07 December, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Reading What Came Before

For the last blogfest I participated in, I remembered a character I'd used in a previous flash fiction challenge. Since I thought there was potential in writing from her perspective again, I went back and opened the file for the story, just to refresh my memory.

Oh, horror.

There were typos, the plot was odd, and the overall tone was just ridiculous. The character sounded too young, parts of what she said didn't make sense, and I really should have cut to the chase a bit faster.

That's what usually happens when I read something I haven't thought about for long, or didn't spend a lot of time editing. Some of my writing I can look at without cringing, but the rest of it . . . well, the rest of it shouldn't see the light of day. In fact, I'd be happy if it tumbled into a deep underground abyss that I'd forgotten the location of.

I try to avoid running into this. That's why you'll find me pre-writing flash fiction posts a day or several days before the actual event--or at least trying to. (The above example was written on a bit of inspiration and posted the same day.) That's also why the idea of having a a critique partner read chapters as they come out (which, I gather, some people do) scares me. I rarely if ever write something good on the first try.

Does this happen to you? How do you make sure what you write one day won't seem completely out of whack the next? And do you ever read your own writing for fun?


Also, I'm guest posting today at Stuart Nager's blog Born Storyteller, about creativity. I hope you'll stop by!

-----The Golden Eagle


Charles Gramlich said...

I used to have that experience but these days generally not. I think you get more consistent over time and I'm sure what you are seeing is the evidence of your own improvement as a writer. That's a good thing.

Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

That's why it's called a rough draft, or a first draft. It takes edits upon edits, plus new eyes of trusted readers to polish it up. Give yourself some grace that you aren't perfect the first time.

Anonymous said...

Don't give yourself such a hard time, we all have to edit, edit and edit again. As these other good people on here have said, that's why its called a rough draft. You CAN do it.x

Stuart Nager said...

As the others, it's a natural thing. I think about where I was and where I am, now, and...brrrr...

let it go...and learn from it!!!

C D Meetens said...

I've had this reaction with some of my older stories. Certainly, I look at my writing, and can find ways to make it better (MUCH better). Still, I also find it interesting to see how my writing has changed over time.

I think it's good that you "pre-write", and check over your writing before giving them to critique groups, etc. It shows you care about your writing and also about your readers.

E. Arroyo said...

Shitty first drafts are allowed, at least for me. The real work comes after.

Anonymous said...

Yes I do read my own writing for fun. Why? Because its fun. I think my book is overall fun read. At least it was fun to write it.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Critique partners are awesome. And I'll reread my posts, but I've never gone back to read my first book. I'm afraid to now.

Beth said...

What I write usually seems completely out of whack until the first few rounds of edits.

Old Kitty said...

Lovely Golden Eagle! I've just been over to your guest post!! Yay! but scary that everything there seems to be open to votes (thumbs up/down) Yikes!

Anyway!! Oh I never read my early early stuff! MEGA CRINGEWORTHY! LOL!

take care

Krispy said...

Oh goodness, I dread reading things I haven't looked at in a long time. It usually turns out to be cringe-worthy and I just can't handle the embarrassment. I get the incredible urge to start deleting everything.

On the other hand, sometimes there are gems. I wish these times came up more often. Haha.

Madeleine said...

We all do that and I guess we all accept the typos. I usually think. 'Ah this person has written this and it needs editing but it's still essentially good'.
Yes it's better to present something that's perfect and polished, but I admire those who come up with a piece of writing that still satisfies even though it contains typos and a few quirks and shows it's tripped from their brain in one creative flow, so don't fall into the abyss. You should be standing proud on the precipice!

Christine Rains said...

I know the feeling of wanting to be perfect, or near perfect, but none of us are that way. Everyone's first draft is messy. It's taken me a while to accept it myself.

Connie Keller said...

I think all writers experience it. That's what rough drafts are all about. I ran across a great quote the other day: A first draft is a celebration of everything that can go wrong on a page.

L.G.Smith said...

Getting distance from the writing is really important. None of us writes a good first draft. And it's actually a good thing that when you go back and reread you can see what's wrong with what you wrote. That means it's fixable. :)

Nancy Thompson said...

Isn't it strange how something you wrote that felt so good as you were writing can suck so bad a few days later? I've done this many times. I feel so clever and proud of myself, then I let it stew for a while and come back only to be mortified I could ever have written such dribble, such...crap! 'Sup with that?

Robert Guthrie said...

