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About five years ago I self-published a novella "The Spoils of War". In the middle there's a section where the MC is packed of to Pakistan because the family don't want to face the embarrassment of her actions in the UK. The story focussed on other characters until the MC returns.

After publishing I spent a year - troubled. What the character did in Pakistan added very little in to the story but, regardless, it bugged me.

18 months after publication I added two chapters of her experiences in Lahore.

Another three years passed. In the original ending, whilst you (the reader) was wondering if she'd ever forgive the boy . . . she ran off with the girl! Maybe smarter readers could have seen that coming in the subtext but I felt mainstream readers may be put off by an extended focus on 'gay sex'.

The world changed very rapidly. I felt the need to add two new scenes. Two previously straight girls (one of which who is pregnant) reach the logical conclusion - they should be together. However, I thought it would interesting to detail the girl's trial runs before committing to a life without the 'dumb stick' and how their first attempted at intimacy required several bottles of Vodka.

  • Please tell me the trial run happens after the pregnancy, because otherwise the vodka is pretty inappropriate :P – sudowoodo May 21 '17 at 14:46
  • It's really a question of priorities, don't you think? Should all stories be about what you want to hear? Or should they be about 'fairytales'? The woman is pregnant after an alleged rape. If your main concern is the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy then 'people like me' don't write stories for 'people like you' - the epitome of irony is that the story is contained within in a publication entitled 'People Like Us'. – Surtsey May 21 '17 at 15:21
  • That's fine, I phrased it badly but I was really just wondering if it were an oversight on your part or if it were intentional. I probably should have written, "Drinking vodka during a pregnancy is considered to be inappropriate by many, is that what you intended?" – sudowoodo May 21 '17 at 15:44
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    Yes -- if you want it to be. No --if you don't. – S. Mitchell May 21 '17 at 19:54
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    If you want to make a ton of changes after you've published, then I suggest doing it all in one go and giving it a new name, such as "My Book: The Expanded Edition" to make it very clear. And only do that once and absolutely stop, for all the reasons @LaurenIpsum mentioned. – Terri Simon May 22 '17 at 19:56
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My opinion is that once you've published, even on Kindle, it's done. Other than typos or a gross mistake like using the wrong character name by accident, you don't make changes.

Your story is your story. If you keep altering it, there's never a final edition. Your readers will never know if they have the "right" version. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was printed with many errors, which Tolkien kept trying to fix in each subsequent edition and printing and publisher, and new mistakes would creep in. It was a nightmare trying to reconcile everything, and even now I'm not sure if the latest version is "right."

And look at George Lucas's constant meddling with the original Star Wars trilogy. Adding in whole scenes? Jabba wandering around on his own? Han shooting first? Hayden Christensen at the end of ROTJ? Most people complained, and now you have to specify which version of the trilogy you want. The original theatrical release? The Special Edition? The fan-cut Despecialized Editions, which have better effects but removed the heresies like Hayden? It's an absolute mess.

Many authors regret some of their choices in hindsight. Learn from it and move on. Make the next book better.

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For the record, I include an appendix in my ebook called "Version History" which keeps a record of how the ebook has changed with every edition. (I made a nifty template which -- now that I think about it -- I should put online for everyone to have access to). Most of the changes have to do with formatting and support for different reading devices. Some involve grammar, while once in a while there is something new added.

I think it's great that an author can have "second thoughts" about how to write a book. The great thing about ebooks is that you can publish simultaneously alternate endings/chapters in the same ebook if you wish. Generally readers won't have the patience to compare versions -- they only want the finished product without variants. You shouldn't try your reader's patience too much though. Maybe you can include some extra episodes in a postscript/appendix if it makes sense.

I maintain a story site under a pseudonym, and I am delighted to report that I do line edits quietly after first publishing it, so no one knows just how much I've been tinkering with it over the years. I've improved phrases and caught subtle grammar issues. Readers will never know (although to be fair -- I plan to release that as an ebook, and I probably won't tinker with it after that point).

Finally I'm working on a self-updating ebook project -- where the reader will expect that the ebook will be updated every two years or so. (This is for a nonfiction book that's more of a reference work that needs to stay up to date).

The problem with making too many changes to a single book is that a writer needs to move on at some point. But if you feel pretty sure that the end result will be better, why not?

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