I've come to a realisation.
My writing has definitely improved! Yay!
How do I know? Well...
It all began about a month ago when I realised that I have a good number (about ten) short stories that have been published and/or won prizes over the course of the last... ahem... eighteen years that very few people would have ever read. This is because they were published in very small press magazines, or they won prizes but weren't published, or they won prizes and were published in little more than commemorative booklets.
So, I thought I'd gather them together and ebook them. Easy, I thought, they've already been published so I won't need to do much to them. And in some cases that's true - some of them don't need anything more than a little updating (I've got at least two stories where the characters are queuing to use a phone box!).
In others... oh dear...
You might remember me mentioning one particular story where I dreamt the opening lines, woke up, wrote the story without stopping, barely re-wrote and had it published within the year. I've spoken about it on this blog, I've mentioned it in my comments on other blogs...
Yep - that story is awful! Okay, not awful, but not very well done. The prose is clunky and repetitive, and there's a lot of telling and not showing; some of the sentences make no sense. And yet it was published - I earned the grand total of £12 for it!
The premise is brilliant - I still love the idea, and the characters, but it needs some serious red-pen intervention before I'll let anyone else read it. I've already gone through it once, cutting and adding, and moving and slashing - and now it's in a folder waiting for me to be strong enough to go through it again.
So, this month's insecurity is that as a writer I have never been as good as I'm going to be, and yet those stories I think are not so good will always exist. Someone, somewhere might have a copy of the magazine - as I do - because their story is also featured. Which means one day, they might find it and flick through it and find my story before their own, and possibly even read it... and I have no control over that.
My advice: always be as good as you can possibly be, and then maybe you won't have an oh dear moment of your own!
It's been a while since I included the list of IWSG participants, so here they are. If you want to know more, please follow this link to Alex J Cavanaugh's blog.
Ha! I've been there, it's okay though becasue what matters is what you do from this point forward. Those that read the old story will be few and far between :)ReplyDelete
Yes, they will definitely be few!Delete
All we can do is improve! Heck, once they hit print, I didn't even read my first two books again.ReplyDelete
You can revise those old stories!
They are being heavily revised - I just hadn't realised how much some of them needed to be!Delete
There's a quote by (I believe) Maya Angelou that goes something like this - when you know better, you do better.ReplyDelete
That's all we can do. Do better. :)
That's a great quote, Madeline.Delete
Wow. 18 years is a lot of experience. I've been writing for 14 years myself, but only just submitted my first ever entry for a fantasy short story competition this past weekend.ReplyDelete
Thanks for that. I feel very old now :-)Delete
I DID start very young though...
Good luck with the competition. I love entering comps.
So so true, and yes, 18 years is a lot of experience. I try to be as good as I can be each day. The older I get, the better I get. So far, anyway.ReplyDelete
Still feeling old... lol!Delete
I think we all need a bit of extra experience to write properly. I always wonder about those stories of 16 year olds having novels published - how much do they really have to share?
LOL! I know how you feel Annalisa! I can't even bear to read my first book, which was only published in 2010, because my style has changed so much since then. (For the better, I hope!)ReplyDelete
As for the short stories that were published in 2009 ... um, yeah. The same thing.
It's good to know we're always getting better, anyway! :D
Yes, even two or three years is enough to hone the craft and improve. I bet your book is very good - off to search for it...Delete
Ooh, that is great advice, and so hard to make real. Being as good as we can be is so much harder than it sounds. Any time I think of that, I think of how many times I would have loved to just send something off to publishers, but then I got more feedback and had to rework it (again, for the billionth time).ReplyDelete
But then again, reworking? that's a million times better than future cringing...
That's what I WOULD have done - but it got published before I could rewrite it. Enjoying doing it now!Delete
I'm not sure if you ever stop improving as a writer... so there will probably always be those "oh my, I actually WROTE that?" moments when looking at past works. But then there are also those "oh my, _I_ actually wrote that?" good moments, too :)ReplyDelete
Allison (Geek Banter)
Oh yes, *those* moments are fantastic, aren't they? :-)Delete
Be the best you can be, that way you can have no regrets. Very nice, Annalisa.ReplyDelete
Thanks Suze :-)Delete
I recently found out that I'm going to have one of my short stories published. It's one I wrote a couple years ago, and luckily it had held up. It's something I do worry about from time to time, though! :)ReplyDelete
Awesome!! Congratulations! :-)Delete
i'm afraid to indie pubReplyDelete
i dont know if i'll ever be done editing!
thanks for the encouraging advice!
Editing can be a bottomless pit, if you let it. There's always a semi-colon that can be added or removed! Good luck with yours :-)Delete
It's nice to recognize that you're getting better. I've noticed that I am too - still not there yet, though. Had to laugh at the phone box queue, lol!ReplyDelete
Yes, it is a good feeling. I just hope I can re-write the story in the way I envision!Delete
Ooh I never thought of it like that. I know I'm not much of a writer yet, but I always try my best and hopefully people can see that :)ReplyDelete
That's all you can do, try your best. I was just so gutted when I read this one story - the others didn't have the same effect...Delete
On the positive side - you insecure writers need a boost sometimes - the person who reads your old story will also read their own equally old one and cringe.ReplyDelete
Ah that's true Lizy, I'm providing a service to those 3 people who will read that story :-)Delete
Think of it as a good thing: you are always getting better!ReplyDelete
Thank you for visiting me for IWSG, this is a good group to be part of ;)
It's going to be my mantra from now on!Delete
I think that you are a pretty great writer. Having won awards, as well as getting published is evidence of that. You can always revise the stories that you wish to tweak, but all in all, you are pretty talented Annalisa. Just think of all the amazing stuff you are yet to come up with.ReplyDelete
Thanks Murees, what a lovely thing to say :-)Delete
Sounds like you're doing great with your writing! And don't worry about "past mistakes" - did you know that Tolstoy once picked up one of his published books at a friend's house, read the first chapter and then put it down saying (I'm paraphrasing here) "This is crap! I could do so much better now!!" ........
