Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Anything bothering you?

It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post - this month I'm a co host along with, Tamara NarayanM.J. Fifield and Nicohle Christopherson. If you have any writing related insecurities do share them with us and we'll do our best to help – and if we can't, we will at least read them in a sympathetic manner.

This month's suggested question is; "Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?"

Over the years I've retrieved and studied some of my earlier pieces, with varying results. In a few cases I realised what I'd written was never going to make a good story and deleted it. I know we're told never to delete anything, but why shouldn't we if it has already served its purpose? Writing them helped me as I'm now much better at recognising if an idea is worth spending time on.

Other stories did have good ideas behind them, but at the time of writing I hadn't the skill to do them justice. As I learned more, I rewrote and improved them. My characters gained character, they started to speak like real people. I showed their motivations and reactions rather than simply reporting their actions. Some of these stories were then sold.

In one case, what I'd started with was really just a plot outline. Back when I wrote it, nothing I'd produced was over about 1,000 words. When I gained in confidence I worked on it and doubled the length. There's no doubt that it was far better than the original, written eight years before. It still got rejected everywhere I sent it.

Another eight years on, I took another look. And gave it another rewrite. After several rewrites, sixteen years and a threefold increase in the word count I sold it.

I find it hugely encouraging that I've improved so much in that time that I've had the confidence to co-author From Story Idea to Reader – an accessible guide to writing fiction. That won't be the end of the process though. As we write, review our own work, get feedback from others and read well-written pieces we can, and should, continue to improve.

How about you – can you see an ongoing improvement in your writing? Are you feeling insecure about anything writing related?

85 comments:

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

It's amazing how much we learn about writing the longer we do it - and how much we improve :-)

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

Thank you for co-hosting this month's IWSG, Patsy.

Your comment about showing a character's motivation and reaction rather than just reporting their actions is an important step to improving a story. I've been improving in that area, having received some harsh comments about my protagonist not showing enough of either motivation or reaction.

Nancy Gideon said...

Thanks for co-hosting today, Patsy. Yeah, you!! By continually upping your game, you got to the goal line and turned the whole process into a learning (and teaching) experience!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sometimes our skills just need to catch up to our vision. Awesome you kept returning to that story. And thanks for co-hosting today!

Maggie May said...

I think you are an inspiration to all writers determined to make it. I have given short stories a miss for now, but I'm concentrating on my poetry and enjoying it more. If you have a passion for anything in life, the chances are you will succeed. Keep inspiring Patsy.

Cathrina Constantine said...

That's what I call perseverance!!! I believe the longer you write, the better writer you will become.

Sandra Almazan said...

I have a lot of stories in my "story graveyard" too. There are also a couple of stories I hope to return to at some point once I figure out what to do with them.

Christine Rains said...

Perseverance is key! Keep on pushing on. I definitely have seen improvement in my writing over the years. And I hope to see it for the rest of my life. Thank you for co-hosting today. :)

Yolanda Renée said...

I see improvement, not sure the world does. LOL

Love having a store house to pick from! All writers should!

Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG this month. Awesome job!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Patsy - patience is a virtue ... and you have that! congratulations on your From Story Idea to Reader - that's a clever addition to your asset base of books ... cheers Hilary

Megan Morgan said...

That's wonderful! I'm loving the stories today about writers who turned forgotten pieces into something important!

Dean K Miller said...

Time and effort certainly does improve our writing. That's a good reason not to throw anything away. It gives us a scale on which we can see ourselves getting better (I hope, anyway!) Thanks for co-hosting this month.

Bish Denham said...

I can definitely look at early writing (I still have stuff from high school - 1960s!) and see the improvement. And then there are the things that totally surprise me, I wrote that? As you might be able to tell, I've kept most everything I've ever written. :)

Angela Wooldridge said...

I was just reading about you in Writing Magazine this morning, and here I am commenting on your blog.
I'm very relieved to be able to say that there's an ongoing improvement in my writing - there'd be something wrong otherwise!

Crystal Collier said...

Improvement? YES. I suppose that's why they tell us never to go back and read one of your published works, because any cringing you do won't change the result. =)

Arlee Bird said...

I try to never delete anything--at least not on purpose. I've lost plenty though. I like to think that my writing has improved, but then I'll look at things I've written in college 40 years ago and some of it looks pretty good and maybe better than more recent attempts. But then I'm a biased judge of the writing.

I'd probably trust your judgement of writing more than my own.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Pat Garcia said...

