Greetings, Loyal Reader!
My line edit of the Hero Wanted manuscript is grinding slowly forward. As I noted on Twitter earlier today, I am now about a fourth of the way through the approximately 400 page manuscript, carefully scrutinizing and editing every line.
I thought this was going to be an exercise in checking for typos and looking up obscure points of grammar. After all, I have written this book twice! Surely it is already as good as it will ever be. But as Editor Dan I am finding that the work of Author Dan on this twice told tale can indeed be polished, revised and improved–yes, I believe I am making Hero Wanted a better book than Jason Cosmo ever was.
Let me explain. I wrote my first book, a fantasy novel called Jason Cosmo in 1987 and 1988. It was published by NAL/Signet in 1989 to worldwide acclaim. By this I do not mean that it was acclaimed by very many people. But those who did acclaim it were pretty well dispersed around the world — USA, UK, India, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, to name just a few countries where Loyal Readers can be found.
Two sequels followed. Years passed. The size of my royalty checks, never huge, dwindled to amounts like 80 cents. The books went out of print and today only used copies are for sale. More years passed. I put up a bare bones website, and soon began receiving e-mails from Loyal Readers around the world. Both surprised and encouraged by this development, I decided in 1999 or 2000 that Jason Cosmo must return. I resolved to bring back the original three books–and then continue the series.
There was one small problem: I did not have an electronic copy of Jason Cosmo. I wrote the book in Wordstar on our family’s first ever home computer–the Morrow something or the other which, unfortunately for forward compatibility, ran on an operating system called CP/M . I still have the twenty or so 5″ floppy disks that contain the original manuscript in a box somewhere, but I doubt the data has survived. And I have no idea how to read the disks if it did.
Yes, I know that today I could easily scan a copy of the book and OCR the text into Word. But ten years or so ago, I didn’t have a scanner and I’m not sure I had heard of OCR. So I decided to retype the book, which I did bit by bit over the next couple of years, making minor corrections as I did.1
I later decided to add a few new scenes and an extra chapter or two as I retyped the book, as well as make a few small changes here and there to better set up the sequels (which obviously didn’t exist the first time I wrote the book). It took me far longer to retype/revise the book than it took me to write it in the first place!2
But I did finally finish. The end result was what I sometimes call the digitally remastered Jason Cosmo–the original text with a few extra scenes added. Large chunks of the original text stood completely unchanged and unexamined.
That is no longer the case. I am in the midst of a ruthless and thorough edit that is putting every paragraph, every sentence, every clause under the microscope. When I delivered the original Jason Cosmo manuscript to my publisher in 1988, it was as good as I could make it…then. But I am a better writer now than I was then (or at least I delude myself into thinking so) and I find, on close reading, that much of my twenty-year-old prose can be improved–made cleaner, clearer, less clunky, less awkward. Set up the joke a bit better here. Improve the pacing of the dialogue there. Cut a few unnecessary adverbs. Then a few more. And so forth.
End result: same basic story, but a better book. A truly new book, deserving of a new title: Hero Wanted. It is more than a revision–and certainly more than a retyping–of Jason Cosmo. It is a retelling, new and improved. With fresh lemon scent.3 It is — or will be, when I’m done–as good as I can make it. I hope that Loyal Readers old and new alike will enjoy the results!
- For example, in Chapter 1 of Jason Cosmo, his fellow villagers at one point hurl globes of mud at him. What I wrote was globs of mud. I’m not sure who changed it to globes. Though the image of Hicksnittlers making mud globes is amusing, that has bugged me since 1989! [↩]
- That is the difference between being a college student and having a job. Well, one of them. [↩]
- Not really. Although you could squeeze some lemon juice on if you like. [↩]