I'm in good company then - thanks for sharing that story :-)Delete
Oh Annalisa! You've just given me a whole new insecurity! My first short story is being published next month and now I'm thinking, "what if I read it a year or two from now and think it stinks?!" So thanks for that! ;) Lol!ReplyDelete
Oh no... I promise it'll take much longer than a year or two - the story I'm talking about was published in 1996 (16 years ago!!!!!! - I need to lie down...)Delete
I'm in the same spot. I published a romance many years ago and recently got the rights back because I want to revise and go digital. However, I read the book and I'm stunned Silhouette Romance bought it! Now I don't have the courage to go digital and rewriting seems like a reeeeeaaaaal challenge. :)ReplyDelete
I thought I was being the best I could be ... but every year I improve. Thank the Lord!
I'm relishing the rewriting process. Just treat it like a first draft - you know the story is good, because it was published, it's just the way you tell it that needs to be changed.Delete
I think the other point is that work published years ago - especially short stories, but probably with novels too - is that the fashion/style of writing evolves. I love reading Daphne du Maurier's short stories, but her style would probably not sell today!
That's so true Annalisa! I'm in the midst of re-editing some of my work and Oh Boy! It's great seeing how much we improve over the course of our writing career. I'm sure next year (or two) we'll look back at our work and think again "Oh Boy!"ReplyDelete
But I love growing as a writer. After all, a baby doesn't walk right away. An Olympian doesn't qualify at age 10. Everything takes work and dedication and I believe every writer experiences that!
Yes, growing and learning is a big part of the process.Delete
I think your writing is brilliant. You cause me writer envy...which is totally a good thing!ReplyDelete
Thank you Elizabeth - that's a huge compliment :-)Delete
Even things written a few months ago can cry out for improvement - it's a great feeling to re-read and realise you've improved. Interesting thought about the previously published stories being cast in stone (print) for ever!ReplyDelete
I bet Shakespeare never had these wobbles!Delete
This is something I have also picked up in my own writing. I think, even though it may be frustrating when looking backwards, it can only be seen as a positive, that you Are improving. Keep at it. You're improving! :)ReplyDelete
Yes, that's true. Positive in two ways: I'm improving, and I can SEE that I'm improving. Thanks :-)Delete
"I've never been as good as I'm going to be."ReplyDelete
I love that...perfect IWSG post!
Thank you Donna :-)Delete
Ha! Be the best you can be and keep striving upwards. Great post.ReplyDelete
It's simple when you see it written down, isn't it? :-)Delete
I really know what you mean. It's not until you go back and re-read old stuff that you realize how much you've improved. Blogging has really helped me and I didn't know that it would when I started. I have learnt so much useful information. Looking forward to reading your collection when you publish it :)ReplyDelete
Thanks Claire. Yes, reading about other peoples problems and solutions is a huge benefit for me.Delete
"I have never been as good as I'm going to be." <-I really like the sentiment, Annalisa.ReplyDelete
I might suggest, though, that you're being overly self-critical. If your work's been published, it does NOT stink. But I understand. When I read old blog posts, I'm embarrassed. There's too much editing needed to do anything about it at this point. Oh well, it's nice to know there's always room for improvement.
Thanks for being so nice Robyn (re the overly critical comment) but I'm editing 10 stories at the same time, and the story I've mentioned is the one with the most red pen marks - it really isn't as good as I always thought it was!Delete
But isn't it good to see how we're improving?
I hear you. I still have people asking me about a book I self-published, and as time goes on, and I see my writing improving, I get more and more embarrassed to refer them to the self-published piece. I'll always say something like, "Yeah ... you can read the book, but just know it was the first novel I ever wrote and I really don't write like that anymore." A real insecurity there ;)ReplyDelete
Your first book, you should be proud! Tell people, "Yes, please read it - it's my first book. My style has evolved, but I hope you like it" - see, no buts... be proud...Delete
(Easier said than done, I know... but imagine it was a friend's first book - you wouldn't be so negative, would you - you shout about it because it's a great achievement)
You see how I can dish out great advice, but not apply it to my own situation :-)
I know what you mean about reading old work and cringing. But it doesn't necessarily mean our old writing was bad, just different. It would be surprising if our writing styles didn't change over time. I definitely agree that we should always be the best we can be but in addition to that you've got to just keep writing. Bad prose is better than no prose!ReplyDelete
You're right, Rosalind; and I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into the rewrite!Delete
Knowing you've improved is great but scary. If I continue to improve every six months or so, and I know that if I wait and revise my new WIP after six months it'll be better -- then in a year if I revise again, it'll be even better, ad infinitum. I should probably not query anything for 5-6 years...that way I can be sure it would be at its very best. Right? :PReplyDelete
Okay, I take your point, but to be fair to my original post, the story in question was published 18 years ago, I wrote it when I was about 18, and out of the ten previously published stories I'm editing it's the only one that stands out as being truly not good :-)Delete
Thanks for visiting my post Annalisa. I think everything in this world needs time to improve, just like a good red wine.ReplyDelete
I'll take your word on the wine, I don't drink red :-)Delete
I simply love your name, it's very ...poetic.., somehow predestined to belong to a writer :).ReplyDelete
Thank you! I hope you're right :-)Delete