One of my author person mottos is “Just Keep Writing”, which is a sub-motto of “Keep Moving Forward”. My policy is that once something is published, it’s published. I’ll correct errors if they’re brought to my attention but I’m not going back and rewriting, no matter how much I feel I’ve improved since the point of publication. For one, it’s because I’m way too busy with new projects, if I kept rewriting old stories to bring them up to my current level of skill then I’d never get anything new out. There are too many stories to tell, fiddling around with old ones isn’t a productive use of time.
Another reason is perhaps best illustrated by this video:
If you don’t feel like exposing yourself to George Lucas’s latest bit of muckery, he’s decided that the silent, powerful choice Vader makes needed a little clearing up. So what has he done? Yep, he’s added his favourite line: “No … NOOOO!”
I’m not a huge fan of Star Wars. It’s a like-not-love thing for me, I think the original movies are good, especially Empire, I watched Episode I at the theatre and Episode II on TV and I have basically zero interest in watching Episode III. So I’m not really a ‘fan’, as such, and my interest in the movies is fairly passive and yet George Lucas’s continued and baffling interference with the original movies still makes me just so CROSS. LEAVE THEM ALONE, they’re fine as they are. The more changes Lucas makes the more strongly I feel that most of the good in the original trilogy was due to competent people wrestling control away from Lucas. I think he has decent ideas, but that he really needs other people to implement them for him. And I think that the absolute best thing for the Star Wars franchise would be to RIP it from his hands and NEVER allow him near it again. I also think this would be the best thing for Lucas himself, at least creatively, as it would free him to develop something new and interesting.
But I digress. Getting back to my policy of not changing already-published works, I do have another reason. It’s that once something is out there in the big wide world, I believe it isn’t really yours any more. A book isn’t just one story, it’s made anew with every reader–the writer is just part of the equation, you need readers to complete your work. I’m enormously gratified that there are people out there who enjoy what I write as much as I do, but I’m not so arrogant as to think that I’m solely responsible for that enjoyment. More than any other media, with the possible exception of theatre, books represent a partnership between creator and audience that should (perhaps must) be respected.
Dragging myself back to my point, my feeling is that once a book is out there, once it’s published, once it’s being read, to change it would be … wrong. One example I often think of, regarding this subject, is Dragons of Autumn Twilight. Dragonlance is, to me, what Lord Of The Rings is to a lot of people. I love it. I love it so, so much, but Autumn Twilight is really pretty atrocious in a lot of ways. I still think it’s a good book but it could really do with a rewrite. And yet I don’t WANT it to be rewritten, I want it to stay as it is, in its current so-very-far-from-perfect form, because even thinking of changing it gives me a bit of a shudder. The book that I created with Weis and Hickman is the book I want to keep, not a rewritten version of that.
Although if Peter Jackson wants to do a LOTR-quality movie version of Dragonlance then I am in total support of that idea.