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Editing an old piece or rewriting it? (2 Viewers)

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KeganThompson

Senior Member
So...I got a couple of ideas for some pieces. I want to work on my narration a bit, giving it more personality and wit. I had some of that in my writing in high school but since starting to write again, I've been focusing on a darker tone and haven't played with much wit in the narration. I have an old piece I started in 2014-AND I inserted some artwork I drew with it. I didn't know if I should edit that, restart it with similar ideas or ignore it and work on the other idea I have. I want to get back into art again, so I thought it would be nice to bring up old work, rewriting and redrawing the concept I started all those years ago. (how well does this forum translate pics and writing?)
Do you prefer to edit old works or flat-out rewriting them? Or does it all depend on how old/ how bad it is? Lol
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
You might consider putting pics and writing into the Blog section.

As far as re-writing, personally, I wouldn't bother with old work. We all evolve -- in our consciousness and our competance. If it were me, I'd start from scratch.
 

KeganThompson

Senior Member
You might consider putting pics and writing into the Blog section.

As far as re-writing, personally, I wouldn't bother with old work. We all evolve -- in our consciousness and our competance. If it were me, I'd start from scratch.
I honestly don't know much about the blog section but I was going to insert small graphics near the text. The pictures would be full stand-alone pieces. I don't know if that matters.
I did start editing the piece earlier today and I was like ehhh, but I could do so much more if I rewrote it and reworked the concept
Maybe it's something to think about later...
 

thepancreas11

New Writers' Mentor
WF Veterans
I have a lot of half-finished projects from throughout the years. Sometimes I read them and get inspired and add maybe a chapter or two, finish a short story, maybe even scrap the whole thing and start over. It depends a lot on my mood and the piece. I think either is a viable route forward to creating good content and either can be enjoyable. I find just reading the work can sometimes get me back into the style or mindset I was in at the time.

One thing that works for me when I find an old draft to be stale or lacking is to put the two drafts in a split screen. As I write the new version, I have the old version up. It gives me a rough outline of the original idea, and I can always copy and paste the good stuff into the new version if it still lights my fire.
 

Megan Pearson

Senior Member
So...I got a couple of ideas for some pieces. I want to work on my narration a bit, giving it more personality and wit. I had some of that in my writing in high school but since starting to write again, I've been focusing on a darker tone and haven't played with much wit in the narration. I have an old piece I started in 2014-AND I inserted some artwork I drew with it. I didn't know if I should edit that, restart it with similar ideas or ignore it and work on the other idea I have. I want to get back into art again, so I thought it would be nice to bring up old work, rewriting and redrawing the concept I started all those years ago. (how well does this forum translate pics and writing?)
Do you prefer to edit old works or flat-out rewriting them? Or does it all depend on how old/ how bad it is? Lol
Some questions (for yourself, not meant as a drill or anything):
How does it move you?
How do you respond to what you wrote--is it more critical (intellectual) or heartfelt (emotional)?
Does your emotional response bring to mind some earlier vision that you'd like to recapture somehow, revive and make fresh?
Is the influence of your life back then important to the mood you originally brought to the piece? If you can recapture those memories, through photos or fragrances or music, would it help you to get back into step with where you were to keep your rewrite within that proto-creative frame of mind that birthed the piece?
What would it feel like to leave it in a drawer for another x-many years?
Why do you want to revisit them? What is your purpose in doing so?
Do you like what you wrote?

I think I prefer to take it on a piece-by-piece basis. I've mentioned elsewhere that I pulled out a draft I finished in, I think it was 2007. I've spent years dismissing that draft as just awful... then I began re-reading it this past winter. There's something there, a passion or a drive, an intimate authorial tension or vibe that's committed to telling the story in a certain way that I just can't reproduce today when I try starting it from scratch. I've tried twice. I can feel the distance; I'm just not there. And it's that rawness that makes what I read so good. I needed the distance to see that. But back then, I hadn't yet read about structure, so it has some serious plot holes and jolting transitions. My early attempts at editing it were failures, yet now I think I can bring it back by outlining the existing text. I am hoping that, by making the minimum of necessary changes and additions/deletions, I may be able to preserve the tone of the piece. Will it work? We'll see... I've got a few too many irons in the fire right now & want to do it justice and not just blow through it.
 

