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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Shaking Hands With My Younger Writer Self

By Kristy McCaffrey

I recently had the opportunity to revisit my first novel. It was with more than a tinge of dread that I approached a re-edit to ready it for a second edition release. Why the reluctance? Printed 11 years ago by a brand-new publisher, it had what I would term a 'soft edit', a predicament that my ignorance at the time didn't allow me to see. As a fledgling writer attempting to juggle numerous balls—plot, pacing, characterizations, research—I'd been excited and overwhelmed and, at times, confused. While I've had wonderful feedback on the book, I've always felt in the ensuing years that it contained weak writing. My overhaul of the project confirmed this.

But, rather than dwell on the negatives, here is what I learned.

—I have a good story, and I still like it.

—I can fix mistakes.

—I've developed a good internal editor in the years that have passed. Always keep going.

—I'm proud of my younger self for finishing a book and taking a chance to get it published. It was a lot of work.

—I was much more romantic in my younger days. I need to find that again.

—A thank you to any and all who read the book, and ferreted out the story despite the passive writing and sometimes confusing inner dialogue (there were parts even I wasn't sure what I was trying to say).

—A book is often a snapshot of a writer at the moment that it's written. Hence, I decided not to do any major rewriting. We do our best, then move on.

—And finally, the spark that drives me to write—as evidenced within the pages of this book—remains.


Reading the story again made me realize how far I've come as a writer, but it also reminded me of the sweetness involved in pursuing your dreams. It's worth it every time. So, don't let anyone keep you from your heart's desire, especially not yourself.


New editions of all of my Wings of the West series (historical western romances) will be available late September. Visit my website for more info.

18 comments:

  1. Kristy,

    I have heard the same from another author acquaintance about revisiting their earlier work for republication. What you say is true, we grow as writers but like our first born child who grew and changed, those stories are still ours. Now you get to show the world how you and they have grown. What a wonderful gift to you and your readers. Look forward to the new releases. Doris

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    1. Thank you, Doris! Every story is definitely a part of the writer. I cringed over my early presentation of the work, but beneath it I could still feel the magic of writing it in the first place. It told me, in no uncertain terms, that I'm doing what I was meant to do. But, it's always our job to improve our skills and that's an ongoing process to be certain. :-)

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  2. Kristy, I know exactly how you feel. I am also rereleasing my first book. I've gone back and reread it over and over and I still love the story and the characters I created. No it is not word perfect and I did make a few changes but the bones on the book are still the same. And like you I am very happy God gave me the will to see where this first book would take me...right where I want to be, doing what I love...writing.

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    1. Barb, you said it exactly. The bones are there. That gave me a great sense of relief. Despite a feeling of wandering in the dark during my early writing days, something deeper helped me extract the story anyway. During the rewrite, I didn't change the story but I definitely polished the prose. Not perfect--nothing ever is--but as best as I can make it. It's enough. :-)

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  3. Oh, wow, Kristy. This went right to my heart. I, too, am on the ragged edge of revisiting my first two published stories for revamp and republication (Both pubbed in 2006). In fact, with my first story (novel), when I do dig into it, I'm *hoping* it gives me the impetus to move right on with writing the sequel that is long overdue.

    With my second story (novella), I'm on a mission to have it reworked and submitted to PRP in another few days.

    Thanks for reminding me that even though I feel like I'm writing in isolation, we sister Roses are often times working through the same issues and challenges at the same time.

    ;-)

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    1. Kaye,
      I'm glad to hear I'm not alone!! A wonderful revelation in overhauling not just the first book but all three was that I came to see the stories in a better light. Over the years my memory failed me--I couldn't remember the details anymore. Now, I'm in a good spot to write the 4th book in the series, since everything is fresh in my mind. I think you'll be more than ready to write that sequel. :-)

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  4. Kristy, I think it's wonderful that you went back and took another look at your first stories. I've been doing some of that with the very first manuscripts I wrote, and I cringe at certain things but the stories are good and I still love the characters. They deserve their chance. Best of luck with the re-release of your stories. Wishing you much success!

