Revisiting Those Old Stories

Sooooo…

Well…

I don’t if it’s just me, but…from time to time I feel the need to go back and re-read my old stuff. That is an urge that is, I hope, far less narcissistic than it actually sounds…

Now, for the vast majority of the stuff I’m talking about re-reading, it has been long enough for me to lose that intimacy with the story that makes it so hard, as the writer, to look at things with a distant and unprejudiced eye.

That…umm…ain’t always easy, by the way, and it certainly ain’t all that comfortable. “What the fuck was I thinking?!” is not an uncommon excla…err, question that I scream…err, ask myself.

But, honestly, if you can’t learn from yourself, who the hell can you learn from?

The thing is, I have stuff going back a very long time, and most of it has never seen so much as a hint of the light of day. For very good reasons those stories have never seen that light. But you can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t revisit them.

None of my friends, I should probably add, have to do this. Accountants, managers, sales reps, even brewers for the love of all that’s holy, don’t feel the need to go back re-live their failures and mistakes…

But writers do. We have to.

Of course, most of us are also freaking nuts, so make of that what you will…

All of that is a long-winded way of saying I went back to an old story of mine over the last week or so. I didn’t go back to edit or revise — although the urge to do so was strong — but just to read. To read, and to study and think, and to learn.

I picked this particular story mainly because it was the original one for which I created the basic universe & milieu in which my current sci-fi series is set. I wanted to revisit some specific elements and dynamics, and to re-learn some of what I had  been thinking back then. Even more, I wanted to compare the vast difference in tone and intent I had in that story with what I have now for DockRat.

The process has been…well…humbling is the best word, I think.

The hard part for me is that there are the bones of a good story buried in this piece. I would have to do a total re-write, admittedly, but there is still a good story in there, a story worth telling. Unfortunately, I just don’t know if I have the (masochistic) drive to revisit a 127,000-word story in order to rewrite 60+% of it, no matter what potential it has.

An urge spawned this post, an urge to pick out a scene from that piece and share it here. A scene that still had impact and meaning, a scene that still worked. But…but…

But, I didn’t do that. I didn’t do that because it’s harder than you might think.

Oh, it’s not that I can’t find a scene to use — quite the opposite, in fact — it’s just that, well…I can’t stop revising the damned things. I can’t see past the flaws. Far, far worse, for me, is the fact that I’m not sure the emotional center-of-gravity of the story is where I thought it was when I wrote the damned thing. The “important” scenes I was thinking about appending to this post are somehow less than I once thought, while others have grown in weight and import…

Remember what I once said about doing an “After Action Report” when you finish writing a story? Yeah, this is yet another example of why that whole concept works. I’m still learning from a flawed and broken story that I first envisioned and started writing ten years ago.

Okay, so…well…crap…

Humbling sounds all good and nice in theory, but it can also sometimes make it hard to remember why I chose to give up the paychecks and position I used to have in favor of scribbling stories about the ghosts fluttering around the dark spaces of my mind…

3 thoughts on “Revisiting Those Old Stories

  1. thehopethatneverdied August 15, 2018 / 10:01 pm

    Hello!

    I like your accurate description of writers. We ARE freaking nuts! :p As someone who cringes at the very thought of the first novel I wrote, I hear you. Every novel is a stepping stone to a staircase that has a beginning, but no end. But still I reread them, and say exactly what you say. 🙂

    Cringe on, my fellow writer, and keep writing. That is all. 😀

    Like

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