This thought popped into my head as I edited an old short story this week. In this scene a war veteran runs into his ex-girlfriend. They have the emotionally repressed exchange familiar to most exes.
I thought that if I wrote a fistfight into the scene between the war veteran and the ex-girlfriend’s new beau, then that would be more interesting to the readers. Much more interesting than an awkward conversation, right?
I realized how much my writing has changed. I wrote these stories several years ago, mostly in college, and they are a much different flavor than what I’m currently working on.
This is one of several stories I started proofreading for an anthology I’m self-publishing over the next couple months, while I continue to work on my YA novel, The People of Fire and Water.
Then: I was by no means a literary master, but I wrote with an eye on literary art. I paid careful attention to each and every line. I wrote not only for the story but for mastery of language.
Now: My current project sits under an umbrella of genre fiction. While my audience may appreciate the elegant language, a good story is going to keep them reading. And as a full-length novel, I don’t have the luxury of giving attention to each and every line.
Suffice to say, it is very sobering to read what I wrote then compared to what I am writing now.
But there has to be room for growth. We don’t know where our practice is going to take us. I started writing fiction when I was in high school at an age when I took myself way too seriously. I wanted to be a literary master.
Somewhere along the way, I learned to write with wit and humor, magical realism and fantasy. I experimented with stories that made me the versatile writer I am today.
We may start out writing one way but may find ourselves writing another. We may not be the author or bloggers that we started out to be. But we took a path and found a more marvelous skill.
This is not what I normally write.
Have you said this to yourself recently? If it’s not what you normally write, then that’s all the more reason for writing it. It’s new and different. And it’s going to challenge the bejesus out of you.
I did not write the fistfight into that story and left the awkward exchange as it was. If I am constantly edit my work I will never finish it. Besides, it’s a tribute to my path as a writer. There is no need to erase the steps that brought me here.