Writing Stuff – A Tough Project

Author Kate Thornton shares her thoughts about the process of bringing new life to old projects. Visit her Author’s Page on Amazon!


I finished a Christmas story last week and sent if off to a magazine that has a tracking application online. Of course, I check it daily. Five days in slush and still not read – I may have to volunteer as a slush reader to get it going.

I always write seasonal stories out of season – that way there is really no looming deadline and magazines really like to get their seasonal stuff lined up ahead of time. Writing short stories is not easy – they must be tight, have impact, be satisfying and, well, short.

But the really tough writing project I am working on is a novel I wrote in 1998. Back then, I thought I was a novelist and knocked out 3 or 4 long works – adventure/mysteries – that I thought were really good. Hah! Shows what little I knew! They needed a lot of work. So I shelved them (one was actually agented and had some interest from St. Martin’s Press, only back then I didn’t know enough about revisions to do the necessary rewrites.) The event that triggered this effort was lunch a while back with an old friend, a dear friend, who asked about that particular book and remembered it fondly. Bless my beta readers!

So I am re-reading it first (I have a copy printed on my old laser printer) then doing a page-by-page rewrite into my computer. I used to have this work on an ancient five-inch floppy disc, but who knows what happened to that and what I could use to extract the info anyway. Also, I think it was in one of the very first iterations of Word Perfect. Yes, I am old!

I once heard you must write a million words before you learn how to put them into the right order. I am sure this old effort was part of my first million, and therefore should just be counted as practice, not the real deal. But I want to salvage the basic story, change the main character to one I have been developing, and update the technology (both in the storyline and what I use to write with.)

Maybe it will be a successful project. If so, I have at least three more “Trunk Novels” that could get the same treatment, if they’re worth it.

So, how about you? Do you save your old stuff and use it – or parts of it – later? I like the idea of doing this, but it sure is a lot of work. An author of my acquaintance recommends just ditching it all and writing something new. There is certainly a lot to be said for that approach. But there is also something about an old friend, a character you have created, coming home to the present and being with you again.

So, for now, I want to revisit this person and see if they can get used to the world as it is now. And I think maybe it will help me to accept the world of today as well.

10 thoughts on “Writing Stuff – A Tough Project”

  1. I can relate to your desire to resurrect an old novel. I too have saved all my old pieces, going back two computers, and occasionally revisit them. For although the writing may lack the polish – oh be honest, it was dreadful – the ideas were good, and still are. More importantly, it shows the progress I've made as a writer.
    I don't think it's a matter of not letting go because of the time invested back then. If a character or plot sticks with you for that long then it must mean something to you. So go ahead, yank that novel into the 21st century. With the skills you've developed over the years, the results will be well worth the effort.


  2. Boy is this topical. I have a spy trilogy I wrote many years ago. It took ten years of research and writing, but I finished them, but the agents just weren't interested. Somewhere along the line I put them in my newer computer. I also have the first novel I wrote dusted off, put in the computer and now all four books are coming out this year. The SPYGAME Trilogy was actually fun to reread and to now check facts on the Internet. We didn't have this luxury back then. The other one, CAVERNS, was just interesting to reread, edit, and get ready. But I saved my trunk novels. You can always update your work or check a fact and send them on their way.


  3. Very interesting post, Kate. I admire you for giving that old novel a try. The guts or skeleton of the story might be truly applicable for readers today if you tweak the characters, technology etc. Don't give up. Don't get discouraged. Someone has to give us old fogies – er, I mean our old works – a second chance. Or maybe even a third or fourth chance.
    I have a not quite so old (2004) novel that has been languishing. It's not quite finished, though I know where I was headed. But I am afraid that my voice, some 11 years later is not the same, so I would have to completely rewrite what I have before even finishing it. (That seems daunting.) And several details of thought and prejudice really need the time frame I wrote them in to make sense. So…. please keep us updated as to your progress. It might encourage the rest of us (or maybe just me) to try again.


  4. I agree, interesting post, Kate! Don't much revisit, but certainly can understand the desire. Like your thought “But there is also something about an old friend, a character you have created, coming home to the present and being with you again.” They are friends, aren't they…


  5. How relevant your post is, Kate! I have a couple of “trunk novels,” and a friend recently asked to read one of them, which I wrote in the late 80's (yikes, that sounds soooo long ago, and maybe it is). I was going to give her the printed-out copy of the manuscript and then realized–gulp–it's the only copy. Mine, too, exists on one of those little “floppy” disks and nowhere else except in my memory. I'm taking the lazy person's way out; I hired a friend in need of money to retype it in Word, and he emails me a chapter at a time. As I read over what the younger me wrote all those years ago, I think, hmmmm, I have learned a bit. But there was something in the story line and the characters that has stuck with me all these years, and once I get the entire document in “modern” format, I'm going to see if I can whip it into shape. Maybe writers are simply innate pack rats?


  6. I have some of those novels on floppy disks, but no way to get them off. And i threw away some printed manuscripts that I wish I had now–but frankly, I really don't have time anyway. What with promoting the latest and writing the next, I can barely fit it all in. But Word Pefect I loved, still have it on my computer but it's not working right anymore, Still have some projects on it that I need to use. I loved Word Perfect.


  7. The first thing I wrote was really, really terrible. I only had a hard copy, and somehow it was lost during a move. May I say, I'm thankful for the loss. : ) Some things just aren't meant to be resurrected. I hope that's not the case with your book. Wishing you the best with it.
    Marja McGraw


  8. Thank you all for your wonderful comments. Sometimes resurrecting the past can be fun and rewarding, and sometimes it is like digging up a mouldering corpse best left buried. Every writer has a past – often with journals, stories, half- and completely finished novels, embarassing love letters or other writing – just waiting to be mined for that spark, that fleck of gold, that idea that was so worth it. Let me know how it goes for all of you. I am working on new stuff right now, but the siren of my misspent writer's youth calls…


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