Cringing at your old writings

January 31, 2009 in Fantasy, Novel, On Writing by pacejmiller


I cringe more when I read my writings than when I watch David Brent

Reading back on old writings can be cringeworthy.  I had a firsthand experience today.

My fantasy novel has been making decent progress lately.  Today I added another 5,000-6,000 words to boost the total word count to over 40,000 words (I even finished my first battle sequence!).  But not ALL of my work today was brand new.

I had been working on this novel on and off for 7 years (mostly off).  But until recently (when I decided to really give it a shot), I had never written chronologically.  Instead, I picked specific scenes that I felt like writing at the time.  As a result, it was a bit all over the place, and some scenes I even attempted more than once.

Anyway, today my novel finally reached a point where the story converged with some of my previous writings.  So I thought it would be real easy – just whip out my old writings and paste them in.  Not so easy.

I could not believe how shithouse my old stuff was.  It told a scene (a very good one too, in my humble opinion), but the writing was garbage.  There was no technique.  There was no emotion.  Even the grammar was bad.  How on earth did I ever think that stuff was any good before?  I’d understand if I was reading my first ‘novel’ attempt, a cliched teen horror story that didn’t make any sense.  That’s because I wrote it when I was 12.  But most of the stuff I read today was written in the last 3 or 4 years.  I’m not even close to being a good writer now, and yes, it was all first draft material, but reading that crap was still deeply depressing.

Am I the only one here?  Anyone else have the same experience?

I tried my best to adapt some of the old stuff into the new, but it was hard.  I ended up rewriting most of it, but at least the basic features of the scenes remained in tact.  Nevertheless, I think it saved me some time. 

The funny thing is, chances are I will read back at what I’m writing now some time in the near future and cringe the same way I did today.  Actually, I’m sure of it.  But at least that would mean I’m improving.