was doing, so I made it different from what the rules said? Really, I don't know. It's also my only book that's ever won an award, and I'm pretty sure it's my best seller, or at least one of them, so ... no idea.

    I do think about going back and redoing it (as much as I can, since it's in audio too), but I'm a little scared to mess with it. Also a little scared to look at it for fear I will run away shrieking.

    I felt I got much better with Book 3, but I've never been able to tell ahead of time which books will be reader favorites. As in, zero idea. I'm constantly surprised in both directions. Nothing's ever bombed, but some books have generated more excitement, more sales, and higher reviews. (Though for several years, the first seven books sold just about the same. Two series.)

    Hopefully after another 8 years, I will understand these things a bit better.

    ETA: I've sold/had borrows of somewhere around 1.5 million books over 8 years or so and 7 series, so my stuff works. I just can't predict what works best.
    « Last Edit: July 06, 2020, 06:28:30 pm by Usedtoposthere »

    Offline jb1111

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #2 on: July 06, 2020, 08:13:45 pm »
    I think so. At least I have the method down better. The sales seem to reflect it as well.


    Offline markpauloleksiw

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #3 on: July 06, 2020, 09:23:59 pm »
    I would not say my books are "artistically" better. However, they are sounder and tighter as far as the prose.

    I am horrible at slotting my novel into a specific genre or writing lane. Each novel seems to drift out of the lane into a new one. That is part of the fun in each being unique.

    Mark

    Offline Crystal_

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #4 on: July 06, 2020, 11:28:19 pm »
    But a lot of people like the first books best. Especially the first one, which was my first fiction.

    Why? Maybe because my writing was simpler and more accessible? Because it was filled with a kind of excitement, possibly? Because I didn't know what I was doing, so I made it different from what the rules said? Really, I don't know. It's also my only book that's ever won an award, and I'm pretty sure it's my best seller, or at least one of them, so ... no idea.

    This. Early books often have a raw passion that later books don't. It's something we lose as we gain technique. I'm sure there's some way to combat this, but it's the natural state of things.

    My early books are certainly rougher than my later books, but they do have that raw passion. Most readers don't seem to notice the difference. Some prefer the more, erm, generic prose of my earlier books vs the very stylized prose I write now.

    Oddly, I find reader's favorite series are my second or my latest (fourth). The series between them (third) almost never wins votes. Maybe because it was my first attempt at dual POV and I took a few books to master it. Maybe because it was my second rocker series and I burnt some of my passion on the first.

    Maybe just because they prefer the series they read first. (I prefer that one too).

    There is something about the passion of early books.

    Offline Lydniz

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #5 on: July 06, 2020, 11:33:17 pm »
    What usedtoposthere and Crystal said. Technically my newer books are streets ahead of my early ones, but people still love the earlier ones, even the ones I don't consider very good. I just think earlier works tend to have a freshness to them that later ones don't.

    Offline NikOK

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #6 on: July 07, 2020, 04:35:23 am »
    I'm way better now than when I was starting, no question about it.  On my first book I had a really hard time with outlining, and I learned my lesson pretty fast after that.  I had actually spent way too much time writing out a blow by blow outline and planning every piece of the story out.  Then when I got into writing it, that caused me a lot of issues because I wanted the story to take new turns, but that would also screw up my outline.  It felt like trying to smash a square peg into a circle hole sometimes.  Now I do more planning as I go and maintain maybe a paragraph long overarching outline.  So, these days, it's less like square pegs and round holes, and more like square pegs and a garbage bag, where I can just throw in whatever I want.

    I guess I learned after that first one that I'm better with planning a story as I do it.  Usually I will spend a few days thinking about a chapter before I write it and thinking about how it fits in, or thinking about a line to open up with, or just really thinking about how I want it to go.  That process has made things night and day between newer and older things.

    Online Gareth K Pengelly

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #7 on: July 07, 2020, 05:07:04 am »
    Yes. My second series was better than my first. My third is better than my second.

    Hopefully my next series will be better still, we'll see.

    Offline I am a unicorn

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #8 on: July 07, 2020, 05:35:06 am »
    A question I have pondered a lot. Yes, I am a much better writer after 31 long books--a good 4 million words or more. But a lot of people like the first books best. Especially the first one, which was my first fiction.

