There might be something good in all the dreck
Yesterday on my personal blog, I wrote about resurrecting an old project and by old, I mean old. I think the last time I looked at this was about 10 years ago. I wrote it back at a time when I was reading a lot of fantasy, both epic and high fantasy. In the intervening time, my reading has changed and I don’t read nearly as much of those sub-genres as I once did. So, when I pulled this particular project out of the deep dark recesses that exist under my bed, I did so with a great deal of trepidation. Still, what could it hurt — other than my ego — to look at it and see if there was anything worth trying to save? After all, I was stuck when it came to my current projects. I needed to do something until I got Mac Santos’ voice back so I could finish Nocturnal Challenge.
What I am finding both scares and reassures me. But it also makes me want to kick myself. More on that in a bit.
What scares me about the project — currently being called Sword of Arelion — is how much work the piece actually needs. The story is there. Sure, it needs tweaking and tightening but there is a story there. But the craft part of it needs a lot of work. I don’t want my readers to feel like they are watching a ping pong match because I jumped heads so much and without warning. It is clear that I did try to work on curing the POV changes, however. So that is good — I think. But the problems are bad enough that I have to completely rewrite the book. A simple markup and input won’t do it. Fortunately, I figured that out by the end of the very first page.
Something else that scares me about the novel is that I am getting pulled into it. Maybe it is because I’ve been fighting to work on Challenge and it just hasn’t been happening. Maybe it is because this is so very different from what I’ve been writing and my creative batteries needed something completely different (cue the Monty Python theme, please) to get going again. I’m not sure what the answer is but I have the very sick feeling that this novel is going to morph, like so many of my other projects, into a multi-book arc and — yes, I’m going to whine here — I don’t want another series right now!
The project also reassures me. It is good to see that my craft has progressed over the years. That is especially so because when I was younger, I had tried going the traditional route. Looking back now and remembering what I tried peddling to agents and editors, I wasn’t anywhere near ready for prime time. But, like so many others, I took the rejections to heart and, coupled with a few other factors I won’t go into here, decided that publishing wasn’t for me. I would write because I had to but it would be for my own entertainment and sanity. After all, once I was done with something and decided I no longer wanted to work on it, I could have a bonfire and I really, really like bonfires. 😉
Of course, Fate is a fickle bitch and she had other plans for me. She brought Sarah into my life and Sarah weaseled it out of me the I enjoyed writing. Well, Sarah being Sarah, she managed to convince me to send her something. Then she put on her pointy toed boots and applied them to my backside until I started taking my writing seriously. She still, on occasion, applies those metaphorical boots to remind me not to sit back and rest on my laurels, real or imagined.
And this is where I get to how looking at SoA and want to kick myself. As I said earlier, there is a story there. More, if I am honest with myself — and if I listen to Cedar and Sanford — what I have of SoA right now is as good, if not better, than much of what is published right now, both traditionally and indie. Yes, there are problems but they can be fixed. That’s not the issue. The issue is that I didn’t believe enough in myself to keep trying and I put my own growth as a writer on hold as a result. Would I have managed to actually find an agent or publisher back then? Probably not. But I would have kept working at my craft, something I really didn’t do until Sarah — and then Dave and a few others — came into my life and started giving me the encouragement and often the push I needed to get off my butt and actually start taking it seriously.
So here is my challenge to you. Go find one of your earlier works — don’t go looking at stuff you wrote in elementary or middle school. Believe me, you will get a laugh. I do. But most of us weren’t really “writers” back then. Pull it out and look at it with a critical and dispassionate eye. It is going to be easy for you to find the problems with the manuscript. But now look at it and find the good points. What did you do right, or almost right, even if it was more instinct or dumb luck that caused you to? Now think and think hard. Is this something you can resurrect into a new project? If not, why? Also, if you don’t think you can, what about the project can you file away for use in future works?
Believe it or not, there will be a gem in some of those older works. It might not be the entire piece that is salvageable but there will be something. The key is to first find it. Then you have to figure out why and how you can use it.
Now go forth and find those hidden gems and let us know about them. As for SoA, you can find the first snippet here. A second snippet will be going live later today — hopefully.