by 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.
(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.
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?
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