the challenge of older tales

One of the reasons I love writing is that I’m never finished learning my craft. There is always room for improvement.

This should be somewhat reassuring to many writers of all stripes?at least, that was my reaction upon reading Dean Wesley Smith’s excellent blog post on the subject not too long ago?but it can also be a frustrating reality when I’m trying to slog my way through my own slush pile of first drafts.


Right now, I am still in rewrites on Iduna’s Apples, the sequel to last year’s Valhalla. Yes, I wrote the first draft of Iduna’s Apples several years before Valhalla was heavily revised and published, so I’m dealing with the challenges of adapting an already written story to reflect changes in characters and plot points in the material that came before it. Believe it or not, that’s actually kind of fun. In its own way. Sometimes.

But another very real challenge is working with material from three years ago, when my own writing style has matured since then. I wrestled with this leading up to last year’s release of Valhalla, whose first draft was written in 2008, so naturally here it is again with Iduna’s Apples (first draft 2009). It’s going to get even more interesting when, later this year (at least, that’s the current plan), I go back to revise and prepare two even older manuscripts for publication: Walking In (2007) and Witches Brew (2004).

You know what I’m learning? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In other words, if the story is solid there’s no use in my spending countless hours trying to present the same information in a slightly more clever way. That doesn’t mean I’m not making additions and revisions where they’re needed, but it does mean I shouldn’t go introducing unnecessary plot twists and subplots to make the story more complicated, just so I can demonstrate how much I’ve “matured” since I wrote the first draft.

It may take a few years yet for me to clear out this backlog of decent first drafts so that the majority of my fiction is being written and published within the same 12-month period, but I hope readers will understand and possibly even enjoy the older stories that I refuse to let languish. In the meantime, it’s back to the grind . . .

Creative Commons photo by El Chupacabrito.

Posted in thoughts from the spiral, writing & publishing.


  1. Interesting. I wrote Depression Cookies over 10 years, and I could see a difference from Ch1 to ch32, so I get it. Still, I can’t wait to read Iduna’s Apples. Best wishes going forward.

  2. Good topic to bring up, Jennifer. I have an “old” essay that’s been accepted by a lit mag, provided I make the changes the editors suggested, and I just can’t get into it.

  3. Thanks, Tia & Annette! I can’t imagine trying to edit something I’d written over the course of 10 years?that’s a worthy blog topic of your own right there. I’d also be curious to hear more about the “old” essay process.

    Many times, I have to approach revising and editing as the job it is. You just gotta sit down and do it.

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