Author Topic: When should one stop re-visiting old projects?  (Read 5653 times)

Offline Gav

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When should one stop re-visiting old projects?
« on: June 20, 2011, 01:17:29 pm »
I know you've all experienced this (unless there are 'right-first-time' writers out there), but I just picked up an old horror novel project with the intention of tidying it up and submitting it, only to read the opening 3 page chapter and immediately ripping it out!
It was poorly written, poorly thought out and definitely didn't belong in the front of the novel!
The trouble is that I can see this going on forever.
How do you decide when enough is enough?
Do you set yourself rules? (only 3 re-visits, for example)
Have you ever had something published and thought that you could've done it better?

Offline Rolnikov

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Re: When should one stop re-visiting old projects?
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2011, 05:17:47 pm »
As far as fiction goes, looking back at old stuff I'm just astonished I managed to write anything at all, and delighted by anything, no matter how poor.  :)

With non-fiction, though, I go over it again and again, and I'm never happy. I become quite despondent looking at old reviews I've written. If it weren't for deadlines I wouldn't "finish" anything. I'm on the sixth or seventh draft of my editorial for the next TQF, and there's still a good chance I'll bin the whole thing.

Offline Wroclaw

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Re: When should one stop re-visiting old projects?
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2011, 08:28:54 pm »
One of the best short stories I ever wrote was one I stuck in a drawer unread for 8 years... after which I was able to spot all the naff bits and remove them in one night.

But I think what you're talking about is the classic scenario of a first time writer labouring for years over his first novel. Best advice in my opinion? Put it away now in a drawer for at least 8 years, and in the meantime write as many more completely different and better novels as you can. Move on. You will only grow as a writer through trying new ideas and plots, and you learn from every single one. I lost count.... my so-called first novel (published) was actually about my sixth or seventh.

And yes.... it is healthy to be unhappy with every book you write or publish, even if other people praise it.... it's a sign that you're growing and improving.

Offline P.G.Bell

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Re: When should one stop re-visiting old projects?
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2011, 05:29:16 pm »
But I think what you're talking about is the classic scenario of a first time writer labouring for years over his first novel. Best advice in my opinion? Put it away now in a drawer for at least 8 years, and in the meantime write as many more completely different and better novels as you can. Move on. You will only grow as a writer through trying new ideas and plots, and you learn from every single one. I lost count.... my so-called first novel (published) was actually about my sixth or seventh.

I've experienced this very recently. My first serious attempt at a novel stalled somewhere in the third draft and has been on a backburner for about four years now. I've since written first drafts of two other novels, with the intention of revisiting that first, cherished project and whipping it into publishable shape. Upon re-resading it though, I find that most of the characters and themes have leaked into the two subsequent projects, which are both far superior (in my wholly subjective opinion, of course). As much as I hate to say it, I think that first novel will never see the light of day. But I had to hammer out those 200,000+ words to figure out what I wanted, so it wasn't wasted time by any means. Still hurts a little though!
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Offline Ramsey Campbell

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Re: When should one stop re-visiting old projects?
« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2011, 01:58:48 pm »
Have you ever had something published and thought that you could've done it better?

Very frequently indeed, believe me, and I think it's a common experience of authors.

I'm much in favour of rewriting and of learning to enjoy doing it. But never forget Joseph Grand in La Peste!

Offline Jec

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Re: When should one stop re-visiting old projects?
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2011, 09:48:47 am »
I  recently saw a themed collection asking for submissions, dug out an old unsold story that matched said theme, rewrote it, and 'sold' it.

The original file date was 1994...

So short answer? Never.  ;D

(Though sometimes you have to bury them for a while.  8))

Offline Stephen Palmer

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Re: When should one stop re-visiting old projects?
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2011, 12:24:52 pm »
I'd say "never" also   ;D

Offline Stephen Smith

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Re: When should one stop re-visiting old projects?
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2011, 07:14:04 pm »
I wrote my first manuscript as a diversion from science in 2003. It subsequently went to Publish America...into the 7 year trap. I've had eight years now to stew over the four volumes and I can see how poor the first attempt was. It also had a freshness and flow that's been difficult to maintain through all the chapter changes and massive re-writes that have occurred. Having now spent part of most days on these manuscripts for the eight years...I'm actually beginning to see that the process could be heading for a plateau. The manuscripts and I are evolving together but I suppose eventually I won't be able to improve them much more. I'm free of the contract in Feb 2012. At that point I think I'll call it a day with vol 1 and move on to vol 2!
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Offline mightyjoeyoung

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Re: When should one stop re-visiting old projects?
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2011, 09:18:59 am »
I always wrote short stories and novels for the pure pleasure of doing it, so I either burned them, binned them or buried them on floppy discs in archaic programs. Looking back through the mass I've managed to resurrect has been an eye-opener. Am I a better writer now? In a lot of ways yes, but much of my earlier stuff has a natural humour to it that I am not sure I have at my disposal anymore.

Leaving manuscripts to 'mature' in a draw is ok in theory, but I can't help wondering if we'd lose some vital spark in the process. I believe everything is 'of its time', and we rediscover works for a reason.

Offline Pauline Fisk

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Re: When should one stop re-visiting old projects?
« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2011, 09:55:16 am »
This is a really topical one for me.  21 years ago, my novel Midnight Blue won the Smarties Book Prize for children's literature, and I've just been through the process of bringing it out again myself in e-book form.  In fact it came out in the Kindle Store this Monday [21st Nov]. I was initially very reluctant to do this, feeling that I should go forward, not back, but life's not like that.  It's not a straight line.  It comes in circles and loops and flights of fancy and all sorts of weird tangents, so I decided to go with my instincts and see if it was possible to turn that step back into a step forward as well.

It's been a fascinating experience.  Definitely scary. After all, I was a young writer when I wrote Midnight Blue, so how would I feel now as a more experienced writer? But the book surprised me in so many ways, and there's nothing wrong with facing one's younger, less experienced self, and the experience has ended up being strangely uplifting. 

When should one stop revisiting old projects?  I guess as long as those old projects have something to say - and fantasy, in that respect, is so timeless and universal  - it's ALWAYS worth another look.

Offline CraigLockley

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Re: When should one stop re-visiting old projects?
« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2011, 12:10:06 pm »
Two words - George Lucas
Craig
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So many books, so little time...


Offline Nyki Blatchley

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Re: When should one stop re-visiting old projects?
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2011, 07:01:02 pm »
Um... I'm still working on a project I started in 1969  :-\  Of course, it's a bit like the axe that's had three new blades and two new handles, but still recognisably the same story.

In general, I'm likely to work on stories till they're either published or abandoned - one of the stories I had published this year is about six or seven years old and had a large pile of rejections, so I gave it an in-depth reworking, and it was accepted.

Offline Jilly Paddock

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Re: When should one stop re-visiting old projects?
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2012, 05:54:13 pm »
I never throw away the unpublished backlog of stuff, as it can be mined for current stories. I recently resurrected a thirty year-old space opera (all I had was a typewritten copy, so it had to be OCRed and corrected to get it onto the computer!) and it's turned into a much better novel. I like it a lot and may even put it out on Kindle.

Offline Debbie

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Re: When should one stop re-visiting old projects?
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2012, 02:30:13 pm »
I wrote my first complete novel aged 14. By hand. Then I typed it and the sequel on a manual typewriter. Both are utter drivel but proved I could stay the distance. I still have them somewhere.