Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Tales From The Vault (An IWSG Post)

Hello, everyone. It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

(As always, I'm assuming that, by now, you know what this is, but if you need/want more information, or a complete list of participants, please click on the link.)

This month's co-hosts are Tamara Narayan, Patsy Collins, Nicohle Christopherson, and, you know, me. (I always feel weird writing this particular part when I am among the hosts. But, as I pretty much always feel weird regardless of the situation, I perhaps didn't need to mention this particular instance to you.)

Anyway. On with the post.

This month's question asks, "Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?"

Well, I'll tell you. Well, at least I'll tell you half of it. I have no idea if it will ultimately work out, but I did, not too long ago, pull out an old manuscript of mine.

I generally have two projects going at one time—a main project, and a back-up project that I work on a little bit whenever I need a break from the main project. At the moment, my main project is Book #2 of my fantasy series, and my back-up project is Book #3 of said series.

And because there was this time when I thought I might actually finish Book #2 (Ha!) and promote Book #3 to Main Project Status, I went hunting through the archives of abandoned never-finished stories to look for a new possible back-up project.

One of my top contenders was this novel I had started in high school, and worked on through a few years of college, but never finished. (The story of my life, I know.) What pages did exist were well-received in college. Like, really well-received. The feedback from professors and classmates and fellow writers met at conferences was excellent, flattering, even—and maybe, just maybe, played a minor part in cultivating my ego a little bit. (I know I'm always so ego-free, so this information may seem jarring to you.)

So, fast forward many, many years to the time when I thought I might actually finish Book #2. (Again, I say, "Ha!") I pulled this abandoned story out of a box and submitted the first ten pages to my critique group, just to get their take on the story.

And their take was:


Leaving me all:



and wondering what in the world all my professors, classmates, and conference-writer acquaintances were fawning over during my college years, as well as worrying that my entire decision to be a writer (made the summer before my junior year of college) had been predicated on big, fat lies designed to avoid hurting my delicate artist feelings.

But that's another post for another day, perhaps.

I went home after my critique and paged through the rest of the manuscript, and had a good long laugh at both it and myself. My critique partners were so incredibly right, and if this story ever does make it to Back-Up Project Status, or even Main Project Status, the characters and I will be in for a total overhaul.

And boy, am I looking forward to that.



Thanks for stopping by today, everyone. Happy writing.

61 comments:

  1. This is why I'm reluctant to reread work I've already published--I'm sure I'll do nothing but groan at mistakes I didn't catch before. It's a sign you've grown as a writer, right?

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  2. At least you hadn't published it as an ebook the moment you finished it - now it can eventually become something awesome when it reaches Main Project Status :-) We all have manuscripts stashed somewhere, gathering dust and in need of a proper overhaul. If we didn't, we'd still be at the beginning stages of learning how to write (which isn't a bad place to be, except perhaps for that ego that makes you believe you've written a masterpiece and everyone who disagrees is completely illiterate).

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  3. Since it's an old story, at the time it probably was really good for your writing level. Now your critique partners know your current level of writing skills and it's just not at that level. Doesn't mean you can't rework it though.
    Thanks for co-hosting today!

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  4. That Hermione clapping moment is too funny!

    We learn and we grow, improving our craft. That's the goal anyway. :)

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  5. I have not pulled out something old from the file cabinet but there are a couple I might pull out, if I need something to work on, which I doubt since I'm never short on ideas.

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  6. You always have such great gifs with your posts LOL. I hope you have fun co-hosting today. :)

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  7. I used to have people gush over my old stories, and when I re-read them nowadays, I can't understand why. That just shows how much we've grown, and that's a good thing. Maybe not in terms of how much work is ahead of us, but you know, creative growth and all that. Thank you for co-hosting today! (Wow, I just typed co-donuting. Where is my mind this morning?)

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  8. Oops. LOL Too funny.
    I've not done that yet, gone back to high school for an idea. But for me that way too far back. LOL

    Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG! Awesome!

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  9. I bet expectations had a lot to do with it. Your critique partners know the voice of developed you. Your college peers and profs were glimpsing young, fresh, developing you who needed encouragement as much as truth.

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  10. co-donuting? I think I like the sound of that...

    Thanks for this post, it made me laugh soooo much (plus the bit of eye candy of the guy from something-I-used-to-watch-but-can't-remember-the-name-right-now) ;)

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  11. It probably was a very good story at the time you wrote it, but now you've improved. That's the problem I have with older stuff--it seems like it would take a lot of effort to bring it up to my current standards (I wonder how I'll feel about my current stuff in ten years?).