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    1. Kirsten,
      I've come to realize that no matter what you do, at some later point you will always find better ways to write something. Sometimes we have to say--enough. If the bones of the story are there, it will sing despite our sometimes clunky attempts to write it. But it's always nice to clean up the slop. :-)

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  5. Kristy, I'm so glad you shared what you learned from this experience. I'm particularly struck by your decision not to do any major revisions. That indicates a confidence and respect for the work -- in all its flawed glory -- that I find admirable.

    I'm about to start polishing a novel I started more than ten years ago -- one of those under-the-bed things I never could bring myself to submit anywhere even though it won or placed in several RWA contests and received a couple of requests for partials. I've grown a lot since then and I still love the basic story, so I'm going to hold my breath and hope for the best. It would be lovely if my experience turns out to be akin to yours. :-)

    Keep writing, my friend! You have many more stories to tell.

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    1. Kathleen,
      I'm struck by what you said--"a confidence and respect for the work." I think this is very true. There are times when, as writers, we can feel very low about our work. At one point, I really considered ripping apart my third book in the series, based on some feedback I received (from someone I didn't even know). I was chatting about it with a good friend who had also read the book. She was shocked that I would consider slashing up the narrative. That made me realize--you can't please everyone. I'd written the story the way it wanted to be told. And I need to honor that.

      Your story about the manuscript under the bed reminds me of another friend. She'd also had good feedback, requests, etc. but then she hit a little roadblock (anchored in some criticism) and she never went back to the story. It's hard to remain confident in our work at times, but the flip side is that we're not sharing a story that may just make someone's day one day.

      Ten years is a long time. You'll bring more to the table now than you even realize, and the story can only benefit from that. I hope to read it one day!!

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  6. Kristy, I have a "first book" that I still love so much--but I wrote it back when head-hopping was the norm and quite acceptable! So I face going back in and re-writing it completely and I'm not sure I have that in me. LOL Still, I love that story I wrote, and I believe the bones are FANTASTIC. So one of these days...also, it's very long--but once I get going on it, I bet there is a lot I could cut, knowing now what I know. LOL

    I'm really glad you decided to polish these stories up and re-issue them. I love your writing voice, and I'm sure that comes through--I need about 100 more hours a week to try to read all the wonderful stories out there!

    Cheryl

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    1. Cheryl,
      It is daunting once you decide to make any type of revision, because it ripples outward throughout the story. That was one reason I decided not to make any major changes. I have a ms in which I only have the heroine's POV. I've decided I need the hero's POV now. This is much more work than I thought it would be because it changes the tone of many scenes as well as endless details. So, not a quick fix. I would imagine the head-hopping fix will require much concentration. And that takes time.

      I'm just glad I have a book with PRP available! It's helped with this dry spell when I pulled all the other books. Thanks so much for your support. And when I figure out how to harness those extra hours, I'll let you know. :-)

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  7. I loved what you had to say in your blog. Best of luck on your reissue. Love the cover.

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    1. Thank you, Connie!! I love the cover too. :-)

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  8. Hi Kristy,
    What you're saying is so true. I've been writing since what seems forever to me. Nothing has ever been published but right now, I'm revisiting a historical novel I've started to write in December 1978 but in English as opposed to French. Boy, my writing has changed drastically. I still love my story and always will, I believe. But, since it's never been published, I'm sort of more "free" to play with it and turn it into something that might end up being publishable. I'm having lots of fun with it but it's an extremely slow process as my head needs to be "cooperative" in order for me to write (damn those pesky migraines).

    I wish you "merde", like we say in French when we want to wish good luck to someone.

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  9. Liette,
    Thanks so much for stopping by! So sorry about your migraines. My mom suffers also. They can be so debilitating. Novels are written little bits at a time. Keep working at it, you'll get there. Though switching from French to English must be a challenge. I struggle with English too!!

    And "merde" to you... :-)

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  10. I can identify with your feelings going over a first novel and seeing it with experienced eyes. It's the novel filled with errors and innocence. Our first baby. My first novel is in its second edition, too, and I can still see the challenges I faced. I don't think we can fix all the problems in that first book, but I have to say, I still love the story in spite of the flaws.
    This was a wonderful blog, Kristy.

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    1. Sarah,
      I like that expression--'the novel filled with errors and innocence.' So true. There is a passion in that first book that can't be matched. I remember there was a time when I actively sought out 'first novels' by authors because they seemed to have more magic in them than a writer's 15th book. Thanks for stopping by Sarah!!

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