KeganThompson

Senior Member
Some questions (for yourself, not meant as a drill or anything):
How does it move you?
How do you respond to what you wrote--is it more critical (intellectual) or heartfelt (emotional)?
Does your emotional response bring to mind some earlier vision that you'd like to recapture somehow, revive and make fresh?
Is the influence of your life back then important to the mood you originally brought to the piece? If you can recapture those memories, through photos or fragrances or music, would it help you to get back into step with where you were to keep your rewrite within that proto-creative frame of mind that birthed the piece?
What would it feel like to leave it in a drawer for another x-many years?
Why do you want to revisit them? What is your purpose in doing so?
Do you like what you wrote?

I think I prefer to take it on a piece-by-piece basis. I've mentioned elsewhere that I pulled out a draft I finished in, I think it was 2007. I've spent years dismissing that draft as just awful... then I began re-reading it this past winter. There's something there, a passion or a drive, an intimate authorial tension or vibe that's committed to telling the story in a certain way that I just can't reproduce today when I try starting it from scratch. I've tried twice. I can feel the distance; I'm just not there. And it's that rawness that makes what I read so good. I needed the distance to see that. But back then, I hadn't yet read about structure, so it has some serious plot holes and jolting transitions. My early attempts at editing it were failures, yet now I think I can bring it back by outlining the existing text. I am hoping that, by making the minimum of necessary changes and additions/deletions, I may be able to preserve the tone of the piece. Will it work? We'll see... I've got a few too many irons in the fire right now & want to do it justice and not just blow through it.
I tried to work on "the other idea"...it wasn't working for me. So I pulled the ideas I had for that story from a crevis in my memory and reworked the idea and started over. (the story was unfinished and was like only 6 pages long) I have ideas for this "new version" I started, but I don't know if I have the ability to properly execute what I want quite yet...I write stories based a lot on emotion, that is what interests me as a reader and as a writer. I was going to work on the first portion (chapter?) of this and then go work on something else. I am learning to write shorter pieces and rotate editing stories and writing new ones. That way I don't get bored/ overwhelmed with a single story and can come back to it and edit it with fresh eyes.
I have no idea how long the current story I started will be. I can see it being a "novelette" or something, but I don't know how far I am going to take it. (a full completed idea) My goal currently is to work on my prose/ craft/ style/ voice and work my way up to writing something like a novel.
haha-the novel I was working on earlier this year was aimless and had no structure either! I wrote over 70,000 words but stopped because I knew it was all off and it was a complete rewrite. (at least I know I can commit to an idea and write at "novel-length") Sooo...to work on my skills, I decided to work on short stories and potential budding ideas for a longer piece/ novel.
I'm sure now that you have more experience, you can successfully edit it. Interested in seeing how it goes :)
 

KeganThompson

Senior Member
And you do it very well! I think this will be a big part of your voice. :) What authors are your influences?
Thank you!
Well....I read john green books in highschool, he got real popular with his book "fault in our stars" back into 2013/2024. I plan to reread a couple here soon. I just got back into reading again when I started writing so I have read a few things here and there, so I don't have a particular author in mind. One book that has stuck with me (and I watched the movie first, it's what made me read the book) is perks of being a wallflower. I read that earlier this year. It hit on a subject that I don't think is discussed enough.
Currently, I'm trying to use conversations I had with people/friends and my own personal experiences to help me express emotion and weave it into my ideas.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Thank you!
Well....I read john green books in highschool, he got real popular with his book "fault in our stars" back into 2013/2024. I plan to reread a couple here soon. I just got back into reading again when I started writing so I have read a few things here and there, so I don't have a particular author in mind. One book that has stuck with me (and I watched the movie first, it's what made me read the book) is perks of being a wallflower. I read that earlier this year. It hit on a subject that I don't think is discussed enough.
Currently, I'm trying to use conversations I had with people/friends and my own personal experiences to help me express emotion and weave it into my ideas.
I'd not heard of John Green. He looks to be quite relevant as a YA author. I'll have a read of one, thanks!
 

