When An Old Project Surprises You

It’s never fun to shelve a project. To admit temporary defeat. To say “all this work I’ve done isn’t paying off in the immediate future, if ever.” But in order to keep improving our craft and using our time wisely, it is a necessary part of being a writer. But the fun part is picking up such an unfinished story a year or two later and saying “Wow. This is actually really good.

The project I speak of is The Shadow of Saturn, a dramatized memoir about my time as a NASA intern. I cranked out 50,000 words of it for NaNoWriMo 2012, rewrote most of those 50,000 words (see Thomas, I do sometimes stop in the middle of a draft and go back! :P), then shelved it indefinitely. I just wasn’t ‘feeling’ it anymore. I was feeling Paradisa more, so I started Paradisa and didn’t look back.

This book was my first attempt at writing after a three-year hiatus. I cringed at every word. I hated writing it because I felt so self-conscious about my style. Which is why I was so delighted to pick up that unfinished draft yesterday, flipping through it, unable to stop reading, constantly thinking “This is actually a decent start.”

I already have a full outline finished for this book, although it is way too long. One of the reasons I never finished it is because the outline puts it at about 150,000 words. That is longer than this novel has any right to be. So maybe I’ll futz with the outline some this week. After my Paradisa edits, of course :P But I’ll need something to work on during my next beta round so…perhaps this is a worthy side project.

As I read, I just kept thinking, “I want other people to read this book.” And because it’s a memoir, I need to get it all down before my memory starts waning. I’m already three years removed from the experience. I don’t want it to grow much longer.

Anyway, thought I’d chime in with a happy Monday post ;) You can see my scene counter has gone down slightly in the sidebar. Just 11 more to go. How was your weekend, Pressworld? And have you ever dusted off an old project with delight?

8 thoughts on “When An Old Project Surprises You

  1. I love when that happens! I’ve picked up old stories I started years back and been pleasantly surprised. Then I think ‘I can’t believe my 17-year-old self wrote this!!’

    • I have a story or two from my teenage years that are the same way. They even make me a bit sad, because I was actually so much better back then! When you spend three years writing and reading nonstop, it does wonders. Now that I’m post-college, I’m still trying to regain those skills.

      But re-reading The Shadow of Saturn did make me feel good. It was like “huh. Maybe I’m not as bad as I think :P”

  2. Time as a NASA intern–how interesting. Definitely worth reexploring your writing in that area.

    Though I refer to my published novel as my first novel, it’s actually not. My very first novel is buried deep within my computer. You’ve reminded me it’s there, and perhaps someday I’ll have to reexplore it. Maybe there’s something redeemable in that wordy mess. :)

    • It seems interesting on the surface, but I think much of the interest truly lies in my internal conflict about that summer. It wasn’t a happy go lucky summer doing something cool. I was very scared to go there at all – almost turned it down. The people there were a pretty diverse set of characters, and not all of them were good people. Introducing them as good people in the book, and slowly peeling back the layers to show how corrupt everyone was, is probably my favorite part of writing it.

      I suppose I wrote three novels before Paradisa, but they were all fanfiction :P So the writing gods saved me in that aspect. I can not even think about publishing my first messy works XD

  3. I think that’s awesome. Maybe your memoir needed to rest a bit before you could come back and appreciate it. It’s definitely a worthy project so you’ll finish it someday! I know how it feels to have another project on the brain while others seem to pale in comparison.

    I went back to a story from college that I’m thinking about revisiting. My headspace isn’t quite there yet but I don’t entirely hate it! So that’s a plus…

    • I think writing a memoir requires us to be even more self-concious than usual. We have to take an honest look at ourselves and ask, “is my life really that interesting?” But as they say, “write the story only you can” and I’ve embraced that now. This story could literally only be written by me.

      Not many people get to be on the inside of NASA, so I guess that’s the hook. But a lot I encountered that summer were typical coming-of-age arcs too, so there’s a relatable angle to it. Especially for introverts, because I am extremely honest about my introversion throughout the whole book.

      I’m curious about your story from college. You had some pretty cool ideas during your teenage years. I still want to see that female pirate book out of you :P

    • It was pretty cool! Very hard for me, because I am so introverted and it forced me way out of my comfort zone. But I think that’s one of the intriguing parts of the book. It isn’t, “Yay, I’m a NASA intern, this book is about a super fun summer I had!” It’s “Oh crap, I’m a NASA intern, well that’s awesome, but what about living nine hours from home? With roomates for the first time? And with a bunch of other sharkish over-ambitious interns who I can’t trust? And with a project that I’m actually not qualified for at all?” There was a LOT of conflict to draw on for the book, which is why I’m actually bothering to write it ;D

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