    Why? Maybe because my writing was simpler and more accessible? Because it was filled with a kind of excitement, possibly? Because I didn't know what I was doing, so I made it different from what the rules said? Really, I don't know. It's also my only book that's ever won an award, and I'm pretty sure it's my best seller, or at least one of them, so ... no idea.

    I do think about going back and redoing it (as much as I can, since it's in audio too), but I'm a little scared to mess with it. Also a little scared to look at it for fear I will run away shrieking.

    I felt I got much better with Book 3, but I've never been able to tell ahead of time which books will be reader favorites. As in, zero idea. I'm constantly surprised in both directions. Nothing's ever bombed, but some books have generated more excitement, more sales, and higher reviews. (Though for several years, the first seven books sold just about the same. Two series.)

    Hopefully after another 8 years, I will understand these things a bit better.

    ETA: I've sold/had borrows of somewhere around 1.5 million books over 8 years or so and 7 series, so my stuff works. I just can't predict what works best.

    Those sells/borrows are crazy numbers! Congrats! I definitely agree that going back and looking at early work causes me some massive anxiety, so I hate messing with anything. I had to originally because a few reviews mentioned how you could tell it was my first book and someone's "inner grammar nazi" shuddered a few times. I won't mess with my first book again, but I'm glad I went back and did 2 more rounds of edits on it because it needed it! Still, I think the storytelling is solid. My voice has always been consistent.

    Offline I am a unicorn

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #9 on: July 07, 2020, 05:43:36 am »
    I think so. At least I have the method down better. The sales seem to reflect it as well.

    That's what I think about mine, too! It took me 5 years to write my first book, 2 years to write my second, a year and a half to write my third & fourth, and now only 3 weeks with my newest. I think it helps that I know the characters in and out now. My editor said my drafts are much cleaner now, too! That's something I never expected, but I guess it comes with experience.

    Offline jm2019

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #10 on: July 07, 2020, 06:51:28 am »
    I don't know if I'm "better" as far the writing style and story building is concerned, but I'm certainly much more efficient in the sense that I can put out the same quality in a third of the time.

    Offline Decon

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #11 on: July 07, 2020, 07:09:29 am »
    To the extent that I deleted my first full length thriller, published around 2011, sometime around having 5 published, my answer is yes, because I didn't really have the experience when I first published. First books hardly ever come up to scratch, and yet they can define your career path. Not that it didn't get reasonable reviews, but I knew its crafting faults as I progressed. I also started out with an horrendous cover, which later I changed, but it couldn't alter my doubts about the content
    « Last Edit: July 07, 2020, 07:13:10 am by Decon »


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    Offline Rick Gualtieri

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #12 on: July 07, 2020, 07:20:06 am »
    There was definitely a certain magic in those early books, that I think can be chalked up to: "I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm having fun doing it." 

    In some ways learning "the rules" can kind of kill that magic, but I think that's mostly a psychosomatic thing.  It's like every three books or so I seem to reach a point where I'll look at what's come before and be all "I have no idea how I wrote that, and there's no way I could write it again", but I'm pretty sure that's nothing but hindsight talking until I move on to the next project.


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    Offline Sapphire

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #13 on: July 07, 2020, 08:08:33 am »
    My skills have definitely improved. Recently, I looked over my first published novel and considered a re-write, not of the story but to correct technical issues. I subsequently decided my time could be better spent writing more books. When I really need a good laugh :) , I read what I never published. Thank goodness I had the good sense to just sit on those. All that said, I do think as writers we sometimes focus on technique over story. So write a compelling story, then fix it afterward.
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    Offline NikOK

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #14 on: July 07, 2020, 10:58:23 am »
    Also, it didn't help that I started my first book at age 20 or so.  20 year old me might have thought that he had an interesting story to tell, but maybe not so much.

    Offline I am a unicorn

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #15 on: July 07, 2020, 04:45:59 pm »
    There was definitely a certain magic in those early books, that I think can be chalked up to: "I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm having fun doing it." 

