Continued from My Conversations With A Wise Puffling : Part I.
You’re a fairly experienced author now. I have a question.
Do you ever read your published work and go- “Damn, I could have worded that so much better”? I mean, it’s different with something like a blog, because I can always go back and edit it. But you can’t do that with books and articles that publish.
Literally all the time.
So what do you do?
When I read it aloud, I automatically edit it.
Okay that was a bad question. There’s no answer to that. But does it bother you?
Well, with stuff I’ve published myself, I do have the option of going back and changing things, but there’s a danger I’ll get stuck in an editing loop and never finish anything else ever again. I just write better next time, and the time after that, and use what I’ve learned to do something slightly different, or more of something, or less of something in the next project.
It doesn’t really bother me – I think I’m quite lucky because I’m the only author I know who says that. Like, it makes me cringe a bit, but I’ve come so far since writing it – or I know how to fix it, or at least that it should be fixed.
One of my friends asked me last year ‘How do you not hate your own work?’, and I’ve been wondering ever since if it’s because its arrogance, or ignorance, or if I know it’s actually pretty good, and that’s okay to know. It helps that I write primarily for me – I’m the intended audience. So if it makes me laugh or cry or think, then its done it’s job and I’m good with that.
Like, I went back and read the little that I contributed to the recent book and I went- “Really? Is this what I came up with? Did I even read it once after I typed it?” I found a dozen ways I could have worded something better, and now it bothers me that people are going to read it and judge me based on it.
The trick is to accept that you’re always going to think that about most of your writing (particularly early on) and go, ‘Okay, what do I do next?’
Ninety percent of my time I’m pulling faces at what I’m writing and chanting ‘it’s okay, it’s a first draft, I’ll fix it later’ – and most of the time the bits that have felt horrible when I was writing them, or kitschy, or cheesy, or like meaningless platitudes used for the sake of boosting word count, they’re the bits other people have loved.
Not half an hour ago, I was talking to Jess about Moments of Grace (which is a series of 37 ficisodes/bookish things, over a long time); I’m on the eleventh now, and I can write a good portion on autopilot because I know what the characters will say, or should say, and I know what other writers do, so there’s whole chunks that are straight out of the ‘murder mystery novel filler’ box.
Next question. Do you go back and read something you wrote, like, 5 years ago and wonder if it really was you that wrote this?
Oh yes, totally. Like it’s completely dissociated from you.
That’s why you get a lot of writers saying that the characters know what they’re doing – I mean, I make decisions about every word, and I know that I’m doing them at the time, but sometimes it just feels like the story is telling itself through my hands.
Do you think it has to do with your writing style having evolved that you don’t recognise your own past work?
A little, but also probably because writing takes up a lot of brain space that you need for the rest of daily life, so once you’re done with something, the processing stuff gets deleted and only the word pictures get archived. Same with looking at old coursework from uni or school.
Also, you’re a completely different person at each point in your life; I think that’s why you get different things out of re-reading or re-watching things at different times. I’m definitely not the same person who wrote my first novel length fanfic, and House of Vines has some sections that I look at and go ‘Ick. such a first novel, inexperienced writer trap’. I’m working on a thing now that I’m so excited about because I feel like I’m telling an awesome story, and that I’m a good enough writer to pull it off.