We all have old, half-finished manuscripts lying around. Some of them are even a full first draft that we never finished editing. I’m currently sitting on two significantly aged stories, ones which I wrote quite a handful of years ago. Their levels of completion mean that I’m not totally open to abandoning them entirely, but time has been cruel to these two, and I can see just how damn young I was when I wrote them.
Growth as a person will give anyone a new perspective on life, and make us create new situations, new characters in our work. Expansion in knowledge means that years down the track, you start wondering, “How did I ever think this was a good idea?”, or, “How didn’t I see that plot hole when I wrote this?”. And the dreaded knowledge that the work isn’t marketable until it has had a total overhaul, potentially to the point of changing genre (you never were a sci-fi writer, after all).
When do we decide that a project has served its purpose and it is better to leave it in the fond depths of our memory? How much work is too much to revive an old story?
The way I see it, as long as you have ideas, there’s always something salvageable in a piece. Maybe not any of the words you wrote before. Maybe that entire draft has to be scrapped. But a draft isn’t the story; it’s just the things you scrabble at until you’ve carved something beautiful. If you still have passion for the story all this time later, then it’s worth it. It’s not really any more work than a new story. You already know where you went wrong the first time!
One day, I’d like to bring out the old works and make them into something amazing. With new knowledge, with greater understanding, with entirely new ideas and a whole reason to write. If you know where the story can go, and you know what the characters will do, you can remake the manuscript.