One of my favorite things to do is to re-write old stories, things I felt like I didn’t do well enough, or there were new pieces to consider, or there was a change somewhere else. I love looking back and between and seeing the difference, to watch growth and change and see how I shape my own personal style.
Especially in the case of something I wrote when I was 12. The difference was astounding. One character went from the portrayal of everything I wanted when I was a kid, the epitome of my naivety, to a stunning young woman who had an astounding amount of depth and personality for how young she was.
The difference was alarming as it was hilarious. It was like looking between the kindergarten scribbling and the college level painting.
As you keep writing, progressing both through age and experience, you learn more about telling a story. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the bare-bones of the beginnings, but the more you keep climbing up the mountain, you find things that you hadn’t seen before. You see what a three-dimensional character is, you see with the character’s eyes instead of your own.
It doesn’t have to be time only, either. You had a bad day, you couldn’t get something down right, you weren’t able to tap into your vocabulary like you usually can. You lost a pet or a friend. Someone turned their back on you. You broke up with your partner. We are all affected by everything in our lives, and so too is our writing.
It’s not uncommon for someone to write better when they’re suffering, either, from whatever it may be. Clarity comes in all forms. In other cases, it can cloud our typically clear thoughts and make things more difficult for us.
Revision and editing, as awful as some people think they are, are also a great tool for the reason of fixing things you didn’t like before. Don’t scrap it and re-write unless you know it can’t be saved, because simple revision, having someone say one thing instead of another, can change the whole view and feel of the chapter, or story, making it stronger.
Such in the case of my NaNo novel of last year. A chapter I thought was passable and “fine” had become a strong piece that would set the pace for the next few chapters. There was nothing terribly wrong with it before, but the revisions I made helped round it out with better detail especially, and a change of topic helped bring focus to the brewing conflict.
Then, of course, there’s writing something you end up downright hating. A friend of mine shared a quote with me today that sums it up: “Why should I write even if I don’t like what I wrote?”
Just because you hate it doesn’t mean everyone will. You are your own worst critic, and the glaring flaws you see, someone else won’t. Which has happened to me before, too, and was incredibly surprising. I passed the piece off as “meh” and shared it because they asked for it. I got told, “Whoa. That was incredible.”
Hearing that can really change your tune. Then again, there are the pieces that you think really can’t be saved, but why not give them a chance?
Though on that note, my advice is to look for opinions if you’re conflicted. If you really are not happy with it, change it. Writing is about putting down whatever comes to mind and shaping, molding it to what you want. After years, loss, gain, happiness, turmoil. You are always shaping, like a glass blower! Except with words. And not with something molten.
Let your life’s changes and experience affect your writing, for better or worse. See the merit, take advantage.
-The Novice Wordsmith