Today, I want to say that it’s fine to improve your own work no matter when it was written or published.
‘The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge’ is my age-gap, MM romance-thriller set on the side of a Derbyshire fell in bad weather and was released in January 2018.
In terms of Kindle sales, this is my 4th best-selling title. In terms of page reads through Kindle Unlimited, it’s the 7th, and in terms of income, it’s the 6th. Above it are the first four Clearwater novels and ‘Guardians of the Poor.’
The ‘Barrenmoor Ridge’ blurb begins thus:
Following the death of his lover, mountaineer John Hamilton lives an isolated existence high on wild Fellborough peak. When he rescues 19-year-old Gary Taylor from the mountain, John can't accept that the boy may be the answer to his heartache. Gary is seventeen years his junior, confused, and being pursued by criminals.
A while ago, my PA suggested I did some tidying up on ‘The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge,’ particularly the first few chapters. This was one of my first novels, and I was then, as I am now, still learning the craft.
The other day, I thought I’d drop into it, improve what I can, and eventually, have a second edition which is the same, but more polished.
I had actually started this task some time ago but got no further than the first half a page, because the Larkspur Mysteries series came along.
This morning, I took a look at what I’d done to ‘Barrenmoor’ then, and compared it to the original. Yes, well, ah-hem… there’s certainly some confusion in the opening scene; confusion around whose point of view we are experiencing the story from. It was meant to be John, the main character, but some of the time, it’s as if his friend, Sally, is the lead so that needed addressing. I think, when I was writing it, I wrote one version from her point of view and one from his and ended up mixing the two. It’s fine to use more than one point of view as long as you write in blocks (i.e. don’t change POV every other line) or put in a line break, or use some other technique that makes the switching obvious. I hadn’t done this; I’d bounced back and forth.
Here’s an example; the first 141 words of the original, which starts from John’s point of view, but swiftly changes to someone else (in italics):
John Hamilton was refusing a job at Everest base camp when he caught sight of the youth who was about to change his life. He was also ripping a piece of toast in half with his teeth while reaching for his pint mug of tea. The woman sitting opposite him in the Pot Hole, the climbers' café in Inglestone, was none too impressed that he had left their conversation hanging but assumed that John was considering her offer. After she had watched his confused expression for long enough, she leant across and pushed the piece of toast into his open mouth. 'It's an easy answer, John,' she said, smiling at his reaction. 'And you've got baked beans in your moustache.' John finally returned his gaze to her. 'What?' he said, his body at the table, his mind still across the room.
Looking closer, I also have a problem with the second sentence, because
- it starts with ‘He’, and I now try and avoid doing that as it sounds weak, and
- because it’s weak, it’s vague, and we might be talking about the younger man across the room. Who is eating toast and drinking tea? Both of them?
My changes come next, and although they are not yet perfect, they are an improvement. Here are what are now the first 144 words.
That, to me, is better because, a) it stays as John’s point of view, therefore, b) it flows better, and c) it’s a little more intriguing. Does John know this younger man? (His mind remained with who he had just seen.) There is also the added attraction of naming his companion, Sally, rather than calling her ‘the woman’ as if he didn’t know who she was. I’ve also cut the detail about the café name and location, because that’s not vital and we’ll come to learn that information later. You’ll note I have left the opening line more or less intact. I rather like the way it mixes Everest Base Camp, refusing a job there, a younger man, a moment between two main characters, and ‘who would change his life,’ setting up what’s to come. I changed ‘youth’ to ‘younger man’ because it sounds less patronising.
The point of this is to highlight that it’s fine to return to an older work and improve it. We learn as we go, and because you can change your Amazon-uploaded files at any time, yet still keep the ISBN number and details, you can improve your work whenever you want. (As long as you don’t substantially change the story or title; in that case, you would need a new ISBN and would have to publish it as if it were a new book.) Revising those 141 words took me about half an hour, and I’m still not 100% happy, but I’ll continue when I can, and improve my ‘number five’ best seller bit by bit when I have time.
(Note from PA, “I love this opening, far more readable and the intrigue seed is planted leaving me wanting more. Bravo.”)