I posted my Annual Writing Review a while back, and it made me realize how much value there is in assessing what I’ve written.
If writing is, as John Updike says, “nothing less than the subtlest instrument for self-examination and self-display that mankind has invented,” then reviewing it, revisiting the old projects, can tell us a lot about ourselves during that time.
I’m not alone in thinking this. I’ve read many essays from authors on their writing, and many of them talk about reading their old work and asking, did I write that? Like keeping a journal and rereading the high school bits and being totally aghast that you were ever that dramatic. I mean, really?
I thought it would be interesting to see what novel projects I’ve kept over the years. Unfortunately, when I moved abroad the first time, I cleared out a lot of old stories, not knowing how awesome it is to receive inspiration from the past, so much of the old, old stuff is gone. I was clearing out a lot of mental clutter and emotional junk at that time, and many things that should not have been forgotten were lost (did I just quote LOTR? oh yeah I did).
Regardless, in perusing the old stuff I did have, I came across some amazing things. I mean, a lot of it is trash, of course, half-ideas and flat characters and nothing more than a few words of an embryo of an idea. But there was some good stuff in there too, surprisingly. Stuff I’d like to revisit in future.
- A story about a half-tree man, a moon child, and some boy (probably only there to be romantic, the bugger)
- A story about the war between angels and demons and two kids caught up between them, very allegorical, very dark, very Inferno-esque
- A girl who locks herself in a tower and befriends the dragon (original at the time, since writing it oh, seven years ago, I have seen the same idea a dozen times)
- A story about people whose destiny is just to die – as in meaningless deaths, very nihilistic, never fleshed out
- A story set in a crooked house that leans from a windy hill in Peru – sometimes just the image is enough to get me an idea
- “Little green policemen in little yellow suits wave little purple guns and shout their little shouts. They pitter patter after plagiarists, creeping into their brains and stealing back stolen ideas.” I have no idea why I wrote this down. Plagiarism police? Was I messing about with alliterations? No idea.
- A world with everyday gods, like the god of parking. This was before I read Pratchett, who has his Small Gods which are very like what I had in mind. And American Gods, of course, touches on the idea as well.
- A story about a girl who is a phoenix. Also not original, but my opening line is pretty good.
- A story about houses with minds, who get up and follow their owners. I still love this idea.
- A story about a girl who is queen of the hounds, based pretty much entirely off the book Prince of Dogs by Kate Elliott. (I read the book as a teen and thought it was pretty amazing. I wonder what I would think of it now…)
- A story about a girl who can see sounds as things (the idea got totally ripped off by a Kdrama years later. I should sue!)
- A story about people who fish among the stars. But for what? And why? And how would that even work?
- A story about a society lost in the present time, when things moved but time did not
As I was doing this all-around read, I noticed certain themes, images, or types of story that showed up repeatedly. At some point, I’ll sit down to go through this and try to figure out what story I keep wanting to tell.
- Hidden things
- Sleeping beasts awakening – the darkness inside of us, like animals, waiting to burst forth from their cages and cause us to do terrible things
- Transformations, mostly to bad and gruesome
- Vivid images – a lot of these earlier pieces I wrote when I was also making a lot of art, and images and contrasts were particularly appealing to me. I would see an image in my mind and note it, either as a picture I wanted to paint or a story I wanted to write. The two blended and became inseparable.
- Folktale/Myth – many of my ideas take the form of folk stories or myths. I have always loved that genre, and I feel like it’s a more joyful kind of fantasy, even when it’s dark. I don’t really know how to describe it. Maybe because it generally takes place kind of in the real world, but makes it magic. It has its own vitality that is of a different quality than fantasy set in new worlds. I love all fantasy, epic, folk, dark; but there will always be a special place in my heart for folklore.
- Melancholy – a lot of my writing comes from the darker places of my heart and mind, those places I don’t get to show the world. So then they come out in stories, where I try to work them out. Most of my ideas have violence, anger, terror in them somewhere. They aren’t tragic; I usually envision happy endings, but that too is a kind of working-out of my demons. I want my own life to end up happy, so my characters must. Or at least, until I grow up.
- Moonlight – moonlight and starlight feature in a lot of my ideas. I don’t know that there’s a reason for that, but I will say that I have always loved the moonlight more than the sunlight. Sunlight hurts my eyes (I have lighter eyes and pretty bad light sensitivity), and so moonlight has always felt friendlier.
There was a lot more. A lot more dross, a lot more golden eggs. I had more than I realized when I set out on the endeavor. You know how you make folders within folders within folders on a computer? Well, every time I started writing again I would put all the old stuff in a folder marked (old) or (archives) or something. Turns out I have a lot of subfolders within my big writing folder.
But it was nice, overall, to go over everything. It was nice to be inspired. It was nice to know that I wrote some pretty decent stuff when I was younger. It gives me hope for my future.
If you’re a writer, have you ever looked back over all the old stories?
6 thoughts on “Writing Projects Over the Years”
I’ve definitely been curious enough to go over old ideas or half-finished stories, though usually it ends with me cringing a lot and shutting down the window faster than the speed of light. On the rare occasion I’ll think it can be salvageable, which makes the thought of coming back to old work quite exciting. It also gives me confidence with current writing because I’ll see how I’ve improved over time!
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My sentiments exactly! I was really worried about going back through it all, but it turned out not to be so bad!
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Ah yes, being totally aghast at my younger self’s writing is a familiar feeling. I wrote Kpop fanfics in my late teens/early 20’s. One of my earlier fanfics even won me a writing award in 12th grade. I only have a few of them saved because of computer crashes. It’s amusing to go back and read them to see how my style has evolved over time, but there’s also a LOT of internal cringe. I love all of your story ideas, by the way, and love how you’ve created a list (or catalog) of them to revisit. I’ve had one story idea kicking around in my head for several years that I haven’t been able to get down in any tangible form, but you’ve inspired me to try.
And also, LOTR ❤
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Oh man, Kpop (well, TwPop to be exact) got me into kdramas and fanfics in general; that was a heady time.
I’m happy to inspire! I think it’s really cool to go back and get inspiration. Even if most of the stuff we’ve written is, well, not so great, there may be nuggets and kernels of ideas that can grow to something better. Good hunting!
LOTR FTW ^^
I like this one: A story about people whose destiny is just to die – as in meaningless deaths, very nihilistic, never fleshed out
And the fishing among the stars and the house one. There’s a graded reader called Monster House which reminded me of your idea. Taught it ages ago so I don’t know why I have the connection.
I don’t know if you like foreign films and I have yet to see this one, but the BF raves about this one: https://artofericwayne.com/2018/02/26/movie-recommendation-beautiful-accident/
Yeah, I have a folder and other many folders filled with bad ideas. Your ideas seem good. Mine are embarrassing.But it’s okay. Like you, I tossed things I wished I had kept, like my first attempts at fiction when I was 13 (started 2 books!)…and I wished I wrote down more ideas when I was in college because I distinctly remember having loads of ideas for movies. Ah well…
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Yeah well, those were just the diamonds in the very very rough that I posted. I had dozens more that, uh….I don’t really want on the internet, you know? >.< Some ideas are just tooooo cringey.
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