I'm a little more than two-thirds of the way through what I hope is the last pass of edits on Welcome to the Fold, and I am now kicking myself, hard, for not taking advantage of the services of an editor for my previous works.
I've flirted with the idea of revisiting all the major stuff in my catalog with the aid of an editor and putting out "revised editions", like movies that have "director's cuts", but I worry such a thing would become a sinkhole — that it would just lead me back to fretting and snipping again and again.
I know the books are flawed, but at the same time they're as done as they get, and so if I did such a thing it would be only to tighten the language and not to make major story surgery. Plus, that's an investment of time away from actually writing new books — the thing I most want to devote future time to whenever possible — so maybe it's something best done in the background, between other things.
Fold itself got a good deal of nip-and-tuck, and a slew of story notes that were mostly for the sake of making sure the elements I brought up landed as intended. My editor Ellen was very good at picking up on what the story had to be about, and ensuring the way I told the story complemented that. Under her hand I cut a fair number of things that repeated themselves or simply restated the same thing in a slightly different form (a bad habit in this book), and made sure most everything in the story advanced it in some way.
The thing that bugs me most is that even after all this work, there's still a distressing amount of material that consists of people just talking at each other. I tried to enrich that with action whenever I could — whenever you don't want to bore the reader, keep your character in motion — but it still rankled me that I was still committing one of the same venal sins of most bad or amateur authors.
I don't think I'm ever going to write a book I'll be completely satisfied with, and that's fine. The degree of possible satisfaction for that impulse also seems directly related to the inexperience of the author. It was easy for something like Summerworld to be 90-95% of what I intended for it, because it was one of my first books (barring two earlier novels I wrote in the late 90s), and because I didn't yet have much of an idea of how much distance there could be between one's intentions and the finished product. Then I started swimming farther out from shore, and I got far more of an idea of how deep and shark-infested the water can get. (Flight of the Vajra was a veritable English Channel, and I nearly drowned in the process of crossing it.)