One of the best reading experiences in my life was re-reading Stephen King's Salem's Lot several years ago.
Re-reading it, yes.
The first time I read Salem's Lot , I sort of knew what the story was about. This is a thing that happens to me -- I suspect it happens to a lot of writers. I'd passively picked up information on the book, partially from reading articles and interviews, partially from King's book, Danse Macabre , which I'd read earlier that year. I may have seen the made-for-TV movie; I'm not entirely sure.
That first read, I didn't enjoy the book. It felt flat for me. Still, a bad King book is still better than a whole lot of other stuff that's out there, so while it didn't light me up, I wasn't angry at the book or anything.
A couple years went by.
I decided to read it again.
And this time, I forced myself to un-know, to ignore, all the stuff I knew about the story.
And, ho boy, I loved it. Salem's Lot remains one of my favorite books to this day. it's bot bits of stuff he'd put into other books later on. Look closely and you can see The Dark Half in the character Ben Mears. The shopkeepers, Barlow and Strake will remind you of Leland Gaunt from Needful Things . I spotted shadows of these and a dozen other books during that read.
Salem's Lot was King's second published book. It was tremendous, for me, seeing all these hints of his work to come as I read.
Also, it's a great book. By making myself forget the different characters' fates -- who lives, who dies, who's the good guy, who's the bad guy -- I discovered the great book I'd somehow missed on my first pass.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, I had a nice moment earlier today while considering where I was going to pick up Ellie's adventures tonight. I realized there was a lot more going on with her story than I'd originally thought. That's cool. Second drafts are for fixing things, but then you write the third draft, the fourth, etc., etc.
Ellie's an interesting character to me because, in The Seven Markets , we never really see the real Ellie. She spends so much of the book being pulled this way and that, victim of so many exterior stresses, that our image of what sort of woman she is becomes hopelessly muddied. A lot of the writing of The King's Glamour has been figuring out who my main character is. I won't say it's a unique problem to have, but it's certainly an interesting one. I'd have thought that, by the second book, I'd have a pretty good idea who she was.
I didn't. I still don't.
But I just learned a whole lot more. It's stuff that was always there, only I was so busy knowing the stuff I thought I knew I didn't take the time to see the stuff hiding in plain sight.