To create the perfect book

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It’s been said that no artist is ever satisfied with their work. And I think that’s just as true for writers.

I know that, once they’re out there in front readers, there is always something that I wish I had done differently with every one of my books.

For my first published book-length fiction, The Bones of the Earth, there are some things that still bother me about it. Even eight years after its release.

I wish I had included more description of the environmental damage done by civilization, even in the sixth century. For example, both Rome and Constantinople had to import most of their grain from Egypt and the province of Africa; bad farming practices and heavy urbanization had rendered the land around the big cities unable to produce enough food for the urban populations.

I did address this more in the sequel to The Bones of the Earth, the imminent The Children of the Seventh Son.

I also wish I written more about griffins. I put one into Part 1 of the story. I intended it to represent celestial or sky powers, as opposed to the chthonic or earthly gods. However, by the time I got deep into parts 2 and 3, somehow I forgot. Also, there are already a lot of fantastical creatures in it.

A griffin from a medieval tapestry now in Basel, Switzerland. Source: Wikipedia.

Also, I wish I had known more about covers for commercial fiction: would have liked my name to be in larger type.

However, Bones was not my first published fiction. That was a story that looks like it’s for children, Sam, the Strawb Part. It’s about a young boy who loves strawberries so much, that he dresses as a pirate and attaches a skull-and-crossbones flag to his bicycle, then uses it to rob local mothers of strawberries.

I just wish, now, that the tone had been a little less acerbic, and the story a little more suitable for children to enjoy.

The good news

That’s the thing about publishing today: you can change your books after they’re written. Re-publishing an e-book means that even the people who bought or downloaded it before the change will get the new version.

And the paperbacks are print-on-demand. There are no great stacks of books in a warehouse somewhere, so producing new versions will not require wasting the original editions.

Dr. Malcolm’s question

Then there’s the question that Jeff Goldblum’s character asked in Jurassic Park: I can go back and change books and stories that are already in readers’ hands—but should I? Will those people have a different reaction? Will a slight improvement bring more readers to the book?

My first job after university was as a book editor for one of the major publishers. On my first day, I asked my boss, the chief editor, if the goal was to produce the perfect book.

He laughed.

To this day, I have not come across a single book that did not have something wrong with it. Some error, at least a typo.

I know that every time I go through a manuscript I have already edited and re-written, I find something to change. A typo that I missed, a reversed quotation mark, an awkward phrase.

If I make a lot of changes and what I think are improvements, will I just find yet more problems or errors? Worse, will I create more problems?

What if what I think as such a huge, glaring problem is something that readers barely notice?

So should I revise old books, or move on and write new and better ones?

What do you think? Leave an answer in the Comments, below.

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

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About Scott Bury