Monthly Archives: March 2014

Writing Your Story Now

In my last post, I wrote about the process I’m going through right now of totally re-writing a story that I first wrote almost nine years ago, and that got me to thinking about a common trap that writers fall into (and I’m as guilty as anyone).

Writers, especially new ones, often have a story, the story, that they want to write but which they hold off on because they feel that they aren’t good enough yet to do their story, their perfect, precious story-baby, justice.  This is a noble thought, sort of.  Except that if you can’t write any of your stories now because you’re not good enough, there’s no way for you to put in the work to get good enough.

I feel like this idea often comes out of some strange belief that once you write your story, that’s it: there’s nothing left to do.  But that isn’t true at all.  Writing the story down is often just the first step in what can be quite a long process of edits and re-tooling, if not re-writing altogether.

There’s nothing to stop you from revisiting a story, even years later.  Sometimes you’ll write something, and it just won’t quite work.  Maybe you can’t figure out what the problem is, or maybe you know exactly what the problem is and know that you don’t have the skill to fix it right then, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to fix it later.

So if you’ve got that story that you don’t think you can write yet because it needs to be perfect, maybe instead just give it your best shot now.  It might not be perfect, but you won’t be able to see where it isn’t working until you’ve gotten it down.

Hopefully it won’t take you nine years to get back to it.

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The Fruits of Re-Writing

There is a story that I wrote back in 2005 (almost 9 years ago, now, if you can believe that) which, at the time, I thought was quite good.  Hell, George Scithers, editor of Weird Tales at the time told me that it was “Damn good.”  (Words I’ll never forget.)  I think, in retrospect, that he was saying that the story itself was good.  The writing may have been the best of my abilities at the time, but it does not hold up well today.

(You can actually find an early draft of this story online still if you know where to look, though I’m not going to tell you where.)

There is a website that I wrote back in 2009, which isn’t quite so long ago, but it feels like it was ages ago, since I was still in college at the time.  It was alright for what it was at the time, because all I could really do was some HTML and CSS, and when I learned a few tricks with PHP, it got to be a little better (though not much).  Still, it was clunky: if I wanted to add a page link to the menu, for instance, I had to add it to the index file for every single page.  Until I learned about the date() function in PHP, I even had to make sure I touched the site on the first of every year just to update the copyright notice at the bottom of every page.

I don’t make any bones about where to find that website.  You can get to it at www.HilaryBisenieks.com.

But the site you’ll find there today isn’t the site that I first wrote back in 2009.  Yes, it has the same copy, and yes, that copy is a bit out-dated in some places or incomplete in others, and yes, if you hadn’t visited the old site in a long time, you might not notice the difference visually, since the layout is about the same.  But those things are like the story; the underlying code, the HTML, CSS, and PHP that let me make a change just once and have it apply to the whole site, that’s the writing.  It’s mechanically better.

The other day, I took another look at that old story, maybe inspired by my work re-writing my website.  I cringed a little (I did a fair bit of cringing trying to sort through all the tables I used to lay out my old site and find the actual content).  The re-write isn’t done yet, and I’ll have to put it in front of my betas a few times before I let it out into the wild, but it’s getting there.

George died a few years ago.  I wrote about the influence he had on me as a young writer at the time of his death.  I hope that the new version of this story lives up to the potential he saw in those early drafts.


A Call for Readers

Today (finally), I finished the story of which I offered a very brief teaser recently, so, you guessed it, I’m now making a call for beta readers.  Read on if you’d like to beta a 3700-ish word (hopefully at least a little bit) scary story.

Continue reading


Rewriting

I hate rewriting.  I really strongly dislike it.  A lot.  I like writing something, editing it a bit, cleaning it up, and then saying, “there; it’s done.”  But sometimes things don’t work quite like that.  Sometimes you write something that’s as good as you can make it at the time, but it doesn’t get traction, or you’re just not satisfied with it because you just don’t think you can reach that piece’s potential from where you are right then.

And yet I’m in the process of rewriting something right now.  Not a story.  A website.  I wrote my website back in 2009, using the HTML chops that I had at the time, which were pretty poor.  And it shows.  It’s not quite pretty, and while it’s functional enough, editing it, especially adding to it, is painfully slow, especially if it’s something that I want to add to every page.  It’s also not the most skillful site you’ve ever seen when looking at the source.  In fact, what you can see right now if you visit my website is something that still uses tables for layout.  Tables.

And so I started rewriting it.  Because I’d never really been satisfied with the site, and all the little fixes I’d done in the past were just patches that didn’t address the underlying problems, but I didn’t want to spend any more time on it right then because I needed to improve first.  I knew, before, that I couldn’t really fix it because I didn’t quite know how.

That new site will be online sometime soon, and although it won’t look hugely different from what’s up right now, it will be a whole lot more polished, and for me, it will be a whole lot easier to work with when I need to make updates.

Rewriting a story I think is a lot like that.  The shape of the story doesn’t necessarily change that much, but the way that it comes together is much more refined.  It’s still sometimes frustrating, doing so much work to end up pretty much right back where you were when you started, but if you don’t do the work, you can’t improve.


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