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Do Authors Read Their Own Published Work?

Of course authors have to read their own work in order to revise it. But do they read their own work after it’s been published? To put it another way, do they become one of their readers? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. However, I’m one that doesn’t. I may have only read one of my published stories once and that was probably the first fiction work I published. It’s entitled “Strange Phenomena” which now appears in my short fiction collection, The Fool’s Illusion. Before that, I published it in an anthology of myth themed stories and poems, called Leafkin, Volume 2, which is unfortunately out of print. If I read it in that anthology, if I’m remembering correctly, that’s because I wanted to see how it read in its published format. Since then, I haven’t had time to read my own work post-publication.

In my experience, by the time your story gets published you know it too well to where you don’t want to read it anymore. After the numerous revisions you’ve gone through on a single story, you want to just move on to writing the next one. You nearly know the characters by heart; you are tired of reading their verbal and gestural responses to each other and to situations to the point where they sound phony after you’ve done so much just to make it sound the opposite. Not to mention, you notice all the story’s shortcomings (the few that may had been left behind in the revision process). While this may be a good thing so you can avoid those mistakes when writing your next story, noting them is what book critics, both pro and consumer (such as Amazon customer reviewers) are for.

I was reading a New York Times article the other day that interviewed Steven Spielberg, director of the upcoming film, Ready Player One. He says in the article that he never watches his films after they’ve been made, regardless of their level of success. He says he’s too busy to “look back a lot” and so simply moves on to making the next movie. It’s very true that we should learn from our mistakes and let our successes encourage us to not only move on to attempting more successes but to even better ones. So an author should remember the mistakes of past stories to avoid them in future ones but not put him or herself down over them. When they do that they only set themselves up for failure the next time around and so discouragement from writing more stories.

I’ve had a lot of stories fail and so were never published. When I look back, I think to myself that if I were an editor I probably would toss them in the garbage by the third sentence of each. There have been times when I’ve resented them so much that I wanted to burn them. But my poorest, most rotten of writing is what got me to better writing today. In a certain sense, an author has to fail to succeed. So if one story or book you wrote does bad as reflected in critics’ comments, or low sales, whatever, you simply learn what you did wrong and then go on to the next story or book and make it better.

It may help some authors to read their work after it’s been published so they can do better in their next writing project. But, whatever an author does, the most important thing is to write the next story. It’s the only way you will get better at writing stories, by continuing to write them.

Fellow authors, do you read your stories after they’ve been published? Readers, do you know whether any of your favourite authors do this? If so, which ones?

Until next time . . .

A four-eyed alien humanoid grins while a man walks from a landed rocket.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons


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