There are so many times when I look back at my older stories, or even just older chapters of stories that I started years ago that I'm currently working on...and there are SO many things that I wish I had changed or done differently. Details that I could have added, 'wordy' and repetitious sections that I wish I had edited out for the sake of brevity and a more potent race to the point, or mistakes that I should have corrected before putting it out there for people to read. Sometimes, I blame that urge to change things on my own insecurities and weirdness as a writer. Sometimes, I blame it on reader pressure to take the story a certain way or have certain things happen that I hadn't properly planned for. But more than anything, I think that all writers simply mature over time, with practice and experience and a growing audience. I mean, don't we all have projects that we wish we could go back to correct and improve upon now that we can look back on them from a more 'battle-scarred' perspective? It might just be a word here and a word there for many authors...but for some, myself included, I always have this craving to do an entire overhaul of the original story and smooth out the all of the rough edges with a package of harsh sandpaper sheets to give the story the polish and the pleasing look that I always wanted it to have.
That doesn't mean that I'm not proud of the finished projects that I've done in the past. I just wish that I could have tackled those themes and characters with the kind of knowledge and expertise that I only could have developed through many years of extensive trial and error. (Mostly error. But it is what it is. Hehehe!)
And yet, I always hold on to the originals, because they exist as examples of where I came from, and where I can go if I just keep growing and learning new tricks along the way. It takes time, patience, a LOT of hard work...and maybe a few battles with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, to get the stew flavored just right...but keep going! You can do it. Keep going back and examining some of your older work to see where you've improved, and where there may be opportunities for even more improvement. I feel that it's always a good exercise to keep your older works handy whenever you're trying to challenge yourself as a writer. To examine your own growth, as well as take your talent to the next level.
Still...even though I save and respect the original versions of my earlier projects, the constant yearning to update them and really give them a new shiny gloss sticks with me. And if you've read my older stories, you may be surprised at the new 'remixed' versions that will be popping up this year. I actually had a lot of fun rewriting and expanding on some of those projects, making them a bit more advanced than what they were when I first put them out there. The first big projects being brand new versions of "If Only In My Dreams" and "A Stepbrother I Could Love", which I felt had SO much more to say in their narratives when I went back to read them again! I've been having a lot of fun with those. So keep an eye out for them soon if you haven't seen them yet.
DON'T worry, though! Your favorite classics aren't going anywhere! Promise. I'm not going to pull a George Lucas on ya! Some people love the originals, and I appreciate them for what they are. I just want to take another stab at telling a more complete story and seeing where those projects might go, now that I'm a little bit older and wiser than I was back when it was all passion and hormones, and not much else. There are characters that I want to explore with some more depth. Plot holes that I want to fix up. Themes that I want to approach from a more adult point of view, even though I'm dealing with a teenage cast. It's a new experiment that I'm eager to tackle aggressively this year, and we'll see how it turns out. ::Fingers Crossed::
So, for this discussion...just in case any of you want to go back to some of your older projects and do a little maintenance of your own to get them read the way you always wanted them to read...let's talk revisions! Questions and comments are always welcome, of course!
I think that, once you truly become connected to your personal form of creative expression...it begins to grow and change with you. Especially if it's over a long period of time. While I may still be pretty consistent in my thoughts, beliefs, sense of humor, and approach to life in general...I am not the same person that I was when I was a 23 year old, fully closeted, hobby writer. I don't think I could write any of those stories now. Not even if I tried. Nor would a 23 year old 'Comicality' be able to write the stories that I write now. We might as well be two completely different people. But that doesn't mean that there isn't a connection there within the text that was typed out on his screen and mine. The heart behind the stories is the same, but I feel as though I've learned how to finesse the craft of translating those intense feelings a little bit better than I did in the beginning.
For example...the abundance of sex in every chapter has been mellowed out to make room for more romance. More drama. More dialogue. More intrigue. It's still erotic writing, but I found my own personal comfort zone where love and lust can sort of find this coexistent yin and yang relationship between my characters. The romance leads to graphically described sex, and the sex circles around to enhance the sweet and fuzzy romantic elements. They compliment one another, and that's exactly what I always wanted from a gay teen love story. It feels good to finally find a balance between the two sides, and still have both sides be fun and exciting for anyone who might be reading. I've also strayed away from words like 'cock' or 'cum' or 'asshole' or anything that might have a more sexually explicit context to it (unless that was the intention, of course), for other descriptions that I felt might give the story's prose a little more grace when describing a young sexual encounter. There's nothing wrong with using those words, but it doesn't fit a lot of the stories that I'm trying to tell from the main character's perspective. I can't feel comfortable anymore writing a story in 2021 about an incredibly bashful teenage virgin, and then add the words, "I sucked his hot cock until he came buckets of creamy hot semen into my open mouth!" without feeling like my more blatant word usage and the character's previous inner thoughts about infatuation and bashful silence don't exactly match up. You know what I mean?