Megan Pearson

Senior Member
...I was going to work on the first portion (chapter?) of this and then go work on something else. I am learning to write shorter pieces and rotate editing stories and writing new ones. That way I don't get bored/ overwhelmed with a single story and can come back to it and edit it with fresh eyes.
I can't think of how many times I've read that we should focus on one project at a time. But honestly, I get pulled in so many directions IRL that outlining here yesterday or writing there today just seems to fit my life. (Kindred spirit here!) I am working, though, to be more efficient, and I think that's why the advice I've read calls for focus on one project. Besides, it sure would be nice to finish something so I can publish it.
I have no idea how long the current story I started will be. I can see it being a "novelette" or something, but I don't know how far I am going to take it. (a full completed idea) My goal currently is to work on my prose/ craft/ style/ voice and work my way up to writing something like a novel.
haha-the novel I was working on earlier this year was aimless and had no structure either! I wrote over 70,000 words but stopped because I knew it was all off and it was a complete rewrite. (at least I know I can commit to an idea and write at "novel-length") Sooo...to work on my skills, I decided to work on short stories and potential budding ideas for a longer piece/ novel.
You've probably heard this before... let the story tell itself. Not all stories can be told as novels or novelettes or as pieces of flash fiction. Something happens to them when we artificially determine their length. I guess this is fresh in mind because of the movie we just watched tonight. Some of the scene jumps were jarring because it was poorly edited to meet the film's time constraints. As a viewer, I don't want to get wrapped up in the technical details, but I think this movie had too much in the story they were trying to tell. Something needed to be chopped. Yet, what did get chopped made for a choppy film. The result was they missed their beats and it left us the viewer feeling like we were watching a melodrama rather than an action movie. It may even be they were pushing the limits of their genre as well. The end of this reverie is simply that structure is our friend. Sounds like a mantra: "structure is our friend, str..." And the end of that reverie is even more simple: just write. I'm convinced our learning structure is as much by way of an unconscious act of conceptual osmosis as it is the intentional pursuit of craft, so keep writing & you'll figure it out. (Which somehow doesn't sound very helpful, does it?)

Something that has helped me is to continually be writing within the story form in which I want to publish, which is the novel. Not everyone can manage to work to 70k words or beyond because it does require structure. If your first go at it had been terrific, you'd have been able to quit your day job & start a new career. But since you're as mortal as the rest of us (;)) I hope you'll hold onto your 70k project. Even should you decide not to rewrite it, it can serve as a wealth of ideas later on.
I'm sure now that you have more experience, you can successfully edit it. Interested in seeing how it goes :)
Me too! The funny thing is, what I'm doing with the 2007 draft is neither editing nor rewriting. I'm re-outlining it. I'm taking what's there and laying the major scenes on a table width diagram where I've drawn a basic 3-act structure. I'm trying to look at the skeleton of the story. I know it's missing a few vertebrae; I'm hoping this will help find them. Then I can start editing/re-writing while keeping an eye on maintaining the original tension of the piece, which I really like.
 

LadySilence

Senior Member
I never throw anything away.
I put aside old texts, unfinished pieces, sometimes I use them, sometimes I rewrite them.
 

KeganThompson

Senior Member
I can't think of how many times I've read that we should focus on one project at a time. But honestly, I get pulled in so many directions IRL that outlining here yesterday or writing there today just seems to fit my life. (Kindred spirit here!) I am working, though, to be more efficient, and I think that's why the advice I've read calls for focus on one project. Besides, it sure would be nice to finish something so I can publish it.

You've probably heard this before... let the story tell itself. Not all stories can be told as novels or novelettes or as pieces of flash fiction. Something happens to them when we artificially determine their length. I guess this is fresh in mind because of the movie we just watched tonight. Some of the scene jumps were jarring because it was poorly edited to meet the film's time constraints. As a viewer, I don't want to get wrapped up in the technical details, but I think this movie had too much in the story they were trying to tell. Something needed to be chopped. Yet, what did get chopped made for a choppy film. The result was they missed their beats and it left us the viewer feeling like we were watching a melodrama rather than an action movie. It may even be they were pushing the limits of their genre as well. The end of this reverie is simply that structure is our friend. Sounds like a mantra: "structure is our friend, str..." And the end of that reverie is even more simple: just write. I'm convinced our learning structure is as much by way of an unconscious act of conceptual osmosis as it is the intentional pursuit of craft, so keep writing & you'll figure it out. (Which somehow doesn't sound very helpful, does it?
Something that has helped me is to continually be writing within the story form in which I want to publish, which is the novel. Not everyone can manage to work to 70k words or beyond because it does require structure. If your first go at it had been terrific, you'd have been able to quit your day job & start a new career. But since you're as mortal as the rest of us (;)) I hope you'll hold onto your 70k project. Even should you decide not to rewrite it, it can serve as a wealth of ideas later on.