I have been receiving so much good feedback about my manuscript lately. It is in the last revision and the feedback that I am getting is really helping me to tighten up what I've written.
Shalom aleichem,
Pat

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I delete or toss things as well. If I kept every single thing I ever wrote or started to write, I'd be buried under paper and the memory on more than one computer would be full to bursting. :)

Loni Townsend said...

I know I've learned a lot through trial and error as a writer.

Thanks for co-hosting!

Tamara Narayan said...

It's great you kept going back and improving it until it sold. For me, I need to focus. Too many distractions are keeping me from being productive.

Misha Gericke said...

My main writing-related insecurity is the fact that I haven't written in more than a month. XD

I want to try and get some writing done tonight.

Have to admit, I'm one of the keep-everything types. Not because I think I'll trawl through old stuff for ideas (my brain stores the good ideas anyway), but because I like to have a time-line of my growth as a writer. :-)

Juneta Key said...

Very cool rewrite story and I think inspiring and encouraging. I tend to keep my old writing because even if its not all good I tend to find gems of ideas within that can be expanded on or a play of words that is worth using again.

Yes definite improvement, but sometimes I go back and find another gem and I am like, Did I write that? Wow. Sometimes.

Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

Jacqui Murray said...

Sorry--I got completely sidetracked when you said the D word (delete). I bet one of these days, you'll madly go through your backups looking for a forgotten copy. Me, I have five backups. If it's old enough, I even have CDs. I'm paranoid of the D word.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Hello, Patsy! This is my first time at your blog and I've followed it. I look forward to visiting you here. I’ll connect with you online as well. Bravo to you for realizing that we, as writers, are always learning and improving in story structure. And congratulations on all these books on your blog. Thanks for co-hosting IWSG's question for March. All best to you.

Patsy said...

It certainly is, Ronel!

Patsy said...

It's all to easy to have them just follow our plot outline and so not feel like the real people they can become if we let them.

Patsy said...

"Continually upping my game' sounds like it should become my motivational phrase!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I love your determination to stick with it and keep rewriting. My first book was rewritten so many times as I learned more and could revise.

Patsy said...

You're right, Alex - it takes time to write the way we want our stories to be told.

Patsy said...

Working on what you most enjoy sounds like an excellent approach to me, Maggie.

Patsy said...

I believe so too, Cathrina.

Patsy said...

It's easy enough to know a story needs something. Working out exactly what that is can be much harder.

Patsy said...

Perseverance and persistence are two of my strongest traits, I think.

Patsy said...

If you see improvement then I have no doubt it's really there.

Patsy said...

I'm not so much patient as stubbornly determined, Hilary.

Patsy said...

It seems almost all writers are also rewriters, Megan.

Patricia Lynne said...

Oh yeah, I've seen improvement in my writing. We should all look forward to the day we look at our first book and cringe. LOL!

S.E. White said...

Thank you for co-hosting for IWSG! I wonder, how do you manage reading our complaints in a sympathetic manner? The image of you patting the computer screen with a comforting hand brightened up my day, I must admit.

Fundy Blue said...

Congratulations on your book with Rosemary, Patsy! That's an inspiring anecdote! And thanks for co-hosting the IWSG today!

Annalisa Crawford said...

I definitely see an improvement when I look back over my old stuff. I love rewriting old stories, I can't stop myself recently :-)

Elsie Amata said...

I've deleted some things I've written and have since regretted it. Not because I have a desire to work on, but I'd like to be able to mark my progress. I suppose all I need to do is look at my blog posts over the last few years. :)

Thank you for co-hosting!

Toinette Thomas said...

Thanks for co-hosting this month and for stopping by my blog. My writing is always improving, especially since I never really studied writing. I don't think I've improved enough to write a book about it, but I'm definitely better a telling a story that doesn't lose it's audience.

Olga Godim said...

I don't delete. I never delete my stuff. You sold a story after 16 years and two major re-writes. Your case fills me with hope.

Fay Knowles said...

Yes, Patsy! I've dug out old unpublished stories, rehashed them and they've been published! I definitely see where my writing has improved over the years. But I hate to delete anything. I always feel a story could come in handy some time in the future, even for just being an idea to prompt a new story.

Chemist Ken said...

Wow! When you add up all the time from beginning to end of the story, you took even longer to write yours story than I have (at least so far. I'm still working on it). Glad you persevered.
Thanks for co-hosting this month's IWSG!

Lee Lowery said...

I definitely see improvement in my writing when looking over ancient projects (or even something I wrote last month). The other thing is that I now mentally dissect books I am reading, to see how they draw me in and the problems when they don't. It's a never-ending process that only fails when we stop writing.

dolorah said...

