I’ve recently turned my attention to an old manuscript of mine. It’s been sitting on the hard-drive of the last several computers I’ve had, minding its own business, being patient.
It’s the first novel I ever wrote, and while I sent it out numerous times, I wasn’t able to find an agent for it, got discouraged, and tucked it away to focus on other things.
But I figured it was time to give it another look.
The idea is simple—I rewrote the story of Cinderella, but I gave the stepmother and stepsisters a fair break. I also didn’t stop at the usual, prince-finds-the-girl spot, but used that as my half-way point. Haven’t you always wondered how he brought home a girl with dishpan-hands to be the next queen?
Well, I have to say, re-reading this recently, I’ve come to a couple conclusions.
- My writing has improved. The writing from ten years ago isn’t dreadful, but my writing now is better, tighter. (Knowing my tendencies towards wordiness, this is a shock to me, too.) It’s just good to know that, even if I haven’t noticed it, improvement has happened.
- A good story can transcend less-than-perfect writing. Reading this again, I am as enchanted by the story I put together as I was when I wrote it. It doesn’t matter that the writing isn’t always perfect, I enjoyed reading it and rediscovering the story.
- Write what you love. I’ve said for years that the reason I wrote this book in the first place was because it was a story I wanted to read and nobody else had written it yet … so I did. And, still, I would plunk my money down for this book in a heartbeat if I came across it in a store.
- Editing older work is easier than newer writing. Once a manuscript (or blog post, or article) has marinated for a while, it’s not as painful cutting or changing things. Gaining a little distance make it easier to be impartial, easier to make the changes that have to be made without sentiment barring the way. I removed entire chapters, and cut out over 30,000 words. (Yes, I know. I don’t know what I was thinking, that my YA manuscript was 121,000 words, but now it’s a comparatively trim 86,000. And the chapters I ruthlessly cut? Well, I kept copies, for old times’ sake.)
- Patting yourself on the back is healthy. Because, yes, there were some chapters that I read with a smile on my face because I was so darn happy with the way they came out and how well they’ve held up.
All in all, letting this manuscript rest all these years worked well for me. Re-reading it now is like moving back to an old home that I loved—all the fond memories, but I get to give it a complete makeover to bring it up to date.