Since December, I have been working on re-editing The entire Nogiku Series. I originally got the idea to do this after making changes to my cozy mysteries and re-editing the Hikoboshi Series. I really saw a difference in the tone and ease of my work after the changes had been completed, and I wanted to carry that through all of my backlist.
My first task in the Nogiku Series was switching from Japanese honorifics (-san, -chan, etc.) to English titles. For my cozy mysteries, they benefited from the switch from Japanese honorifics to English titles. The prose became easier for Western English speakers to read. It just flowed better, there's really no other way to put it. My initial thought that everyone would get used to it was definitely wrong. I made the change and I noticed that sell-through went up, and people were reading and reviewing more. For the Hikoboshi Series, I had already switched from Japanese honorifics to English titles, so I used it as my guide for re-editing the Nogiku Series.
Honestly, I thought I would miss the honorfics, and the whole story would fall apart without them. I was kinda attached to “Sanna-chan.” I have a friend who named her cat Sanaa-chan, after the character. (Serious love for that.) The good news is that once I dealt with a few references to the honorifics directly in speech, I didn't miss them once they were gone. Once again, I think the prose flows nicely without them. So it was nice to see the story still holding strong.
The next thing I dealt with was getting rid of any extra Japanese in dialogue. The few references to Japanese items (like the katana or kotatsu) have been preserved. But things like apologies or greetings were all edited into English. I thought I would miss these too. And in some cases, rereading the Japanese texts I wrote brought about some natsukashii (nostalgia). I remember doing all the translations, and how much better I was at Japanese 10 years ago. Sigh. (This is why I'm doing Duolingo now.) Anyway, only in a few cases am I sorry to see them go, but I don't think readers will miss them.
The most re-editing happened on Books 1 and 2, REMOVED and RELEASED. Both of these books were written before I truly understood 4-act structure, so they were both a little long and some scenes were just not needed or out of order. I also felt like the first chapter of REMOVED was too slow and laden with details.
Cut, slice, dice! I ended up cutting 14,000 words from REMOVED, and 19,000 words from RELEASED. Books 3 and 4, REUNITED and RECLAIMED fared much better. I cut 9,000 words from REUNITED and only 2,000 from RECLAIMED.
Finally, I put my most critical eye on the last book of the series, RECLAIMED. This book continues to get some harsh reviews to this day because of the way I chose to end the story. It's a happily-ever-after for Sanaa and Jiro for sure, but it's not happily-for-now for Sanaa. It's a classic Hero's Journey where the protagonist loses pretty much everything and still defeats the enemy at the end.
And after giving it a lot of thought, I decided that all the details would stay. This story is true to Sanaa and her journey, and it makes her the clear-headed and forgiving person she becomes as Empress later. If you stick around, you'll see Sanaa in some of the Kimura Sisters books. I already have plans for her to be in Book 2. So those reviews will just have to stick around because I changed nothing of the story for the end, and I'm happy with it the way it is.
I didn't feel any remorse cutting these books or making them shine. I felt like a surgeon the whole time — peering in to see what was wrong, slicing off the dead bits, and sewing it all back up. It was my job, and I was going to get it done.
During the process, though, something wonderful happened. I fell in love with this series again. What a joy it is to be able to read my old work and still love it. I know so many authors who won't even look at their old books. They will even sometimes say they hate stuff they wrote. I find this a totally foreign concept, to be honest! Sure, I get annoyed with my stories after 4 or 5 rounds of edits, but hate them? No.
I love everything I've ever written because it was ME that wrote it. I'm not saying it's the best writing ever or worthy of awards. Merely that I wrote the books I wanted to read, and I still love reading them to this day. I'm so grateful I've stuck with my love of writing and never let myself just switch to a different genre or be something I'm not to ride a popularity wave and make big money. This is where I belong.
All in all, it was a pleasurable experience re-reading and making edits to this series. I have REVEALED left to go, and I don't anticipate anything big happening to it. I hope to have the revised series up for download and sale by the end of February. I'm sure you'll hear about it again in March.