The Ghost of Writings Past

Instead of sitting out the second session of Camp NaNoWriMo, I decided the perfect thing to do while trying to release my first book would be to edit an earlier work as sort of a break. Editing as a “break.” Riiight.

I read through my first NaNo story from last November. I thought I would spend my time fixing that and adding in things that would make the story work. While I did spend the first few days of Camp rereading, I did not find a great deal wrong with it. In my experience, that’s either because I’m too close to it or the work is almost perfect. When’s the last time you read a first draft that was perfect?

Anyway, I decided that for some reason I was still too close to the story to properly edit it. Instead of bowing out of Camp gracefully, I instead turned my editing skills on a book that I knew needed fixing. I started working on my very first book.

This story was penned 13 years ago. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve edited it. I can tell you it’s still not right. What is not right with it is something that still escapes me. Every editing sweep, something different jumps out at me. A plot hole, the same tired phrase throughout the book, how many times my characters sigh and nod – trust me, there’s a lot that needs help.

Editing the book is so painful, I’ve been a horrible Wrimo and skipped the majority of my Camp time. Instead of plowing through the book to reach the end, I always find something else to do. What I’ve been doing lately is reading a later story following the same characters. I guess I’m hoping for inspiration or that I’ll stumble across what’s missing.

I can tell you that I love the story idea. I love the plot, I love the characters, and all the little pieces of the story that build up into a big reveal at the end of the trilogy. I can also tell you that whatever is missing from the first book is also missing from the ones that follow. For whatever reason, I’m not excited or invested in these characters right now. I don’t know if my writer brain has simply moved on, or if there’s an element in my first set of stories that is just not there.

I’m happy to note some changes in my writing style over the years. I can tell as I read these books that I have grown as a writer. There are more places where I’m going, “that doesn’t work,” “they wouldn’t talk like that,” and “I need more detail.” I’m making minor changes as I read through, but the story remains largely unchanged.

How on earth can I love the story so much and still be so horrified of fixing it? Will facing my earlier writing always be this hard? Will I ever reach the point where I’m finally satisfied with this set of stories?

Hopefully, the answer to the last question is yes. If the young adults that read these books are half as excited as the adults who have read through them, it will be a great success. My current goal is to get those books on the market before the current target audience has kids of their own. Let’s hope that isn’t too ambitious…

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