Snapshot of a Writer

 

Reduced head shotby Stephen Buehler

“How can anybody read this?”

“This is so bad.”

“This is making me cringe.”

“I’d love to be given the chance to rewrite this.”

These are several thoughts I had after reading a story I had written a while ago. A story that been deemed worthy to be published.

Have you ever read a story you’ve written in the past and had these thoughts? I had a discussion with another writer the other day about this and we discovered we both had those kind of feelings.

Then it came to me. That story, at that time just represents a snapshot of the writer I was at that moment. It’s as I’m looking of a picture of myself from years before and that’s how I looked on that day. I can’t change that.

SB sitting on directors chair 2(just an example)

I’m doing a Rewrite and Resubmit for a publisher of my PI novel. It’s a book I’ve worked on for quite a number of years. I had finished what I thought my final draft well over a year ago. In the meantime I wrote several short stories, a novella about a magician and had started the second novella when the publisher got back to me with the offer of a Rewrite and Resubmit of the detective novel. She liked the book, even raved about several aspects but she had problems with the main character. She kindly gave me notes of what bothered her. As I make the changes, primarily to the PI, I noticed many areas feel stilted, forced, especially the dialogue. It has never read that way to me before.

Typically those scenes are filled with fun banter, quips and humor which people seem to love. I did too, maybe too much. But with enough distance from finishing what I thought was the final draft I now find I can let go of the forced dialogue. I’ve been rewriting whole scenes instead of just tinkering with them. Sometimes I can’t believe I thought this was any good. I feel embarrassed. How could I have seen how weak of a writer I was?

Recently I’ve been able to say to myself (and to you guys) – It’s because it’s where I was as a writer at that time. I did the best I could do with the skills I had then. And it’s not as bad as I’m telling myself because someone thought that it was good enough.

typing hands

I think it’s fine to look back at your old work and see how much better it could be. It shows that you’re progressing, growing, improving. You can’t go back and change what’s been published. But you can read it and appreciate where you are now.

How do you feel when you look back at your writing?

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Stephen Buehler’s short fiction has been published in numerous on-line publications including, Akashic Books. His story, Not My Day appeared in the Last Exit to Murder anthology and was a Derringer Finalist. A Job’s a Job was published in Believe Me or Not An Unreliable Anthology. His is seeking a home for his novella, The Mindreading Murders about a magician, psychics and of course, murder. He is also currently revising his mystery/comedy P.I. novel, Detective Rules. By day he is a script/story consultant, magician and a nice guy.  www.stephenbuehler.com

 

 

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26 Responses to Snapshot of a Writer

  1. Nancy Jardine says:

    Stephen- I certainly feel the same way about some of my writing that was done some years ago and some of it has already been changed. However, I think there are only so many times that a rewrite is worth doing. The growth of an author is sometimes mirrored by their general emotional growth as the years pass and they see things differently from before.

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  2. Wranglers says:

    Interesting, then in the other hand, you can reread something you’ve published and think, gosh, I did a pretty good job on that. I’ve done both, and as you daid you can’t take it back, but you can grow from it. Thanks Cher’ley

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  3. Doris says:

    Good thing for writers to hear. I have always believed, no matter what you do, you have done the best you can at that point in time. You make a good case for just that.

    Have fun with the gift of the rewrite. Doris

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  4. Thank you, Doris.
    Yes acceptance can be hard but necessary to carry on.
    – Stephen

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  5. Neva Bodin says:

    I think you wrote about something everyone exeperiences. I experience that with writing and my oil painting. It’s like raising a child, do we ever feel done? Good post!

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  6. I’ve occasionally ddeleted stuff I thought was bad, but I try not to do that anymore.

