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Revisiting Old Work. Again.

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So a few months back, I wrote a post about how stupid it is to revisit old work.  Well, this week I’m playing devil’s advocate. 

That’s right, because I’ve been going through my old files again.  Mainly this was to make me feel like I was actually doing something writerly, to get myself some motivation.  And I found another of my old projects.  And started reading through it. 

I know that last time I advised against this, but there was something about this project that just seemed… well, like its time had come.  There are I think, several factors involved with this project that didn’t make me want to delete it/never write again/throw myself off a building.

roundabout sign

Image courtesy of Sparticus at Flickr


This is I think the first factor.  This project was originally a kind of collaboration.  Collaborating on a piece does have its pros and cons, Matt has also covered this previously.  While different writing styles can clash and ideas can lead to places that you might not want to go, it does give you some kind of motivation to get that next section done. 

This project I discovered was something like that.  At the time, it was something I was writing with, or rather on behalf of, a friend of mine, who isn’t a writer.  He had some ideas for a film, and I had some similar ideas and somehow we fleshed them out and I got them down on paper.  I do run my ideas by him occasionally, since he epitomizes the general demographic of moviegoers. 

So I guess part of it was at the time, I didn’t really take the project too seriously.  It was something fun that I didn’t have to worry too much about, just something to keep the motor running. 

Finding Its Time and Place

Sometimes you write something and it’s ahead of its time.  My last “new” project was like this.  I had the character mapped out but didn’t have the story for him, so I put him back in the ideas bank to gestate.  And sometimes ideas can be like this.  That’s why you should keep all your notes and older projects.  Granted, a lot of them will end up in the trash, as I said in my last post on this subject, as they may never find their time.  But sometimes a project will just click into place, it’s right for the mindset that you have at that time. 

And that’s what happened here.  I’d been to see The Last Airbender, and yes, it was truly appalling.  From a production standpoint.  The script was dire, truly amateurish, and there was no pacing, no momentum and it was very weakly structured.  It had just so happened that this was the same weekend when I’d been looking at this file and it prompted me to try and rework it. 

Slice and Dice

Yup.  The thing about old ideas is that there is a lot of stuff in there that will not be suitable.  Rather than try and work it in, just cut it.  I had two major plot lines and they were far too big for one story (yeah, because that never happens with my writing!)  And far from being reluctant to cut the crap, I actually felt liberated.  I didn’t have to have all this extra stuff in there.  This whole subplot about these other characters wasn’t needed.  So off it went.  This can be very useful, because developing this skill, this ability, to painlessly cut stuff that weighs a project down is essential. 

Keep a hold of that stuff though, put it in the ideas bank, because who knows, a few years down the line, it might fit in somewhere else. 

In Conclusion

I’m not saying this project is going to go anywhere.  I cant really decide on a format for it, but I’m sketching out the whole story outline, which is something I’ve never really done before (it’s the essential opposite of winging it, like I normally do), which I guess is another valuable skill to learn.  Winging it can be more exciting, not knowing exactly where a project is going, but unless you’re very good at it (I like to think that I am) then you can save yourself a lot of time by mapping out the story.  It’s fun, because this is the first project that I’ve written that I actually know definitively where it ends, and what happens there, and even how I get there. 

Just going to have to run it by my demographic to see how he likes it…