With Skyla getting ready to re-release her early novel 'River', I've been pondering a bit this week about early work. River is an excellent book, I'm pretty sure it always was, but we've had many discussions about first novels lately and what we would and sometime do change when we get the chance.
I got the chance to edit and revise my first novel a couple years ago, and let me tell you, I cut a ton, 13000 words I believe it was. But there are other books, that even though it wasn't the dark ages when I had them published, I'd kind of like to do the same to - or even just pull them completely. Not because I think they were BAD necessarily, but because as time passes, if you do continue to hone your craft, you never stop learning. That is if you keep reading and writing and well...honing your craft. I look at some books I wrote many years ago and know that I would cringe if I had to read them now. I'll probably feel the same way in five years about the stuff I'm writing now.
So do I believe that old adage, that all your early work will stink and you shouldn't get it published until you've written 80 million words, done a rain dance, spun around three times and self flagellated with a whip shouting 'You suck you suck you SUCK' until you cry? No, I don't believe that. Because while it might not be your best work, you, the author are probably the one most critical of it, and readers will likely still enjoy it. And I think that the very act of having your work accepted for publication lights a spark in most writers that makes them want to go on, to write more, to try harder, and to make it better.
So while I may take that plunge and pull some old novels, drink a couple shots of tequila and risk going through them again to revise, I'm going to try not to punish myself for every instance of cringe worthy badness in there. However, I do understand that old chestnut that you shouldn't RUSH to publish your work right away if you've only just started writing. It's new, you're new, there are things you don't know and things you can't possibly see in your own work. Even after ten years, there will still be things you don't know and things you can't see in your own work, so get an editor. Don't wait for the publisher to send you a magical editor fairy either, get one before you ever send it anywhere. And pay attention to their edits, swallow your pride, and learn. Then maybe future-you won't come back in time, kick your ass and burn all your masterpieces in front of you. Because that would be weird.