Thursday, December 22, 2011
I was in my twenties, working on a team that was preparing a report for top management of an organization, when the team leader said, "Every final becomes a new iteration." I did not know the definition of iteration, though the dictionary said it essentially meant a new draft. Today's Oxford American College Dictionary gives one meaning as "a new version of a piece of computer hardware or software." When I first encountered the term iteration I did not yet own a computer and doubt the dictionary writers did either. Times change.
Hearing this phrase taught me two things. First, never use a three-dollar word when a one-dollar word will do. Second, don't have such pride in your work that you consider an early draft to be the one for public consumption.
As a technical writer for many years, I revised constantly. I revise my fiction, too, but only before publication. In 2006, Author House issued my book Searching for Secrets. It is a short mystery that puts almost as much emphasis on a potential romance between the two main characters, a teacher and police officer in Iowa City.
After a lot of thought, I issued a new version of the book as an e-pub. Why? I didn't like the earlier version. The romantic elements seemed forced and took away from the story. I liked the story itself, so I reworked parts of the book. The book is much the same, but with less focus on the characters' thoughts about one another. It flows better.
Is this sacrilege? Maybe. Am I happy with the new version? Definitely. A friend's note confirmed that the revision was a good decision. He had just finished reading Appraisal for Murder and said, "It is a good read; much better than your first effort Searching for Secrets." Only a good friend will tell you something like that.
This will be the only time I publish a revised piece of fiction. My skills are at a level I'm happier with -- doesn't mean everyone will like my writing, but I will. And I may let some of it sit longer in a drawer before putting it out there.