I hope that makes sense.
My apologies for the brazen description, by the way. Hehehe! But, I think that proves my point. You won't find an article like THIS in your favorite writing magazine! Eat your heart out, 'Reader's Digest'! LMAO!!!
Anyway, the point is, we all grow. We evolve as authors. And we may look back at some of our previous accomplishments...and feel the need to give them a proper 'remix' from time to time. Even if it was well received, celebrated by your audience, and loved by many. There's nothing wrong with wanting to improve on a story you love. Go for it! Breathe new life into it. I've grown to love doing it myself. Especially with the Ebooks that I've been putting out on Amazon...
(Shameless plug...Comicality Ebook Section at https://imagine-magazine.org/store/comicality/ )
I actually rejoiced over the fact that I could go back to older stories and series of mine and correct a ton of mistakes, inconsistencies, and formatting flaws, that had been haunting me for years now. But, more than that, I got to add soooo much more detail, enriching the descriptions that I had written before, and add whole chapters of new material that was never there before. Which, I feel, makes huge differences in stories like "Gone From Daylight", "Savage Moon", and "The Secret Life Of Billy Chase", where I got the chance to look at the stories from a different perspective now that they're so much further along, and I can better articulate the ideas and emotions that I once took a shot at so long ago. It was a fun experience, and one that I think we can all learn from if we give it a try. I went over and ran through every line of dialogue, every description, and every plot point, as if I was writing it for the first time. Except this time...I was able to look back at those previous chapters from, what I feel, was an elevated position. I had more chapters written in advance, and it helps to know exactly what comes later on when filling in the blanks for earlier chapters.
Times change, and you find yourself able to pull off a few tricks that you were incapable of before.
As an example, let me show you guys a movie scene that is considered to be one of the most iconic battle scenes in cinematic history. The original showdown between Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi from the original 'Star Wars' movie. Seriously, this was like...a major achievement for its time, and there are MANY 'Star Wars' fans who can't quote this scene, line for line, without skipping a beat! Even if you've seen it before, watch it again right now. Study it. What do you see here? Check it out...
Now, that is one of those cinematic moments that will stay with fans of the saga forever. I don't think a lot of people realize that when 'Star Wars' first came out...there WAS no 'Star Wars'. Think about that for a second. The idea of a dark and menacing robot in a cape and a skilled samurai monk fighting with laser swords was like...what the FUCK is happening right now??? There was no previous blueprint for that kind of thing at the time! Sci-Fi hadn't really reached that kind of fantasy level yet in most places. So, this stood out as something intense and innovative and absolutely mind-blowing to watch for the first few hundred times! Hehehe!
Then...jump ahead about 40 years, and 'Star Wars' has a whole new look and feel to it than it ever did back for us 80's kids. Now there is a blueprint for lightsaber fights, and prequels and sequels and animations and fan films...there was a foundation to build from and improve on. When going back to revise or touch up your older projects, I think you should look at them the same way. You don't always want to wreck or destroy the foundation that made your story what it was. The heart was there. Sometimes, your first presentation is your most honest presentation. Your most passionate presentation. It's not about trying to figure out what you did wrong. It's about enhancing what you did right. Finding a few opportunities that might have been in your blind spot before you learned how to recognize them for what they were. With practice, you become more sophisticated and more comfortable with your voice and your technique. You learn nuance and complexity, your vocabulary grows...and these are all tools that you can use to enhance the vibe of your fiction without taking anything away from what made it so special to you in the first place. That's where the real magic lies. But, as with everything else, this too takes patience and practice to get the balance just right.
Down below is a fanmade re-imagining of that same Darth Vader/Obi Wan lightsaber duel. And it is absolutely friggin' AMAZING! Better than all nine films! Hehehe! Now, remember, we have the prequels and decades worth of 'Star Wars' lore now. We have special effects and hardcore choreography and a whole different perspective on how 'the force' works. Someone took a long time and put in a LOT of hard work on this...and it would be hard to make it any more perfect.
Again, it's not meant to take anything away from the original battle. But it enhances it, adds layers, and displays a level of sophistication that wasn't possible when the original came out. Take a look at this new, updated version of the same scene above...
