Rewrites & Regrets
This first line is mystifying, a hook drawing you in to read the rest of what’s written so that you can understand what it all means.
It’s been a while now, meaning this is one of those things I’d wanted to come here and post, but either never found the time, or I just didn’t have the motivation when I could find it. But someone asked me a while back if I’d planned on going back to, for example, Blue Moon and rewriting any of it. That’s probably a question that sounds insulting out of context, as if to suggest I need to fix a story in some way, but I promise, our discussion was far from such things.
Instead, we were chatting about how authors grow with … well, every single word they write, let alone every book. New techniques are learned, writing styles perfected, and improvements begin showing up all across the board. All writers improve themselves with their writing, regardless of whether they’ve written a two page, self indulgent fan fiction for their eyes only, or a 500 page bestseller that wows the world. And these improvements might be easier to gauge than you’d think.
So let me ask a question; Have you ever gone back to something you’d written ages ago, and cringed at your prose, grammar infractions, and/or plot development inadequacies? I know far too many people who’ve said yes to this query, and some who take it as a sign than they simply weren’t meant to be a writer because wow omg this is so freaking horrible.
STOP. RIGHT. THERE. Please, heed these words; looking back on something and cringing is a GREAT sign. Sure, you might not enjoy the sensation of embarrassment, but the fact that you can actually read what you wrote way back when and now point out the inconsistencies/grammar mistakes/whatever other problems you might pick up on is a definite sign of progress. Now of course, this doesn’t necessarily involve instances where you wrote a page a week ago and now you’re just sooooooooo ugh about it. That’s a different ballgame altogether. But going back years and wondering “What was I thinking” means I need to say congratulations, because you’ve definitely improved! :)
I’m not even sure how many times I’ve done this with my personal projects and the fan fictions I so studiously used to write. Like that first line above, which is one of the rules of immersing a reader in a story (to make the first line of a chapter so intriguing they feel they can’t draw themselves away from finding out what it means) I’d read older writings, wondered why I did what I did, and applied whatever was learned to my future endeavors.
So that was our discussion essentially, and my friend was asking if, because I’m close to being five books in on my series, I’d considered going back and rewriting any part of my earlier books to “improve” them with what I’d learned since publishing them. It didn’t take me much time to respond either, my answer being no, I hadn’t intended on rewriting any parts of my earlier books, even just to restructure sentences or so on and so forth. Could I find things to rework?
Oh definitely. For example, I’ve read over Blue Moon again recently, and noticed things that I’ve corrected myself from doing to the best of my ability. But some part of me almost feels obligated to leave it just the way it is, as if in testament to the fact that I’ve improved, and will continue to do so the more I write. Another part of me also wants to let potential future writers who pick up my books know that everyone starts somewhere, and while Blue Moon and Light of Dawn were extremely far from my first attempts at writing a novel, there’s always room for improvement, and never give up no matter what pitfalls you run into.
Sometimes, I even find it endearing to be able to go back and reread the first few books in my favorite series by other authors and realize that they too were improving their craft. It’s a cycle, something we all do as writers, and it in no way means you need to stop trying because every time you return to something you’d written long ago in a word program far, far away that you should regret your syntax and grammar, lack of plot development, or anything else.
I say own that shit. Look at it like a freaking prize. “Yeah I wrote this, and now I’mma write something better! Why? Because I can!” :)
Anyway, Happy New Years guys! I hope this first day turns out to be the start of your own great adventure! Cheers! :D