Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Three Benefits of Time Traveling as a Writer (Lizzie)

"Nobody calls me chicken!" Marty McFly is famous for saying--in the past and in the future. Maybe, the present as well. Not being chicken either (at least in some things), I recently took a trip back to the past in my writing: I re-read my short story "How to Hide a Prince" from Tales of Ever After. For a writer, it can be dangerous to read old work. You can fall into the black pit of ERRORS, the swamp of  I WISH I'D SAID THAT DIFFERENTLY, or the deceptive, inescapable mist of LOOK HOW GOOD I AM--NO FURTHER EFFORT IS NEEDED.

A wise traveler, however, recognizes those dangerous paths and avoids them, but doesn't avoid travelling altogether. Three very important things can be gleaned from returning to older works.

Three Benefits of Time Traveling as a Writer

1) It crystallize your brand.

What did you like about your story? What did others like? Or not like? For me, I enjoyed in my re-read, and others have commented on, banter between the hero and heroine, lyrical prose, and a happily-ever-after ending. Basically, I tell stories with adventure, humor, romance, and pretty writing. Those are things I want to be known for, but they don't always come naturally (especially when I'm focused on character development or working out a complicated plot), so I have to consciously include them.

2) It reveals your strengths and where you've improved or lost ground. 

Writers change and grow, so a strength you had in one novel doesn't necessarily transfer to the future ones. My first full-length novel was really fairly easy to write. Because it was about the enchantress from the Beauty and the Beast story, the plot was already pretty much structured for me. The main character came out strong and was easy to write. I had time to focus on lyrical prose. But with my next two stories, I used two POVs instead of one, the plots weren't obvious and were much more complicated, the characters didn't come so easily. My lyrical prose suffered because I was focused on those other issues. So ask where you may have slipped in your work to improve other areas.

3) It affirms your calling.

You should enjoy re-reading your old works. That's not to say you think them all perfect, but they should still give you some pleasure. You should recognize some strengths or areas where you've improved or a character you particularly liked. If you don't get any enjoyment from reading old works, if you think them all trash, then maybe writing is not your calling after all, but merely something you can do and not something you should do. Or maybe you've been writing the wrong stories, writing contemporary romance, for instance, because you think it will sell better and you're afraid of the research needed to write the historical fiction you love. All that said, I really hope you enjoy re-reading your old work.

In conclusion, visiting old works gives you a map to a better future: a clearer idea of who you are as a writer (your brand) and how you can improve.

Do you re-reading old works? Has it helped you?


  1. As a tinker, re-reading adds the danger of me trying fix an errors I’d come across. ;) But maybe one day. You make some good points, especially about branding. Thanks for sharing, Liz!


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