Watching that, it should give you a prime example of what I mean when I say that you should be able to update and improve upon your own original work, without trying to recreate the spontaneity and the passion that made it honest and unique. Sure, you have more tools at your disposal, and a mindset that is better equipped to finesse certain parts of your earlier stories...but you never want to try to improve on the heart and simplicity that gave your original project that particular brand of magic the first time around. Preserve that innocent quality as much as you can. Don't look back at a younger 'you' with disdain or unfair judgement. Instead, look at how you could assist a younger you in bringing his/her vision to fruition in the best way possible if you could go back and advise them, face to face.
More times than not, when I go back to revise or repair one of my older stories, it's usually because of inconsistencies or loopholes that I found or other readers have discovered after the story had already been released. One great example of this is in the story, "Gone From Daylight", where a group of the main characters meet on the rooftop of an abandoned building for a private discussion. However, one of those characters is in a wheelchair. And a few fans of the story asked, "Well, how did they get him all the way up to the roof?" And, honestly...when I originally wrote that scene, I definitely wanted that character to be there...but I hadn't even thought about that. In fact, I skipped over it altogether. Hehehe, oops! So when it came time to re-edit and rewrite everything for the ebook version, that issue was addressed directly, and I made an entire extended scene that wasn't there before, explaining how that was possible and was even able to have a bit of fun with it. Multiple characters were involved, details were added, and the touch up helped me to expand on the story in a way that made more sense, all while connecting the scene beforehand to the scene afterward on the roof. I felt it was a great improvement without really scrapping the scene entirely or taking that character out of it completely. The original heart and soul of that scene remains in tact, but I was able to go back and polish it up a bit so it reads better, and (hopefully) works to keep from taking readers out of the moment. I guess it's the Snyder cut!
Another ebook that I put out, "GFD: Nightfall", I was originally happy with how it turned out on the site. However, as I was going through it all for the ebook version...I had this feeling that the ending was really 'anti-climactic'. So, I took some much needed extra time to put a MUCH better experience together in my head for the grand finale, added details, increased the tension, and really worked hard to make sure that the end of the book was bringing the kind of sparks and fireworks that a story like that needed to have to go out with a bang. So the conclusion was a much bigger production than what I had initially written, and now I believe it reads a lot better. You might be surprised how many ideas can pop up when you're re-editing your older stories. It's crazy.
Other reasons to revise my own stories? Some of them I've been writing for many years, and the world has changed a lot since then. Certain pop culture references may not be valid anymore. Certain technologies have come and gone since then. There just has to be a way to keep the story cohesive, and make sure that chapter two or three can match up with chapter twenty or thirty and not have the differences be so blatantly obvious. I have a young cousin that I look after from time to time, and he wanted to watch "The Ring". (He likes horror movies too) And while I think he 'gets' the idea of a VHS tape playing a movie...the first time he saw the static on the TV...he was like, "What is that?" I mean, he barely sees the use for a physical DVD or BluRay disc anymore...so a VHS tape is a totally foreign concept to him. And I have some older stories that fall into that same category. I have a story where two boys meet while searching for movies at a video rental store, or at an arcade in the mall, or they work in a CD store...and sometimes you have to update your references to make your stories more contemporary. (Or make the decision to make the story a 'retro' tale and place the events back in a past era)
Whatever your reason may be to look back at your past works as an author, and decide to give them a little gloss and a little grace that they didn't have before...I suggest that you use it as an exercise to dive into every now and again, just to help you learn how to spot missed opportunities or add flair and details to scenes that might have seemed awesome at the time, but could still be taken to the next level. That in no way means that your original work was bad or that anything was wrong with it, but as a writer, if you're doing things right, you're learning and growing with every new project that you put out there. You learn how to phrase things differently, how to get more comfortable with your dialogue, how to better express yourself. And this is a GOOD thing! A great thing! It's not just mechanics and formatting. Read what you wrote on an emotional level and concentrate on how you can add a little extra flavor to the parts that you think need it the most. Take a look back at who you were, and appreciate the journey that led you to where you are now.
That being said, I'd like to leave you guys with this fun little video of a college Froshman watching an old video of his high school Froshman self, leaving himself a message for his 18th birthday in the future. Just remember, we all grow and change over time, and if you have any projects that you think could be just a LITTLE bit better...then go for it. Why not? You're the author. You've got all the magic in the world in the palm of your hands. So give it a shot! Remember...looking at your own work and seeing room for improvement is not a criticism...it's a challenge. Step up and let the audience see what you're made of.
I hope this helps! Give your writing skills a bit of exercise, and have a blast, guys! Seezya soon!