Life is too short to reread stuff you wrote yourself. Once I’ve completed a novel, I never look at it again.
But the e-book process forces you down this path, if only to check for glitches in the conversion process. So that’s what I’ve been doing for Summit. Of course, my main worry was that I’d find myself thinking: How could I have written this crap? Luckily, this didn’t happen. There were sentences I felt like tweaking, but the novel continued to work for me.
What was most interesting about the experience was how much I had forgotten about the novel. These were characters and events that inhabited my brain for a long time, and now some of what happened seemed totally new to me. Did I really write that?
As a spy thriller, Summit is legally obligated to have a certain number of plot twists. They have to be prepared for in such a way that they are surprising when they happen, but sufficiently plausible that they don’t seem arbitrary, that the reader doesn’t think the author is just messing with him. When I reread the novel, the first plot twist took me completely by surprise. So much so that, when the twist started (somewhat mysteriously, with someone being in a place she wasn’t supposed to be), I thought I had screwed up, so I went back and changed a paragraph a couple of chapters earlier in the novel. Then I continued reading, and I realized the clever author had tricked his credulous future self. I should have trusted the author more — now I had to find the paragraph I’d changed and put it back to the way it was supposed to be.
Personalities persist, but memories decay. I’m the same person that I was back then, but that doesn’t mean I can’t surprise myself.
SUMMIT is a great read, and a good introduction to Richard’s work.
And, re: looking back on your old writing — I recently released a collection of my horror stories (A COLD WIND IN JULY from Necon Press) which covered stuff I had sold over a 30 year span. A third of the stories I remembered very well, another third I remembered writing, but forgot some of the story twists, and the last third wewre “Huh? I actually wrote this?” Still liked them all, though, which was a great relief.
That’s a familiar experience for me. I once pulled one of my novels off the shelf and started reading a scene at random. There was something in it that I was sure I hadn’t written — so sure that I dug out the manuscript from its dusty place in my attic, and checked the pages to prove to myself that someone had meddled with the novel. Apparently I had myself, in writing it. The book was printed exactly as I had composed it!