I have great respect for flashers.

But I'm a drafter. Crappy first drafts don't bother be because I know they're just foundation work. They'll be built up and change.

And no one will ever see them.

Michael Offutt, Expert Critic said...

Your flash fiction is excellent Eagle. Maybe you are being too critical on yourself. But yes, I too suffer from doubt.

Carol Riggs said...

Ugh, yes! That's why even when I think I've just written something absolutely brilliant, I wait to show anyone. LOL There's usually at least a few things I need to tweak! Time is our friend, in this case. ;o)

Jacqueline Howett said...

I'm not worried about the first draft. It's about getting the words down.

But I have found my whole perpective has changed lately on the writing process. Lately I have been learning some new ropes. Right now I'm pondering deep-POV over at my blog. It takes a lot of stewing.

Wishing you the best of the holiday season!

Jacqueline Howett said...

I'm not worried about the first draft. It's about getting the words down.

But I have found my whole perpective has changed lately on the writing process. Lately I have been learning some new ropes. Right now I'm pondering deep-POV over at my blog. It takes a lot of stewing.

Wishing you the best of the holiday season!

E.R. King said...

Heck yeah! That's why I have to write every day. Otherwise I lose my momentum.

Deniz Bevan said...

I pre-write a lot too!
And yea, my old stuff usually makes me cringe. Either that or it's still too familiar for me to see it objectively at all.

Donna Hole said...

Some of my first drafts are so rough they're vague, rambling ideas not stories.

Gotta get it down though, right :) I like editing and revising much better than writing the initial story . .


Lynda R Young said...

I don't think a story ever gets finished completely. I'm always going back and reading something and wondering how on earth I missed those typos. Ha.

Paul Tobin said...

Don't beat yourself up, we all do the best we can at that particular time. I like to put a poem aside, when I have written it because I think time grants you the distance to see the work clearly. I think we are all insecure, what we do is a scary thing; we expose ourselves when we show are work. Everything we write helps us to grow, be gentle on yourself.

ali cross said...

I can't say that I've ever read my own work "just for fun", but I SO know what you mean about cringing at what you've shared with others.

I sent a couple books out to readers in my early writing days that now I think "how did they get through it!?" They were like first drafts (probably WERE first drafts!).

Oh the folly of youth, lol.

Anonymous said...

I've shredded many manuscripts and deleted old floppy disks because my earlier writing made me cringe. I kept some things, mainly the poems, but the novels...the badness of my early writing efforts gave me the heebie jeebies. These days my first drafts make me cringe a bit, but the improvement is remarkable.

The Golden Eagle said...

Charles: I suppose . . . and it's certainly better than not spotting the problems!

Mary: I know, and I try to tell myself that--but it still drives me (and my inner editor) nuts to read things I've written. :P

Eve.E: And hopefully it's a diamond in the rough, right?

Stuart: Yeah; at least you learn from your mistakes!

C D: Me, too. Though it's easier to read stuff that's really early--at least then I know my writing has changed significantly. More recent stuff hurts more because there's a greater chance I'm still writing like that. :P

Just before I publish on blogs, at this point, as I don't have any critique partners/beta readers.

E. Arroyo: Rewrites, revisions, edits . . . the list goes on, doesn't it?

Stephen: That's awesome. :) I find knowing that I had fun writing something to be worth it in itself.

Alex: I rarely re-read my posts; I know my overall blogging "voice" has changed, and I'm a little scared of what it used to be like. LOL.

Beth: Sometimes I manage to hit on what feels right during the first draft . . . but usually, it's the same with me too.

Old Kitty: Thank you so much for checking out my guest post! :)

I've noticed that, too. Wordpress has an entirely different comment system from Blogger; definitely a more complicated one!

That's my opinion of a lot of stuff I've written . . .

Krispy: Oddly enough, I never get the impulse to delete things. Just hide them. :P

Me, too!

The Golden Eagle said...

Madeleine: I sometimes do that, too; though less often with myself.

And great metaphor there. :)

Christine: I think I've come to terms with parts of first drafts . . . I just have to work on the rest. :P

Connie: LOL. That is a good quote!

L.G.: True. It's better to have a fixable problem than an un-fixable one!

Nancy: I dunno. But it sure is painful to re-read it, isn't it?

Robert: I used to be all drafter myself; but then I started joining blogfests and now I'm writing more of it.

They'll just see the end product--which is hopefully (and often) much better than the original. :)

Michael: Thank you--I'm glad you enjoy it!

