Monday, October 24, 2011

Write one book twenty times

In a previous post, I suggested the idea of a writer who edited his novel forever, always posting each new version to Amazon and overwriting the previous edition. A really compulsive writer could have fun with this. As a result of this habit on the author's part, people would buy distinctly different versions of the novel. Okay, that's the background for this post. Here's a new variation.

What brought this to mind is that I visited a site for writers the other day. One of the posters there said he lost his entire novel in a computer crash (!) and it wasn't backed up (!!!). This is the ultimate writer's nightmare. I ran from the page screaming.

Later, I wondered about something. I have this notion that if a writer sat down to write his novel all over again from scratch, never looking at the previous version, he might actually write a better book. I figured this guy could give that a try.

Then I wondered what would happen if a writer did this for decades, churning out 20 totally fresh versions of a book while never reading or looking at a previous version. Would this be like the game of telephone, where you whisper in someone's ear and they whisper the words they thought they heard into the ears of another -- and on and on until the message morphs to a point where it's no longer related to the original?

Would the book change so much that it becomes very different from the original? I'll bet it would. As I conduct my seemingly endless edits of Xmas Carol, I see the book differently on each pass. My understanding of the story now is not the same as when I first wrote it.

It might be interesting for an audience to read the first and last versions. And then someone could pontificate about the author's demonstrated maturity in the NY Times.