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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bring Out Yer Dead!

Cat Carlisle asked an excellent question in the comments of the previous post:

Also, could I ask if you've ever tried rewriting any of those unfinished stories? For the past couple of years I've been rewriting the same three stories. Thought I did complete one of them, it wasn't to my satisfaction so I've found myself trying to write it again and again. Have you ever had any luck finishing or restarting an old story, or have you found that it's better to just let it die and move on to something new?

The answer is no. I have three novel chunks from the 90s, the only surviving copies of which are on a 5 1/4 inch floppy somewhere. I have 100,000 words of the third book of The Dark Citadel, but I wrote the first two parts with numerous rewrites as I tried to figure out what to do and rereading the third part I've decided it's not very good and too dark for the tone of the series. I think I'll start over with book #3, completely reimagining it from the ground up.

I also have a rough draft of an early thriller called Night of the Wolf, but it's not as good as the stuff I have out there. There's a completed dark fantasy novel called Still Waters that was the first decent thing I ever wrote, but I still don't think it's as good as my published novels, so I'll let that die as well. There are two early science fiction novels that were complete enough to go out for queries (to a deafening silence) and they are in the 5 1/4 inch floppy category mentioned above.

The one exception is the book I mentioned in the previous post's comments about the book that I almost finished, but didn't. I was suffering depression at the time, as well as a complete collapse in faith in my writing, and so I let it die. Going back to read the book, I think it's pretty good. The book is a middle grade fantasy novel called Moonland, and I'd dust it off and do something with it except that it's most similar to The Kingdom of the Bears, which has only sold a few hundred copies, even though I think it's a well-written, engaging fantasy novel. I'm not sure the work is justified.

So why don't I revisit these earlier novels. Most of them are pretty bad, but some are built around solid ideas. It was my execution that was faulty. And not just faulty, I wrote the books with a smaller tool set that I currently possess. I feel a little like a builder who has acquired a lot with a small, aging house on it. I could remodel, but at some point the results would be better, and even easier if I just knocked the darn thing down and started with an empty lot.

Also, when enough time has passed, I read my books as if they were written by a stranger. And a stranger's book, no matter how good, is not your own. You want to write something fresh and new. The fun part of writing for me is the discovery of the story. Those stories have already been discovered.

Between less fun and more work, I'll let the dead rest in peace.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for answering my question. It's hard for me to give up on a dead story but (and I hate this analogy) it's like flogging a dead horse. I can "beat" the stories again and again but if they're dead, they're not going to go anywhere.