Carol: Yup . . . thank goodness for being able to think things over before showing them to the rest of the world.

Jacqueline: Sometimes getting the words down can be an immense hurdle in itself; when it's like that, any writing at all is progress!

Deep POV? I'll have to hop on over to your blog to find out the definition of that. :)

Thank you. Happy Holidays!

E.R.: Writing daily can help avoiding the inner editor and doubt--there's no time to think about it. :P

Deniz: Hooray for pre-writers!

I felt the latter about one novel I tried rewriting; I was too tied to it before started working on the story again.

Donna: Right!

I don't mind editing; it's revisions/rewrites that I really don't like, for some reason.

The Golden Eagle said...

Lynda: Gaiman's First Law:


. . . says that if an author opens their book, they will find a typo.

Paul: I agree--time does help to view things in a different light.

Ali: Well, I guess it just goes to show writing's a learning process. :P

Medeia: And now you've published a book--quite the accomplishment! :)

Li said...

I never throw old writing away any more; even if it's 99% terrible, I can usually find a phrase or an image which I'm pleased with, and use it elsewhere!

Jemi Fraser said...

I do the same! It's kind of scary to look back - but then again, I guess it shows us all that we've learned! :)

Jennifer Hillier said...

This happens to me all the time! Rarely do I read anything and not cringe. The thing is, though, it doesn't mean it's bad. We're our own worst critics, and when we read our own stuff, we tend only to look for the flaws, not the good.

Flying high in the sky.... said...

I am no writer ...so no comment on author specific behavior, but as a reader - :) i appreciate the honesty in your post... from that i infer you are a good writer...very few people admit it so openly :) it happens with everybody..no big deal.. :) take care

Susan Roebuck said...

Oh dear. Yes. I clattered away on Nano this year. Mistake! I went so fast, paid no attention and ended up with characters whose hair changed color (overnight!) and even had name-changes but not genre - yet. Now it's back to a drastic edit.

Carol Kilgore said...

Patience. I try to let my writing sit a while. The longer the better, but at least a day before messing with it again. I never read my own writing for fun.

Happy Weekend!

M Pax said...

I rarely give my cp's a first draft. They usually get a polished one. I have a story coming out in an anthology that I wrote two years ago now. I think I'll cringe when it's published ... lol So, I get what you're saying.

The Golden Eagle said...

Li: I keep most of what I write, too--at least if I had a good idea, I can rework it into something better. :)

Jemi: Yup!

Jennifer: I know that's what I usually do, at least. :P

Sushmita: My inner editor would say otherwise . . . but it is nice to know I'm not the only one who worries about these things.

Susan: I'm still working on my NaNoWriMo novel--and I'm not looking forward to edits! Characters, setting, plot, it all needs work.

Carol: True. As another commenter mentioned, time is our friend.

M: I've never had a critique partner/beta reader . . . but I know I'd panic if I had to send someone a first draft.

Congratulations on the anthology. :)

Brian said...

We don't read our own for fun, but we read it over and over and still have someone else give it the once or twice over too! I hope you have a happy weekend!

Deborah Walker said...

Well, I don't like to read my old stuff. But I don't feel bad about it, because I know it was the best I could do at the time.

Hold on, if that's true, why don't I like reading it. Yikes!

Kari Marie said...

I always have to plan ahead when I write. I write uncensored and then I do a first pass edit. I've found I need the extra day's perspective to really get to the heart of what I'm trying to say. I can always tell when I've rushed the process though.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to change that part of my process.

Don't be too hard on yourself. The fact that you would write/edit your work differently now shows how much you've grown in your skill.

The Golden Eagle said...

Brian: I know I read it over and over; at least it brings out the mistakes. Better to know they're there, than not . . .

Thanks! I hope you had a good one. :)

Deborah: Therein lies the dilemma. :P

Kari: I need time as well. I think that's the reason rewrites I attempted failed--I didn't put enough space between me and the novel. (I'm thinking about trying again, now that's almost a year since I finished the project.)

Rachel Morgan said...

Yup, I can definitely say I've experienced that! When I went back to read the beginning of the only full length novel I've written I thought, this actually kind of sucks. I haven't looked at it since! (which means when I do one day get to editing it, it will seem even worse!)

The Golden Eagle said...

Rachel: I'm thinking about starting rewrites in January on the first novel I finished--I'm not looking forward to wading through all of it. :P