Leia: "I should've never written that story. I don't know what I was thinking."
Han: "But I liked it. I don't understand."
Writer's RemorseThe last few posts have been about writing, both encouraging new writers to start writing and seasoned writers to expand their horizons. Well, that got me thinking about the aftermath of said activities. The immediate idea that came to mind was: Writer’s Remorse. Like the plaid bell bottom pants that looked so good on the mannequin in the store window back in 1973, that little story you wrote will be forever yours – cemented in the annals of the wayback machine – long after you’ve grown as both a writer and a person. And like a grown child that behaves a little less than expected of him or her and, as a parent, you look upon this thing that you have created and wonder where your precious, perfect infant disappeared to, so your stories will take on lives of their own and become strangers to your very own eyes. As you stare at your computer screen in confusion and horror, you may wonder what to do, how to proceed, where to run and hide and under which rock.
Well, we’re here to tell you to remain calm, remember to breathe and keep your fingers off the delete key.
First thing to remember is that this is perfectly normal and you (like so many other things in your life) are not alone in experiencing this phenomenon. However, try to remember that, very much like a child, a story that is no longer an appropriate reflection of you is still a story by its own right – something that you have breathed life into and given birth to, so to speak. If you felt confident enough at the time to publish it, chances are someone, somewhere along the way read it and enjoyed your insight and others coming after you could also find a similar connection. You’re not twenty-two anymore, but someone is.
All of this doesn’t help, I know, when you pull up one of your old stories and wonder where in the nine hells your brain was at the time you wrote it. It’s especially fun to remember how awesome you might’ve thought it was at the time. I have to be honest, I haven’t published anything that I haven’t read and gotten excited about at the time I wrote it. I mean, I wouldn’t have published it otherwise. But I’ll be honest and say that half of what I have out there now, I really wonder about whenever I venture into that dreaded “re-read” mood. AND I’ve only been doing this for a few years now. I can’t even imagine reading some of those stories a decade from now. ::shudders::
There are options and advice, however, if you do find yourself in this situation. The very first and easiest option is to do nothing (including stop re-reading!). Take that photo of you rocking the plaid bell bottoms, frame it and hang it up on the wall in the basement. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s no longer a fun hobby if we begin to take ourselves too seriously.
Option two, if you want to follow in George Lucas’ shoes, is the edit. It’s not an entirely horrible option, but it has its pitfalls (see Greedo shooting first in the digitized remake of Episode IV). The fact is, readers may have fallen in love with your story the way it is and they really don’t care if you’ve grown up since then. Like us with the original movies, they may even feel some level of “ownership” over your story and the way it currently stands.
Still not feeling warm and fuzzy? Well, then there is the complete rewrite and repost. Keep the old, redo with the new and post as a new version. In my opinion, this option would be the next in line behind the ‘do nothing’ one. However, you’d have to feel really, really strongly about your story to warrant an entire rewrite. The feasibility of this option also depends on how long the story is. A few chapters? Definitely possible. A massive opus? Maybe not worth it.
Still squirming in your chair? Well, there is one option left: the deletion.
I have to confess that I deleted a few stories that I wrote coming right out of the gate in this fandom. I don’t regret it and probably won’t ever change my mind on that, so I can’t say that I don’t understand, but I also wouldn’t recommend it, especially if your story has garnered several reviews and/or follows. I already said this earlier in the post, but I think it deserves a reiteration: try to remember that this is supposed to be FUN and try not to take yourself so seriously. And, oh, also try to remember that this is completely anonymous (usually). There is no delete key on your grown children (no matter how they turn out) and so, there really shouldn’t be one on your published stories either.
Well, okay. All this talk about children and plaid bell bottoms makes me want to dig up some old photo albums. While I’m doing that, I’d like to hear what you guys think about Writer’s Remorse. Ever had it? If so, how’d you handle it? Ever fall victim to it and have a favorite story disappear? Please share. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this.