Me too! The funny thing is, what I'm doing with the 2007 draft is neither editing nor rewriting. I'm re-outlining it. I'm taking what's there and laying the major scenes on a table width diagram where I've drawn a basic 3-act structure. I'm trying to look at the skeleton of the story. I know it's missing a few vertebrae; I'm hoping this will help find them. Then I can start editing/re-writing while keeping an eye on maintaining the original tension of the piece, which I really like.
I can't think of how many times I've read that we should focus on one project at a time. But honestly, I get pulled in so many directions IRL that outlining here yesterday or writing there today just seems to fit my life. (Kindred spirit here!) I am working, though, to be more efficient, and I think that's why the advice I've read calls for focus on one project. Besides, it sure would be nice to finish something so I can publish it.
When it comes to a bog novel or project I will definitely put my focus into that. I am working on my prose with shorter works currently. I like that I can have a complete idea, take a break, work on a different project and come back to my other idea to work on editing. The rotation is nice and seems to be working for me (so far)

You've probably heard this before... let the story tell itself. Not all stories can be told as novels or novelettes or as pieces of flash fiction. Something happens to them when we artificially determine their length. I guess this is fresh in mind because of the movie we just watched tonight. Some of the scene jumps were jarring because it was poorly edited to meet the film's time constraints. As a viewer, I don't want to get wrapped up in the technical details, but I think this movie had too much in the story they were trying to tell. Something needed to be chopped. Yet, what did get chopped made for a choppy film. The result was they missed their beats and it left us the viewer feeling like we were watching a melodrama rather than an action movie. It may even be they were pushing the limits of their genre as well. The end of this reverie is simply that structure is our friend. Sounds like a mantra: "structure is our friend, str..." And the end of that reverie is even more simple: just write. I'm convinced our learning structure is as much by way of an unconscious act of conceptual osmosis as it is the intentional pursuit of craft, so keep writing & you'll figure it out. (Which somehow doesn't sound very helpful, does it?)

I am a pantser at heart, so I do let the story tell itself but sometime my idea go off the wall and become too clustered and too many to the point I cant handle it and write a sound piece. That's why I need a better understanding of structure and a better grasp on what I want for my idea or else it will just go everywhere. I am wanting to lean more about outlining, I did outline a bit on the story I started but the idea still continuously shifted and i was so unsure of where I was going I dropped it. No amount of editing would fix it if I dont know where i'm going. You know what they say...you gotta fail to learn. Now I am trying to start small and built on a core...was thinking of giving "dirty drafting" a try. Or at least have a cleaner outline. I need to find a good balance between pantsing and plotting... so thats another aspect of writing I am working on.
Jump cut in film and tv have been so jarring, its constant too. Its a wonder why kids attention spans are trash. (including mine) I think movies become TOO formulaic with their structure that is becoming boring to watch


Something that has helped me is to continually be writing within the story form in which I want to publish, which is the novel. Not everyone can manage to work to 70k words or beyond because it does require structure. If your first go at it had been terrific, you'd have been able to quit your day job & start a new career. But since you're as mortal as the rest of us (;)) I hope you'll hold onto your 70k project. Even should you decide not to rewrite it, it can serve as a wealth of ideas later on.

Honestly I dont know what I'm going to do with it. I might work some ideas from into into short pieces. I stopped working on it not because I lacked discipline. i MADE myself write. So at least I have more confidence I can finish a project because when I was in school, I would stop in the middle of a project and go start something else. This "new" idea (a basic rework of an old old idea) I was thinking of adding and working some ideas from the novel I started and this idea.
Yes, outlining something i need to work on. DO you plot a lot or just do a basic outline and go wild with the story? LOL
 

Megan Pearson

Senior Member
Honestly I dont know what I'm going to do with it. I might work some ideas from into into short pieces. I stopped working on it not because I lacked discipline. i MADE myself write. So at least I have more confidence I can finish a project because when I was in school, I would stop in the middle of a project and go start something else. This "new" idea (a basic rework of an old old idea) I was thinking of adding and working some ideas from the novel I started and this idea.
Yes, outlining something i need to work on. DO you plot a lot or just do a basic outline and go wild with the story? LOL
You know, Monte Walsh, by Jack Schaeffer, was written as--I think--a magazine serial. One day Jack saw all of the short stories he had been writing and thought, "these would look mighty nice if I strung them together." He did and a western classic was born. So it just goes to show that you don't have to have an end goal in sight when you start out on something. Besides, you don't know now how your 70k will influence your writing later on. But you should know that every single word you have written in that manuscript has taught you something about being a better writer.

Do I plot a lot or outline or just tell the story? I just tell the story--but I'm not a 'pantser'. It's not a term I'm keen on. My grandfather used to tell stories. They were wonderful stories about family or places or events far away and in a distant time, and he just had this way of keeping the family spellbound through his stories. I can't tell stories like that. (Wish I could!) He didn't think ahead of time what he'd tell or how it should sound, he just told the story, in the moment, as it came to him. Now, his stories were always based on real events, so maybe that makes up for lack of any forethought to structure.

