When Your Old Writing Haunts You

What my #NaNoWriMo2016 project looks like on Scrivener. (Not the manuscript in this story)

Recently I had the chance to look at a manuscript that had been resting in my hard drive for months, since I hadn’t been able to revise it while I was working on other things at the same time. At first I thought it would be an easy revision, since I was going by notes from a single beta reader who acted as my consultant for the specific issues that I brought up in the story. But then I combed through the rest of the manuscript, and…hoo, boy. 

Where to begin? Awkward dialogue tags, for one thing. Flawed character motivations. A lot of telling, which I had to remedy by adding more scenes. And since my reader had very specific notes about the occupation of the main character, I ended up editing entire chapters to make the events of the story ring true to the realities of that field. 

It did make me wonder, however, about how far I’ve come as a writer. 

I’m not saying I’m an expert by now–I’m still experimenting with deep POV, for one thing–but looking at that manuscript with fresh eyes made me think about how awkward my early writing had been in the last two years. I didn’t have a lot of faith in myself or the process, since I was writing it to get things done; it wasn’t until I actually went back and made the changes that I saw how much work I need to put into this story before I put it through another round of critiques. (As I wrote on Twitter after revising it, “This isn’t over yet.”) As it stands right now, I’m happy with the manuscript plot-wise, but the actual work of line-editing will take up a lot of time–time that I won’t have for the next month or so, but enough to keep me busy once this round of deadlines is over. 

Ultimately, the real question here is this: how am I supposed to grow if I don’t challenge myself?  

It doesn’t matter how many times my manuscript gets critiqued; I have to get past the selfishness and doubt to produce something that is worth reading. It’s something that I need to do, if I want to keep myself sane and productive. And it’s up to me to decide how far I can push my own skills in the service of a good story. 

Yes, it’s a lot to think about over the course of the next few months, but I have to remember that I’m already past doing all of this for fun. I have to write so I can be a better writer. There’s just no other way around it.

And so, I must march on. This isn’t over until I say it’s over. 

Love, Stella

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Stella Torres

is the author of the adult contemporary romances Save the Cake, Crushingly Close, and Nine Years Away, as well as the short story “Be Creative” in the anthology Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Vol. 1.

In her previous life, she has worked in public relations, taught English as a second language, and even attended graduate school (twice!). She has lived in Indonesia, Honolulu, and Quezon City before moving back to her hometown of Los Banos, a few hours’ drive (with traffic) from the heart of Manila.

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