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  12. Hi M.J. I am right there with you. Currently working an old manuscript and yes, some of the characters are now gone, others are scaling back, one is getting more voice, all thanks to my critique group. It's tough to take an old rickety piece and bring it back, but it's a good exercise for sure. Thanks for co-hosting.

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  13. If there's a seed in the story that's good, maybe it will be worth the effort to overhaul it. Oh those delicate artist feelings! I want the truth. If it's bad, why? Can it be changed and is it worth doing the work?

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  14. LOL! I hear you. That's why I say you have to be ready to gut old pieces and rewrite at least 90% of them. It's amazing how much we grow as writers in a few short years, eh?

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  15. Good luck with the old project. I have a few like that. Don't know that I'll ever really go back to finish any of my old stuff, but hopefully I don't lose it just in case. I rarely got much good feedback for my work, but then I rarely showed it to anyone. And college professors could be pretty tough critics, which I guess is as it should be.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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  16. First thank you so much for co-hosting and all the best with your project.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat

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  17. Maybe it's a difference in style? A lot of the old stuff won't stand up to today's standards, but was absolutely loved back then. Anyways, I look forward to someday reading said story. :)

    Thanks for co-hosting!

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  18. But just think how much better it will be after the overhaul.

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  19. You know, if it needs such a major overhaul, it might be better to just rewrite the whole thing.

    Sometimes it's just not worth trying to revise a total mess. :-)

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  20. Who can say what's great or not when it comes to writing? I think people are automatically impressed with knowing someone who has written anything book-length no matter what the quality is and especially impressed if the author is young. My relatives were all impressed with my first draft of a novel (some even read it) and it was a mess.

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  21. Sometimes it just goes that way,but remember in the end it just opinion and EVERYONE has one. Does NOT make it real truth or fact, the opinion that counts is yours.
    A quote for you:
    "Books aren't written, they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it..." - Michael Crichton

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  22. Good story, but don't take the criticism too much to heart. Now that you have a balanced reaction -- some love it, some not so much -- what do you think?

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  23. Misha has a great suggestion. Sometimes, it's better to start fresh.

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  24. I never fail to cringe to death whenever looking back at my old projects. Have still been brave enough to rework some of 'em despite that, though, and yeah, it's definitely a huge overhaul every time. Best of luck making this story shine, should you decide to give it focus in the future!

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  25. Hey, if Dean W gives you the eye roll, take it as a sign! Time has a way of tarnishing talent - all it might need is a little polish!! Thanks for co-hosting day (and for sharing some Winchester!)

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  26. I'm sure one day, in the future, you will be able to pull that old MS out and start working on it. We can all dream, eh? ;)

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  27. Hello, M.J.! I've followed your blog and will connect with you online as well.
    Man! I never got good reviews in college on my creative writing. Ok. I think I recall someone telling me I write dialogue well. But I doubt my story-writing abilities daily. Thanks for co-hosting IWSG's question for March. All best to you.

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  28. If there was anybody who would know about working on projects and revising, and revising and revising and revising, it would be you.

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  29. First, thank you for co-hosting! Second, good luck with that old one if it ever makes it to back-up status. And last, can I just send you a digital goggle face for all of the NaNoWriMo winner badges? Although you can't see it, trust that my jaw is on the floor.

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  30. If professors praised it, it was no doubt worthy. But college writing and writing that you're doing now is different. Different standards, and you've grown as a writer. :)

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  31. I don't know M.J. Maybe your critique group didn't like it, but readers might. I've found that pleasing other writers are almost impossible. But, if you feel that you could change it into something better, go for it. Either way, I think you underestimate yourself and your ability to craft words. You are very good at it ;)

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  32. Perhaps back then it was very good, just by college novel standards. I'm sure your critique group expects more from you :)

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  33. I enjoyed your post and the visuals! They gave me a good laugh and brightened this rainy day in Honolulu. I have pieces praised by professors too ~ maybe one day, but right now they're still making me cringe! Enjoy your day co-hosting for the IWSG, and thank you!

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  34. Main and back up projects? That's how I knit!

    I don't think your friends and professors were putting you on. Your writers group just has people who are more in the know. You're early work probably blew away the people who aren't "pros".

    A couple years ago I took a couple college classes (long story, that). And papers were due. And a couple of my professors commented glowingly on the papers that I turned in. Like, they were so well-written stuff. Detailed. Etc. I was barely trying. But compared to my classmates, my writing was probably amazing.

    Look at your story through that lens. I'm sure you can bring it up to your current expertise.

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  35. I love that you have a couple of projects going at the same time. That sounds very sane to me. You can choose to work on what inspires you at the time.

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  36. I do the same thing as you. I have two writing projects at one time. I like being able to alternate between the two. Good luck with them and thank you for co-hosting.