I think the tradition of the oral storyteller has greatly influenced the sort of stories I want to tell and how I tell them. I sort of start telling the story and, after some time, I start thinking about it as if I were reading it ending unknown, thinking about whether this here plot device would interest me as a reader or that there character is too flat -- & so-on & such & forth.

Where I'm at presently is taking stories I've already invested a lot of time in, whether it's that first draft I mentioned earlier or another of my projects. To this end, I'm creating a visual outline out of the major scenes so I can see the ebb and flow of what I have already written against the standard 3-act structure. The development of crisis and resolution within the rising drama is really important to me, and I knew going into this that that was an area I wanted to push. Already the outline has shown me areas of weakness and made the--surprising!--suggestion that my lead-up & inciting event needed to be changed. Wow. I've had so much going on, though, that I haven't been able to work on it in a couple of weeks. But I am eager to get back to it.

I think, in order to become a successful, published author, that I will need to mobilize all of my skills into creating something I can market out of what I've already written. So whereas I wrote the first draft for myself, now I want to turn that into something other people will enjoy. In order to do that, the finished form has to become unnoticeable to the reader yet integral to the story. Thus, I don't think a polished, well-ordered story that has good pacing and hits all the right beats for its genre can be done on anyone's first run. (Unless, of course, they're a storytelling genius.) It takes a lot of re-writing. But rewriting can be made simpler with outlining.

Here's a neat historical fact I just learned. Have you read Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls? You can read his story here. He had no public school education, yet he wanted to become a writer. And so he read a lot. When he got married, he was so embarrassed at his writing that he "burned five complete novels." When his wife discovered that her new husband was a writer, she encouraged him to rewrite his story. Despite his lack of education, he wrote the sixth story from memory, 35,000 words in three weeks. He didn't outline, he didn't think about structure or beats. He didn't know about plotting or pantsing. He just told a story--again and again and again--and with a little help from his wife, published it. He believed "that simply getting your ideas down on paper is the most important part of writing."

So I think what's important is not how we go about telling the story, but that we do tell our stories. Because, someday, they might make a difference in other people's lives.
 

Riptide

WF Veterans
I've done more rewriting than editing, but that's bc it's easier, at least at the stage of writing I'm at now, to rewrite when I want to make huge changes to a story
 

JJBuchholz

Senior Member
Do you prefer to edit old works or flat-out rewriting them? Or does it all depend on how old/ how bad it is? Lol

I could give an argument for both courses of action, but I would add that it all depends on the story. I've gone back and resurrected some
old short stories from my high school days and rewritten them, but have also taken some and simply edited them or reused their original
premise/plot with only minor tweaks.

I rarely rewrite anything these days, preferring to edit rather than have to change too much. At the very most, I'll rewrite a maximum of one
scene, or maybe even just a simple paragraph that I wasn't too happy with. In most cases, I'm happy with what I have written and make only
the most minor of tweaks.

-JJB
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I am constantly rewriting all the time. I do this with older and newer manuscripts but mostly older.

Right now I want to rewrite a story because of the lack of characterization. Sometimes because of my unique problems I want to rewrite it when I learn something new concerning structuring of paragraphs.

I learned a cool trick to add conflicts to manuscripts. You simply if you have objections say to a character's actions in a newspaper you can always recreate that conflict in a story. I guess if you are against saving a life. Because you must risk your life. Then that's something I now want to add to a rewritten manuscript.

Every character has objections to a subject. That character is you. (got this advice from a craft book and I think it is helpful advice). This is the conflict to the story. Someone is against it, maybe the main character.

I have so many failed manuscripts which is normal. That if I rewrote it would be on paragraph flow, characterization and conflict. Maybe even I would edit it for grammar.

Everyone has a belief system. Some are extremely efficient and only do one draft. I do write until I am satisfied. That is until I get a proper reaction from an audience.

I guess if I rewrite I have some heavy editing to do because of my unique challenges.
 
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Lawless

Senior Member
In a certain sense, I'm constantly rewriting. Whenever I read a story or article of mine and discover a typo or a mistake or it occurs to me that something could be rephrased so that it sounds better, I change it. In the computer age, it's kind of self-evident.

Once I took a very old unfinished work and completed it many years later. I used what I had already written and expanded it. I also made many changes to the first part, to harmonize its style with what I had added later, but I wouldn't have rewritten it from the scratch and thereby thrown all my previous effort away.

Generally I have so many new ideas that I feel no need to redo something old. I doubt I could, say, take an old (completed) short story and expand it into a novel like Isaac Asimov did.
 
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