    In some ways learning "the rules" can kind of kill that magic, but I think that's mostly a psychosomatic thing.  It's like every three books or so I seem to reach a point where I'll look at what's come before and be all "I have no idea how I wrote that, and there's no way I could write it again", but I'm pretty sure that's nothing but hindsight talking until I move on to the next project.

    THIS! I had so much fun writing my first novel. I didn't care if it fit genre expectations or if anyone else would like it. I just loved it!

    Offline I am a unicorn

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #16 on: July 07, 2020, 04:50:28 pm »
    Also, it didn't help that I started my first book at age 20 or so.  20 year old me might have thought that he had an interesting story to tell, but maybe not so much.

    Hahaha, oh no!

    Offline NikOK

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #17 on: July 07, 2020, 06:35:50 pm »

    Offline Carol (was Dara)

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #18 on: July 09, 2020, 03:24:20 pm »
    As others have said, my later books are more technically correct but my earlier ones are more popular with readers. I'm going with the raw passion theory.


    Offline jb1111

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #19 on: July 09, 2020, 11:15:23 pm »
    This. Early books often have a raw passion that later books don't. It's something we lose as we gain technique. I'm sure there's some way to combat this, but it's the natural state of things.

    -snip-

    There is something about the passion of early books.

    I agree. I still get something out of writing a story several books on.... But the zap and zing of getting engrossed in the story and characters is more difficult to grasp, especially when trying to stick more-or-less to the expectations of a genre.

    I've found that taking breaks from writing and releasing seems to help -- getting back to the computer and writing after a break seems to reinvigorate my enthusiasm for the story and the characters.

    Offline kyokominamino

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #20 on: July 11, 2020, 09:09:44 am »
    I...hope my books have improved? I can't say one way or another because I'm my own worst enemy. I would say that what has changed since my very first book is that I sound more like myself and not like other cool people I wanted to sound like in the beginning. I think my books have a tone and feel that's more organic than my earlier work and I've been able to find what I like and go after it with more confidence than I did when I first started. I was so sure that my sci-fi/contemporary fantasy series was gonna bomb because the idea was too niche, but lo and behold, once the train started to move, people have been extremely receptive and supportive of them, so that's definitely a change in how I perceived my own ideas. I trust my instincts more after nine books than after my first one, I suppose.

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    Offline I am a unicorn

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #21 on: July 12, 2020, 04:22:56 pm »
    I...hope my books have improved? I can't say one way or another because I'm my own worst enemy. I would say that what has changed since my very first book is that I sound more like myself and not like other cool people I wanted to sound like in the beginning. I think my books have a tone and feel that's more organic than my earlier work and I've been able to find what I like and go after it with more confidence than I did when I first started. I was so sure that my sci-fi/contemporary fantasy series was gonna bomb because the idea was too niche, but lo and behold, once the train started to move, people have been extremely receptive and supportive of them, so that's definitely a change in how I perceived my own ideas. I trust my instincts more after nine books than after my first one, I suppose.

    It's so funny; I completely relate to what you said about trying to sound like cool people in the beginning! There are passages in my earlier books where I can tell who I was reading at the time. Influences aren't necessarily a bad thing, but I do remember reading somewhere that we only mimic another's writing until we find our voice.  :D I feel like I've gotten better at some things more than others. For example, writing in 3rd person POV is stupid hard for me. I have no idea.

    Offline kyokominamino

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    Re: Are you better now?
    « Reply #22 on: July 13, 2020, 08:52:07 am »
    It's so funny; I completely relate to what you said about trying to sound like cool people in the beginning! There are passages in my earlier books where I can tell who I was reading at the time. Influences aren't necessarily a bad thing, but I do remember reading somewhere that we only mimic another's writing until we find our voice.  :D I feel like I've gotten better at some things more than others. For example, writing in 3rd person POV is stupid hard for me. I have no idea.

    I like 3rd person, but it's tricky! I think I find myself holding back more on the characters' thoughts in 3rd person than in 1st person, so I have to remember to take my time and let them express themselves more. I'm glad to have written both POVs so far in my career, though. There is a lot to learn. I'm glad to hear you've made progress. Keep up the good work!

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