This is something I think every writer asks themselves once in a while. Usually, while we’re writing a story, the words flow nicely and the scenes seem to ease from one into another with no real effort at all. The story is vibrant in our minds, and we see and feel everything our characters do. Time is suspended while we’re in our world and watching things unfold as the story progresses.
And then we finish the story, have it edited, and publish it. I don’t know how many writers out there start to question the story once it’s released into the world, but I do with just about every book I’ve ever done. Did I give the characters the story they deserved? Did I leave something out that should have been in the plot? Did I add something in the plot that was unnecessary? Was the story too short? Was it too long? Did I rush something? Did I let something drag on too long? In other words, “Is the story good enough?”
There are many things a writer can doubt about their work. It’s hard to remember what made the story so awesome when we were writing it as we get further away from it. This is why I think it’s good for us to go back and reread our stories from time to time. Of all the people who ever read our books, we should be the most excited to be wrapped up the worlds we created. But try not to read the story as an editor. Read it for enjoyment.
Will there be things you see that you wouldn’t do today? Probably, but these are often small things like word choice, a way to better explain something, or a certain detail you know would be a better fit. In cases like this, I think you should take that as a sign of growth as a storyteller. I wouldn’t bother going back and fixing it. When you get enough books out into the world, there’s simply not enough time in the day to tweak old books. The best use of your time is to keep producing new work because writing new stuff is the best way to fine tune our storytelling abilities.
So when you notice those things that could have been better in the old stories, think of this as an indication that you are a much stronger storyteller today than you used to be. It’s a sign of success. Even with some hiccups in a past story that you pick up, you should still get enjoyment from reading your stories. This is why you should read them as a reader. You spent a lot of time writing it and polishing it up to get it published. Why not sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor?
Thankfully, how well a book sells or doesn’t sell is independent of the emotional satisfaction you have when you go back and reread the story. Some of the books I enjoy most are the ones that barely sold at all. Sometimes when you publish a book and realize very few people want to buy it, it’s easy to think the story sucks. The truth is, a lot of amazing stories out there aren’t getting the sales they really deserve. I don’t know why this is. But this idea that only good stories are big sellers is a myth. Just because a story is good, it doesn’t mean it’ll sell well. In the end, if you got pleasure from your own story, it is a good story. I don’t care what anyone else says. You are the only person whose opinion is worth listening to when it comes to your work. If you reread your story and love it, it is good enough.