About a month ago, I opened some very old documents in my computer. They were stashed away in a private folder entitled "Works in Progress." (They'd been works in progress for over a decade.) I opened the folder and could almost smell the dust piled on the documents.
I scanned the titles. Some I recognized instantly, but a few I needed to open and skim the first few pages to remember what they were. I'd either smile and laugh---remembering the inspiration for the piece of writing or the gist of the story ---- or feel so embarrassed that I'd have the urge to look for matches so I could burn the document right there on the spot. Tossing them in the desktop trash would not be satisfactory enough.
For a lot of them, it was like bumping into a friend I hadn't talked to or heard from in years.
There were a set of documents in particular that brought both a smile and a feeling of nausea. It was an actual "book" I wrote when I was 15 years old. I remember tweaking chapters, sentences and plot points and sharing my revisions with my closest and dearest high school friends. I had been convinced that someday I'd publish it. Sadly, this book hadn't been touched in nearly 15 years.
Oh, well, I thought and closed the folder.
But I didn't leave the computer. I stared at the "Works in Progress" folder and thought about this book I wrote so many years ago. I tried to remember why I hadn't worked on it after I initially "finished" it. Something always seemed to take priority over it, I reminisced.
Once I finished high school, for example, I knew I needed to get a "real" job or at least go to college and study literature and writing before I could publish it. Then, I got the "real" job, teaching ESL, and I was bogged down with lesson plans and grading. I never have time for it, I remembered justifying, until the entire book slipped onto an old shelf in my subconscious and I never looked at it.
Yes, that's probably one of the reasons. The real reason, though? The bigger reason? I wanted to grow up. I wanted to move on from the story like I wanted to move on from high school.
Sure, I thought about working on it. I maybe even once or twice actually read bits of it with intent to make it better, but it always brought back high school memories, and teenage angst. I didn't want to relive that. I wanted to move on!
The book is, naturally, YA and fantasy. I never said it out loud, for fear that I would hurt its feelings, but I didn't want to work on the book anymore because I wanted to grow up and write something for real.
So, a month ago, I sat at the computer, sneezing from the dust, and I thought about all of this. Shonna Slayton's words came to me. She had asked me what kind of writing I do. I had said, "well, I want to write adult fiction, but I keep gravitating towards YA."
She had said, "just own it, then." Basically, she said that I should write what I'm writing.
I opened the document and forced myself to read the first chapter. Yes, there were tons of errors, but the plot wasn't half bad. I had a character (3 actually) who had a goal in mind, and there were obstacles blocking them from achieving it. Isn't that, basically, all you need for a story?
I read the first chapter to hubby, and he agreed that it was worth working on. So I resurrected it. And just in time for NaNoWrimo!
I've done some serious make-overs on the characters, changed a bit of the plot, and outlined the first few scenes so I'll be ready to hit the ground running.
No get me wrong! It will still be a lot of work! My 15 year old self did the best she could, but there are a lot of obvious mistakes that I've now learned to correct over the years. What's great about having a resurrected story like this, though, is that I have a lot of the bare bones. I just need to rewrite, rewrite, and build, build, build.
Wish me luck!
"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down... and bleed."
"Mongkok Street, Hong Kong"