Have you ever gone back and read your fiction from long ago? Found hidden gems within sentences long forgotten? A scene that makes you cringe because it’s so awkwardly staged?
I found very old handwritten pages, and in them, I can count at least five separate novels in one story. This must be the big bang of my novels. All my ideas, some prototypes of my characters, all clustered together in once place. As I realized that more than one story was within, I began to separate the plotlines and characters into their own stories, but even this wasn’t enough. One character kept migrating, unable to find her own galaxy, but she didn’t want to be forgotten. Some plotlines didn’t belong in certain stories and eventually found their place in another. It seemed to take eons for the concepts for these novels to develop fully. Even as recently as a few months ago, two stories merged like colliding galaxies, forming a new, bright entity that is better formed.
And as in in the universe, some stars go supernova or simply burn out into lifeless shells. They weren’t strong enough to endure the creative process. When I asked myself why I was working on a particular story, I asked myself key questions: What is the point of it? Is it strong enough to have an impact on readers? Will they care of about these characters? Sometimes the answer is no. If the elements that make you love such stories can’t be transferred to another work, maybe it’s best to just let it go.
The point is that there is only so much time. Take the strongest ideas that will shine the most and develop them. Be patient. After the first draft, let it rest… for several months or even longer…to get a fresh perspective. Work on something else in the meantime. Each short story, each novel or series, is a world or galaxy unto itself. They can take what feels like eons to take that formation that you know in your heart is just right, and ready to publish or find the right agent to steward it through the traditional publishing process.
When I look back on my old writing, some of it on yellowed paper, scribbled in pencil that is now fading, I know I can still learn from it. Maybe even repurpose some of it…salvage that one hidden gem of a sentence and place it where it will shine brightly in a new novel. Never throw any of it away, even if you come to a boiling point and become so frustrated that you question your ability to be a writer. Just wait, keep each version as you revise, edit, and revise again. The danger with our technology is that we can write over the original and hit delete on the older versions—so how can you see how you’ve developed as a writer? Keep track changes on? I save old versions separately when I get to each major revision. The Veiled Mirror went through nine revisions, and each iteration remains whole. It’s part of the art of being a writer. You’re building resources, and when the mood strikes, you can go back, and see how it all began.