It happens to all of us published authors, eventually.
We sell a story, it lives out its initial life with a publisher or magazine, and then it wings its way home, ready for its next act.
And sometimes, if it’s a really old story, it needs a little love to bring it up to your current writerly standards.
As authors, we are always learning and refining our craft. The way I write today is different from how I wrote last year, and waaay different from my writing in 2014 when I was first published.
Which brings me to my current project, the re-release of Between the Lines on January 10th. It’s one of my first two novella sales.
I’ve noticed a few, um, issues as I work through this story. First off, back then my writing was a bit more “flowery,” for lack of a better description. Over the last few years I’ve pared that back a bit, streamlining my style, and it’s both cute and a little annoying to see the extra little linguistic frills I used to use.
I was apparently quite taken with my own writing prowess back then. LOL…
I also used a shit ton of dialogue tags. People are saying and shouting and muttering and yelling and whispering all over the place. That never used to bother me, but I’ve learned to replace those repetitive tags with action descriptions, with the added benefit of adding more motion and color to the story.
Finally, my characters were a bit… let’s just say “wooden” in my early writing. Character development (or the lack there-of) was the primary complaint I used to get (at least after “this story is too short!”) when I first started out.
It’s something I’ve worked on for years. My latest book got a similar critique from a Pitch Wars mentor, but he was able to help me pinpoint one of the reasons – lacking or weak character reactions to the events swirling all around them.
So I have been diligently working through the story, focusing on those three points – streamlining the language, replacing dialogue tags with actions and fleshing out the characterization.
Still, I am proud of the story I crafted back then. Between the Lines was the precursor to The River City Chronicles, and I’m happy how well the story itself has held up over time.
I’ve also made a few other interesting discoveries during the rewrite/edit.
First, one of the side characters – the man who broke Sam’s heart back in Tucson – was a student in BTL but was mysteriously promoted to professor in River City.
Snip snip scribble scribble scribble, and that’s fixed.
The other is a more general issue. Between the Lines is the story of a moderate republican who works as the chief of staff for a republican senator, and a democratic intern on his staff (ok, I may have giggled a little as I typed that. Double entendre alert!).
In the seven years since I wrote BTL, the GOP has drifted from being an (admittedly awful) opposition party to a cult of personality hell-bent on overturning the results of a legitimate election. Because of that, I can’t imagine some parts of this story happening today.
Still, it is what it is – a snapshot of that moment in time.
And that’s just background to the main act – the love story at the heart of Between the Lines. I’m thrilled to be rereleasing it next month.
Looking back, it’s good to see how much I have grown as a writer since 2014. And it makes me wonder – where will I be in 2026, and what will I find when I look back at my work from 2020?
For my writer friends – have you gone back to work on a story from the start of your career? What did you find? Any tips for a fellow author?