“Crude and boyish pieces”: Revisiting your old work
It can be really hard re-visiting your old work. After so many years your writing has improved, you’ve learning more of the craft of writing and you’ve probably experienced more of the world as well.
A new unpublished novel by the poet Walt Whitman was recently found. In an NPR interview with the person who found the work, the interviewer quoted Whitman saying “he was not proud of his early writing. At one point in his life he said that he wished to have ‘all those crude and boyish pieces quietly dropped into oblivion.’”
As a writer I understand this feeling thoroughly and yet there is something that draws us back to our earlier writing.
Not many years ago I received the rights back to the first books I published. They were published by Zebra Regency/Kensington Books. Naturally, now that I am self-publishing, I wanted to re-publish these books on my own, but first, I thought I’d read them through to make sure they were all right.
All right, a little bit of hubris here – three of the four books were actually not bad and didn’t need a lot of editing. I made a few corrections and republished them with new titles and covers. No problem.
But then came the fourth—actually, the second in the series, but they were originally published out of order, so I didn’t worry about that, and they can each be read as a stand-alone book anyway. But, yes, that fourth one was awful. No, it was worse than awful.
The heroine was a nasty, rude, and all around horrible person. I couldn’t see how anyone could have liked her. The hero was all right, if a bit stuck up. And the story really needed a lot of work to make it more fun and interesting.
I worked on that book for four months recreating the heroine into someone nice who I’d want to read about. I tweaked the hero and, while I kept the main gist of the plot, I reworked most of it to reflect the new hero and heroine.
I think it worked out all right. So far, I think it’s the most popular book of the series (having gotten a BookBub listing for it didn’t hurt!) getting lots of very nice reviews.
I was so glad I spent the time to re-read that old work and fix it because the story is fun and had great potential. With the right characters, it worked out really well.
You can learn more about the book (and the others in the series) here.