Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Bitching About the Past

Things seem to run in trends in the writer thoughts on the interwebs. The latest amusement (for me anyway) are writers that started seriously writing for a living around 2010-2011 bemoaning the quality of their old works compared to their newer releases.

Mind you, I'm not talking about the long-term folks who were trad published prior to 2010 and were either dropped by their publisher and/or realized the freedom indie publishing would give them.

No, I'm talking about the folks who didn't take the idea of making a living writing seriously until e-books and/or indie publishing exploded. Most had never been published, or at most, had one or two trad published books.

Anyway, they see the change in quality of their own work over the last six or seven years. Rather than rejoice they've grown as artist, they whine and gnash their teeth about the suckitude of their first novels. They waste time rewriting those book, or they whine about how they don't have time to rewrite those books. And sometimes, they take what I think is the worst option of all: they remove those early books from the market, essentially making them out-of-print.

*facepalm* (I swear anyone who is a writer has a dominant "whine" gene.)

I've already talked about this issue. More than once. Generally focusing on George Lucas here and here.

To paraphrase the late, great SF&F writer Jay Lake, once you the artist releases your work into the wilds of the public, you don't really own the story anymore. I'm not talking about copyright. I'm saying you can't control the thoughts of the people who read, see, listen to your work. You can't control their opinions of your work.

If you change your work, you are no better than George Lucas. You insult your fans by saying, "I didn't put out my best effort and you're dumbass fools for liking it."

Or even worse, you could lose potential fans by taking your older books off the market. You don't know which work of yours will resonant with the public. Hell, the song John "Cougar" Mellencamp wrote that he hates the most? "Jack and Diane". Yet, it's been his most popular work for the last thirty-five years.

If you think I'm immune from the embarrassment of older works, I'm not. While cleaning out my file cabinet a year ago, I stumbled across the first story I submitted to a magazine back in 1993. Yeah, it sucked, but I saw the glimmer of the writer I would become.

And yesterday, while working on A Modicum of Truth, I pulled up the original version of A Question of Balance from 2013. At the end that year's NaNoWriMo, I was two-thirds into the novel when I realized (okay, Subconscious smacked me upside the head) I was trying to cram three different plots into one book.

I made notes at the time so when I picked up the novel on 2015, I sliced off the extraneous bits. But I saved them for later. One of the bits I sliced off was the original version of the scene where Anthea tried to track Luc after he and Warden Gibb disappeared.

Oh. My. Goddess. The original version sucked so bad! LOL

But what a huge difference two years had made in my skills!

Another two years later, and I'm hoping A Modicum of Truth will be an even better book than A Question of Balance. If it isn't, I seriously need to rethink my life and goals because I should always be improving and growing as a person and as an artist.

After all, isn't that the true nature of the human condition?


  1. Exactly -- if your work from 6-7 years ago doesn't look kind of iffy compared with what you're writing now, then you've been doing it wrong all that time. If you think your old stories suck, and that you could write them much better now, that means you've learned and grown as a writer during that time, which... is what you're supposed to be doing. So yay. [wry smile]

    I remember reading something by Asimov, where he was griping that everyone thought his Best Story Ever!! was "Nightfall," because he wrote it when he was like 22 or something, and in his 40s or 50s he was very annoyed that people were essentially saying he hadn't learned anything, or grown or improved at all as a writer, since he was a snot-nosed kid. I'd have been annoyed too.

    Getting better as you go is a feature, not a bug. I understand the wincing, but not the whining or the rewriting. :/


    1. I think it's partly unrealistic expectations, and partly the realization that maybe they did suck at the beginning, which can be a major blow to the egos of millennials. *ducking from the expected barrage from Gen Y*