But seriously, our job as writers is to write timeless content. But as we write, we grow more knowledgeable in the craft of writing, and therefore every book, screenplay, or D&D script (or even blog post) that you write is going to be better than the one before. Your skill is always increased: those experience points you gain from your work is going to level up your skills, and pretty consistently at that.
So…how is this a problem? It sounds like a success, a victory: if you continue to write consistently and create content, you’re increasing in skill, aren’t you? That means that you’re constantly learning new tips and tricks, gaining experience, and furthering your science! What’s so bad about that?
Well, there’s nothing bad about that in particular. The problem lies in past editions of work: as you write higher-quality content, the quality of writing of past projects you’ve written begins to feel somewhat…dingy. You weren’t as experienced as you are now when you wrote it, so it would make sense that it would be lower-quality work.
This can especially suck when you start a book but then learn a multitude of great things during the writing thereof, and then you use those skills to finish with a bang. The problem? The beginning of your story is boring and lacks flavor, especially if you wrote it when you were in your teens.
Know this: there will always be something in your past that you regret. Editing can only do so much outside of rewriting the entire novel (something you might have to do if the flaws aren’t big enough). But there will always be a haunting specter in the darkest recesses of your mind, waiting for the time to come out and torture you. Regrets are a part of life.
Well, I’m about to tell you to swim out of that pool of tears and hoist you out of the Slough of Despond, because focusing on the past will only disrupt your present, and disrupting your present dooms your future. You’re a writer, for heaven’s sake! You control the destinies of people, families, countries, nations, worlds, entire universes! Haven’t you ever tried your hand at writing your own destiny?
Your first task is to stop blaming yourself. Have you ever thought “had I known better, I would have done better”? Well, you didn’t know better, so you couldn’t have done better. You did your best with the tools at your disposal. Think of it this way: it’s actually really fortunate for you that you were able to gain experience from your low-quality work, which enabled you to write the stuff you’re writing now. Whether or not you’re agonizing about the work you did when you were twelve, you have to recognize that you did your best.
Second, do not make the mistake of saying “it’s not that bad”. Oh yes. Yes it is. It’s some of the most horrible garbage the editor’s ever laid eyes on. Jerry Jenkins had a similar encounter: when he sent in a manuscript to an editor for publication, it was summarily rejected without much comment. Jenkins pathetically creeped back to the editor’s office to ask what was wrong with his work so that he could fix it. “Sure.” The editor said. “It’s sh*t.”
Ouch. You’re going to have a lot of it’s-the-S-word moments throughout your writing career, so you just have to get used to saying it to yourself about your own work. It’s all the more discouraging when someone else says it: in fact, sometimes devastating. But don’t be discouraged! Take heart, count your limbs, and return! (I suck at Trials too, by the way)
After you recognize that it’s the garbage it is (or maybe not: the most important thing is to be honest with oneself), your next step is to fix it. Unless you’re willing to let your work languish in the low-quality environment and it doesn’t really bug you, you should try fixing your work through a honest yet severe self-editing process.
And whatever you do, don’t throw your work away. Throw it in the bottom drawer, in the dresser, in the desk, your closet, some dark place where you want to forget the horrible mess that you’ve created. But that place should not be the garbage: any piece of literature is salvageable if the writer is willing to humble themselves and start again.
Good luck, and happy writing!
Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!