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  37. I'm thinking maybe at the time it was really good but you've probably improved so much that it doesn't compare as much. The short story I wrote that would one day be my WIP seemed fantastic at the time, but now I can't stand it. I think we just always keep evolving.

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  38. Thanks for co-hosting this month. I love this story. I know it's true, but you could totally do something with this. I too wrote something once in high school that everyone drooled over, but I wasn't thinking of being a writer then. I read it years later and wonder if everyone was just being nice at the time. In any case, sometimes an overhaul can be fun.

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  39. Looking at old projects is a total eye-opener!! Hope this one comes to life in the rewrite! :)

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  40. I'll be we were all terribly impressed with our first efforts. I mean, how many people actually take the time to flesh out their daydreams (and sometimes night dreams) into complete stories?

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  41. My sixth grade teacher told me that I could become an author based on some stories I wrote back then. I pulled some of them out and laughed so hard that I rolled around on the floor - they weren't meant to be funny, but wow, terrible stuff. I'm sure that your old manuscript is far, far better.

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  42. Some of our old stories are better than others. Some deserve resurrection while others don't. But it is for you alone to decide. Don't let anyone's praise or critique influence your own stance on your story.

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  43. Great story. I think critiques are related to place and time. I've dug out some old papers that got stellar reviews and I wanted to gag or laugh or both. I did the assignment, maybe above and beyond, but it was judged through the lens of the assignment. And more importantly by the voice at the time. My writing voice has changed a lot. It may simply be that readers today don't recognize the voice or parameters of yesterday. Good luck.

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  44. Every once in a while I'll look back at the early chapters of my very first story. I can't believe how little I knew about writing back then. Heck, Maybe I don't even know as much as I think Id do now. We'll see.

    Thanks for co-hosting this month's IWSG!

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  45. I think it means you have grown tremendously as a writer. I know that legal briefs I wrote as a first year lawyer, while acceptable for a first year lawyer, would certainly not be acceptable for me now. What is important here is that you are still writing!

    Thanks for co-hosting today!

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  46. DEAN!!!
    Love those!
    You believe in me, I believe in you. We've done it. We must do it again. There is nothing like that feeling of seeing our stuff out there. I want that feeling back. And so do you. We must finish. :)
    Thank you, M.J.
    Heather :)

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  47. I wish I had old pieces to go back and look over. Anything that I started back in high school or college is long gone. :( Good luck with finishing book 2. I'm sure book 3 is ready for that upgrade. :)

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  48. Time can give us such a good perspective over our writing and this shows how far you've progressed as a writer. Best of luck with it and thanks for being a co-host this month! :)

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  49. Perfect gif-age! How lucky you are to have such honest crit partners - and to have grown so much to see the weaknesses yourself. But still, I'm sure there's something good in there that your college mates saw.

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  50. Sometimes, I pull out my high school project that my teachers raved about too. When I was that young, it probably was good - for my age. Now I've learned so much about writing, and of course my experience and attitudes have matured. But its fun to have a good laugh once in a while.

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  51. Great story about your back-up project. Sometimes completely overhauling an old story is a good way to develop new ideas. Thank you for co-hosting IWSG for March and thanks for stopping by my site for a visit.

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  52. Work that garners praise from a very young person is often considered good "for your age." I'm afraid we're both past the number when we can be considered a wunderkind, so the work actually has to have a fuller set of merits these days. @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

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  53. I like the idea of a main project and a back-up project. Funny thing is that at certain times, you might find something really works and even feel (somewhat) proud of what you have written and then, weeks (or years) later, realize "What was I thinking???" :-) I assume by now, you have plenty of other ideas that could become back-up writing projects! Thanks for co-hosting.

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

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  54. Sometimes a story just clicks with people, no matter how it's written. And it's always best to think that our next best book is ahead of us. We should always be growing as a writer. :)

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  55. Haha. Loved the pictures. At least the critique is over with and you can make a plan going forward.

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  56. I often have a back up project going too. It's nice to feel productive while still taking a break. :) Thanks for the laughs with your pictures. ha!

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  57. great story about your original story - i know the feeling! but no one spared my feelings, i didn't let anyone read it! maybe i will go back to it someday, but major overhaul is a necessity, agreed!

    you better finish #2! but i'll be patient =)

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  58. Are you sure you agree with them? Maybe you need a tie breaker audience ;)

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  59. I know exactly how you feel. When I go back and read my old stories, I wonder how the heck I thought they were good. I guess it proves I've learned something along the way. I wonder if in 10 years I'll look back at the stuff I'm writing now and cringe just as much...

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  60. My high school writing consisted mainly of angsty teen poetry. So I won't be pulling any stashed manuscripts out of the vault.

    Main project and back-up project sounds like the way to go...really smart.

    Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG this month!

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