I've deleted some story starts and flash fictions. You're right about learning more of the craft makes it easier to see what is a waste of time, and what might work out sometime later. I've had a few stories that only a character or basic concept survived into a totally different writing.

Awesome that this WiP eventually saw the light of publication. Kudos.

Thanks for hosting this month :)

Patsy said...

If we find looking back at our old stuff encourages us to keep improving, that's reason enough to keep it.

Patsy said...

It's a really odd feeling to find something we wrote but don't remember, isn't it?

Patsy said...

Ha! I get EVERYWHERE!

You're right, it's great to see how we're improving all the time.

Patsy said...

If I couldn't change it then I agree that rereading might be a bad idea.

T. Drecker said...

It's amazing how much our writing changes over the years. Good for you for digging it out and having it hit the world!

Patsy said...

It is hard to be objective about our own work.

Patsy said...

Good feedback helps so much.

Patsy said...

I have an extra hard drive - but I do have lots of photos taking up space.

Patsy said...

I think it really is the best way to learn, Loni.

Patsy said...

I'm easily distracted too, Tamara.

Patsy said...

Not writing for a month would make me very insecure! Hope you manage to get some words down soon.

Patsy said...

It's great that you can be impressed with your old writing. I think I can be too critical and see what could be better, not what is good.

Patsy said...

Sorry if I scared you, Jacqui!

Patsy said...

Thanks, Victoria. Nice to meet you too!

Patsy said...

I am determined when I believe in the story, Susan.

Patsy said...

It's an odd thought, but I do see what you mean, Patricia.

Patsy said...

I also nod in an understanding manner and give an encouraging smile.

Patsy said...

Thank you – I'm very proud of the book.

Patsy said...

I don't think you should try to stop, Annalisa.

Patsy said...

I think it's worth holding on to a few old pieces just so we can see how we've changed.

Mark Noce said...

I've found that if I plot too much it can definitely effect the writing in a negative way. Perhaps that's why I'm more of a pantser now:)

Liesbet said...

Congratulations on (finally) selling the story, but primarily on becoming such a better writer and recognizing the improvements and potential! When I look back at articles I wrote five years ago, I cringe. Some of those older stories do need rewrites and resubmitting, but for now, I am busy enough with current writing projects! :-) Thanks for co-hosting!

Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

Patsy said...

Keeping your audience is probably the most important aspect, Toilette.

Patsy said...

If there's any hope of turning the story into something worth reading then you're right not to delete it, Ola.

Patsy said...

I like the idea of an old story prompting a new and better one, Fay.

Patsy said...

Perseverence pays, Ken!

Patsy said...

I rather like it being never ending, Lee - I wouldn't want to feel I'd gone as far as I could as there'd seem little point continuing.

Patsy said...

If some part of the story has been reused then writing the original was worthwhile.

Patsy said...

We do change in style as well as quality, I think. It's all part of the process.

Patsy said...

We have to experiment and then go with whiever method works best for us, Mark.

Patsy said...

As long as you're writing and improving I don't think it matters whether it's an older or new piece.

Maria said...

I have to agree it is very satisfying to pull a piece of old work out of a file and see how far you've come on with your writing.
I've been known to recycle the odd piece of writing, but I'm not sure if it's every paid off for me.

Lorraine and Steve said...

My novel 'Mrs Calcott's Army' was first written ten years ago. A major romance publisher rejected it, and rightly so. The heroine had far less fun than the secondary characters, for a start. Four years ago I decided to give it a quick polish and send it out on its own to earn its keep while I wrote something else. It took all of those four years to get it right, but partly that's down to reworking an existing book; I'm hoping the next one will be much quicker.
I've learned so much about writing in the intervening years - and about what I wanted from my book. I didn't write this to a publisher's formula: I wrote it to be true to the characters. I've enlarged it and brought the characters to life, and I'm getting five star reviews on Amazon for it.
So I still have a book to finish that's been on the back burner for those four years. I'm writing the follow-up to Mrs C too.
Nothing written is ever wasted if you learn from it.

Patsy said...

If you learn from the process I'd say it has even if you don't make a sale, Maria.

Patsy said...

You make a good point about learning what we want from a book. It really helps to know that and keep it in mind as we write. At least, I've found that to be the case.

Michelle Wallace said...

I can see improvement in my work but I just can't seem to write faster. So I'll continue plodding along. After all, perseverance does pay off.
Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG this month, Patsy!

Patsy said...

I'm not writing faster, Michelle - but more of what I write is finding a home, so my published output is up a bit.

Deb R.H. said...

That's neat that you've done that, and inspiring. Makes me feel less worried about how long it takes me to write. Thanks for co-hosting!