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    • Abbie,
      I save a lot of files. I also have a file on a project I’m working on called The Darlings File. It’s the stuff I like but for one reason or another I have to cut. For me it’s easier to get rid of if I think I’m still saving it somewhere.
      Thanks,
      – Stephen

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, Stephen, and yes, I can totally relate. I think that’s why some of my pieces still sit unfinished years later. In fact, yesterday, I had an epiphany so to speak, to completely change a the direction of a children’s book I’d started 5 years ago but didn’t finish. I’m planning to change the character, but not the concept, and re-focus on a different (dog) character, one I know well and whose story I won’t have as many “holes” to fill in because I know her well. Sometimes we have to step back and let the story tell itself, the characters tell their own tales, and sometimes that just takes time — and editing! Thanks for a wonderful post!

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  8. This is exactly what we were discussing! I’m glad you wrote about it. It really hits home with me as I’m sure for many writers. Great post, Stephen.

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  9. Joe Stephens says:

    I feel exactly that way when I look back on my first book. I’ve actually said to people who’ve only read it that I’m a lot better writer now and I wish they’d give me a second chance. And when I wrote that, it seemed like really good stuff. Not to say that it’s bad, but I’m so much more subtle, more skilled than I was then. I was a rookie then.

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  10. Great post Stephen. It took me over five years to write and re-write my first novel. I learned so much from that. Mostly, I learned to take criticism and critique without letting it get personal. I can now look at that book and the writing and feel proud about it, but only because I was in a great writing group at the time and we all worked together to make each of us a success. Although critical with newer writings, I don’t think I look back and say “How could I have written that” but I feel good with what I’ve written and strive to make changes that will make it better. I’ve really learned not to beat myself up, but to lift myself up. Thank you for the good tips and sharing your story. Very interesting.

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  11. S J Brown says:

    With writing there is always room for improvement. That can and often does lead to rewrite after rewrite for me. When I find I am rewriting it back where is began it is time to leave it alone. When I finally finish a project I sit it aside and move onto something else for a few weeks. Then pull it back out and reread it before sending it off. I know that before it goes to print there will be other eyes on it. Eyes that see things from a different perspective that may prompt one last rewrite.

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    • S J,
      I also like to finish a project, put it away for a short time and then look at it once again. It gives me time to fall out of love with what I’ve written and have a more critical eye.
      Thanks for reading my blog.
      – Stephen

      Like

  12. Kathy Waller says:

    I LOVE the idea of the snapshot. I’m going to send a link to your post to the rest of my critique group. (Austin Mystery Writers, to be specific.) I think we’ve all had the experience of looking back and wondering what we were thinking. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to take another snapshot. (Once in a while I glance over my master’s thesis. I like it. My professors liked it. But the sentences go on and on, and I was Queen of the Semicolon. Boy, does it ever sound scholarly. I’d like to take a red pencil to the copy in the university library and then put it back on the shelf, just to show I know better. If anyone ever happens to read it.) (The semicolon is still my favorite punctuation mark, but I’m not allowed to use it much any more.)

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    • Kathy;
      Thank you so much for sharing my blog; I knew it was an universal thing when I talked to a writer in my critique group and she had the same feelings about her past work; Even as I see I’ve improved I hope I look back at my writing of today and cringe; it will mean I’ve gotten even better;
      (In honor of you not being able to use semi-colons; I’ve used them throughout this reply; I hope you enjoyed them;
      – Stephen

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Mike Staton says:

    Natural dialogue, description of settings, etc. can be very subjective, and I guess that’s why we love to get feedback from fellow writers we’ve come to respect. For example, just think how much ‘To Kill A Mockingbird Changed,’ from when it was first submitted to the publisher. It just wasn’t polished; it underwent a total rewrite including POV shift to a young girl’s perspective.

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  14. Travis says:

    I know how you feel, Stephen. I cringe thinking about some of things I’ve written. When rereading, I occasionally I surprise myself with a line that’s good, but it’s more the exception than the rule.

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  15. katewyland says:

    I’ve had both reactions. Sometimes I re-read something old and think “that’s pretty good.” Other times I think “I wish I could edit this.” Had this experience recently when I was preparing a reading for LitQuake. I deleted parts to fit in the time allotted and realized the story really didn’t need them. Since the book is self-pubbed I could go back and re-do it, but I think writing my next would be a better use of my time.
    Good post.

    Like

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