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Jul 8, 2010

Can the Monster Under the Bed Be Saved?

By "monster under the bed" I refer to a novel written many moons ago, with all the vim, verve and lack of finesse early novels can possess. I like the vim, love the verve, but could really lose the trite, overwrought and cliched prose my earlier self wrapped around the story.

Granted, I'm a sucker for the B-movie swashbucklers. That's how I like 'em, so that's how I write 'em. Give me pirates and kidnapped princesses, give me vamps and zombies, give me robots and planet-sized brains secretly running the galaxy, and I'm happy. Even a genre-hack must draw the line somewhere, however. B-movie quality is one thing; "SyFy Original" monster-movie-of-the-week is a whole new low. Even I won't sink that far.

Exhibit A: Final showdown between villain and hero. The villain "looked down at his chest, muttered, 'Oh damn!' and died. He sounded quite annoyed."

It was not meant to be humorous.

WTF was I thinking when I wrote that?! Oh yeah. I was seventeen. Not a mature seventeen like some of you teen geniuses out there (you make me sick, btw) but the kind of seventeen that thought the bad guy should say, "Oh damn!" and die. Sigh.

What do you think? Ever tried to revise an old novel?

I can't stand letting it sit around in this state. I could die tomorrow ("Oh damn!") and someone will find this mss, pity-publish it through Lulu (as it instructs in my will), and it will forever suck.

So here's what I've decided. I'm going to hire a book-doctor to fix this mess. Since I have no money, I will hire the cheapest and closest book-doctor available: me.

You see, as it would be humiliating to admit I wrote this trash, I'm going to pretend it's the mss of a stranger, who has hired me to fix it. A charity case. I will be cruel to be kind.

How about you? Have you ever dared look back at an early piece? Tried to edit/re-write/burn it? Was it worth it?


Sam said...

Oh, goodness. It's fun looking at my old stuff, but it can be kind of painful. I've never really rewritten an old piece. However, I have a story I'm working on now that's been rewritten at least once and is going through the second big change now under the advice I got from an agent. It really does make you consider burning the dang thing.
I like your point about hiring the best book doctor out there; yourself. The 'I will be cruel to be kind' thing.

Ban said...

Grief - I nearly spit out my drink when I saw "I can't stand letting it sit around in this state. I could die tomorrow ("Oh damn!") and someone will find this mss" I can't tell you how many times that has inspired me to start writing again or at least transcribe scribbled notes to a secure, password protected file on my computor !!!
And you're not alone, I was a very naive 17 year old.
I like the idea of pretending its someone else's mss ... that's clever.