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POINT OF VIEW: Changing the Story

Autumn Lands

I’m struggling this year. Struggling in my work life and as an author.

So many things have gone pear-shaped these last few months, and it’s all left me in a strange no-man’s land, not quite sure where to go next.

In my writing life, I finished two trilogies, and wrote a new novel with the intent of sending it out to snag an agent. I wrapped it up five months ago, and three agents, two denials and a failed attempt at Pitch Wars later, I still have no clear path. It’s left me questioning… well, just about everything.

So I have been looking for a reason to write again.

Ages ago, I wrote a little story called “Autumn Wind.” It was a wistful coming out/coming of age story between a young cowboy and a Native American youth. I loved the story when I wrote it, and it later found a home in a writing journal with a very limited circulation.

Recently the rights for it came back to me, and I planned to put it back out there like all my other shorts. But looking it over, I could see that it had some serious issues.

I’d written a story with a Native American protagonist without doing any research at all into the culture, using only what I soaked up as a kid in Southern Arizona. I even used the word “Indian” multiple times in the story – in my defense, it was (and still is) often used in Tucson. We had “Indian” casinos and “Indian” jewelry and “Indian” reservations, and tastiest of all, “Indian” fry bread at the county fair.

I have learned a lot since I started writing seriously. One of the most important things – know what you’re writing about especially if you base your story on a real culture.

So I decided that had three choices:

  1. Put the story away and never speak of it again
  2. Do a bunch of research and bring it “up-to-code”
  3. Crack it open and fashion something entirely new from it.

I chose door number three. Mainly because a) I hate to let anything go to waste, b) it was a short story and not worth hours and hours of research, and c) it wasn’t really on-brand for me anymore, now that I am moving exclusively to sci fi and fantasy.

So I broke it open and set about refashioning it as a sci fi tale on Tharassas, the world from my novella “The Last Run.” Think Wolverine or the Six Million Dollar man. I aimed to make it better, longer, sci fi-i-er.

It’s hard to describe the experience I’ve had with it so far. What could have been painful is instead turning into something amazing and reaffirming, as the story reforms and fills out into something new.

And as it changes, it’s also changing my conceptions about my new world of Tharassas – what it is, and what it might be.

It’s giving me ideas for a new story too – a novel – one that might finally reawaken my thirst to write, to explore a new world and drag y’all along there with me.

It’s still early in the process, to be sure. I finished my first draft, and plan to do another before I release it to beta. But it feels good to be working again, and even better to think about really writing something new again.

In the midst of a difficult time, something good is finally happening.

Where will it all lead? I don’t know yet. But I’ll keep y’all posted.

To my writer friends, have you ever taken an older work and refashioned it into something totally new? How did it go? And what did it do to you as an author?