Oh dear. I wrote like that?

Now that I’ve finished writing The Muse Bunny, I’m faced with something considerably less pleasant than the completion of a novel that has ailed me for quite some time… the dreadful editing process. Or more specifically, the reading-my-novel-and-realising-what-an-awful-writer-I-am process.

Since the writing of this novel spanned more than four years, I’m quite concerned about the differences in style. The way I wrote four years ago differs from the way I write now. Some of my sentence structures are different, I don’t used “pretty” and “seemed to” as often, I pay attention to how many times a word is repeated in a paragraph or a page, I’m a better judge of what is necessary and what constitutes an info dump, I know better not to go crazy with speech tags and I know that too many adverbs can be a bad thing. I also know that too many one-liners on a page can now cause me to twitch.

Occasionally I look at some things I wrote before and wince. I no longer have my very first stories due to a terrible mistake on my part, but I do have some left. Reading them does make me wince and cringe and shake my head in amusement, but I wouldn’t edit them. Maybe I’d rewrite them, but I would still keep the original manuscript… hidden away where they can never see the light of day. I’d be too embarrassed to let anyone read them! Today I looked at some of my old fanfics and found that I actually used things like “plz” and “urs” in my author notes. I was appalled. At one point one of my characters used three exclamation points!!!

Well… I wouldn’t say I was THAT bad.
(Credit: http://www.inkygirl.com)

One thing that amuses me about the way I used to write is that I would allow myself to be limited by the amount of pages in my notebook. Even if the story still needed some (or a lot of) space, I would wrap things up in the span of two or three pages… usually by killing someone or everyone off, or closing at a cliffhanger. Another thing I would do often is include damsels in distress who just could not do anything without the help of the hero. I know, I know… I was terrible.

That said, it feels like I’ve got my work cut out for me. Thankfully, I recently discovered a useful tool that helps me detect repeated words and clichés. If you don’t have SmartEdit, I suggest you download it; it’s really helpful! I also have my fiancé to help me out with everything. While there may be things I alone can be the judge of, it does help to have an editor on hand. ;)

Do you like to look at your old stories and check up on your progress? What are some things you used to do that you wouldn’t be caught dead doing at this time?

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22 thoughts on “Oh dear. I wrote like that?

  1. I love reading old stories of mine; it reassures me that I had imagination back then, if nothing else. Sentence structure can always be fixed, but when it comes to having a solid story idea, you either have it our you don’t.

    Congrats on finishing your 4-year novel! That must feel like an amazing sense of accomplishment. I’m currently working a novel that’s soon to be entering year 7, so I can imagine how it felt for you to have yours hanging over your head.

    • You have a point there. I did have a wild imagination as a kid, so that’s comforting, haha.

      Thank you! It does feel amazing. But… 7 years? Oh dear. Good luck with that! I hope you can finish soon too!

  2. It is amazing how practice and time can improve ones writing. I feel the same way, and I noticed a change after only a few month. I cannot imagine four years!!!
    By the way, thanks for sharing and the editing software.

  3. Yes. I have several notebooks lying around with half-finished stories. I’ve been going through them one by one this year and identifying which ones to focus on and which ones to leave for now. It is amazing how even something I wrote two years ago looks different to me – as though I possibly could not have wrote it.

    Congrats on the book! Getting it written out is a major accomplishment.

    • I feel the same way about my stories. We as writers always have room to improve, and even a month could make a difference, let alone two years!

      Thank you! It feels even moreso because of how long it took me to finally finish it. xD

  4. I looked at some of my early blog posts (I started in January 2012) and wince. My writing has come a long way since then. It wasn’t terrible . . . I have just learned a great deal along the way.

  5. I look at my old writing when I need a laugh. Recently hubby and I found some of my old poetry that I wrote when I was about 12. I’d write about things like nail-files – “here I sit upon the table, I would move if I were able” – HAAAAAAAAA

    But seriously, your writing will change and improve as time goes on. You have the entire manuscript set out now and you can edit it to ‘one voice’. You’ve put a lot of work into this and I know you’ll be brilliant at it! :)

    • Oh god that sounds like something I might’ve cobbled up when I was younger, haha. And I bet, like me, you used to think you were being a literary genius, no? xD

      And thank you for the vote confidence! I worked on this novel long enough, so I owe it to myself to have it edited well. =D

  6. When I finished my novel last spring the first thing I did was send copies out to several friends I trust for reading and notes. Warning make sure you only let people give you notes if you know you will still love them after they tear the story apart. one of the best compliments I got was from my older brother who felt I had too much exposition and not enough dialogue. When I told him that I felt that I did not write dialogue well, he responded that he loved my dialogue. That encouragement has made all the difference in my second draft.

    • I have my fiance to do that for me! Good t hing I love him, because he really can tear it apart, haha. It’s always good to have a second opinion because what we may think is good might not be so good in the eyes of others. And compliments are the best, aren’t they? It’s a wonder what they can do to one’s confidence.

  7. Great post! I can really relate to these words. I also use ‘plz’ and other such abbreviated shorthand terms when conceiving author notes – I would assume that many writers do when they are jotting down ideas because an idea is only ever good as long as it remains in your mind, and as soon as that pen hits the paper or your finger hits the keyboard, the idea begins to vanish quicker than you could conjurer it. Well, that’s the case for me at least.
    Yes, I on occasion look back at old pieces of prose and poetry. I notice quite a big difference in my writing. Well, for one I only began to take writing seriously at age 12, so in all of my short stories (yeah, right, if 101 pages is considered a short story)the writing style is young and at times immature in comparison to what it is now with all of the big words and somewhat better (?) conceived sentences. I adjunctively can understand how when you edit a project that took several years to develop your writing style changes. When writing my first novel (if a gigantic unpublished piece of writing can be called a ‘novel’), I learnt so much, and by the end I had changed dramatically. The one thing that I know has effectively being altered is my control over the characters – I don’t have any. I let them all run free over the page, because I initially ruled over them with an iron fist, and later found that the characters and the story would reveal themselves on their own if I stepped back and quit allowing my pretentiously gargantuan ego to get in the way. This is one thing I NEVER do now. Additionally, I used to focus a lot more on male characters, and women were often potential love interest that men had to fight tooth and nail to acquire. Now, often women are the protagonists in the stories I write and I do my best to make them into characters that do not require men in their lives.
    Again very interesting post!

    • Thank you!
      I don’t mean my personal notes. For example, when I wrote fanfics, I would write an author note at the bottom of the chapter and use leetspeak, haha. I wouldn’t call 101 pages a short story. It seems more like a novella! But I can imagine how different it must all be.
      You know, at one point I used to control my characters a lot too, and as a result my stories felt forced. Giving them freedom makes things easier for both me and them… though they do tend to misbehave sometimes!
      Have you tried writing something from the POV of both a female and male character? I did this in my novel and it made for an interesting experience because it allowed me to explore both characters equally!
      Thanks again for your comment. I’m glad you like the post. =D

      • Hey Zen, yes, I have tried POV in the past. I agree with you, that it does allow oneself to gain a perspective that would otherwise not be allowed if the author maintained a 3rd person view.
        Also, my characters misbehaved when I gave them freedom for the first time too. Two characters who I had made hate each other – they went off and, well, they ran off and did something beginning with ‘s’ and ending in ‘x'; and what’s worse – they enjoyed every minute of it. :D

        • Haha. Well… that might not be so out-of-character! Sometimes hatred can be so intense that it might lead to other things.

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