Retro is “In”

Today I reworked a short story I wrote for grad school. When I originally wrote it, I thought it was great. The first time I submitted it to a peer critique, I learned that it was not. Then I put it away for several years. After all, I write novels, not short stories, so what did it matter?


I’ve been thinking of trying to bump up my publishing creds by getting some short stories published, so I dug into my very small backlog from my school days. A few were good—the type of good that when I read it, I look to see who wrote it, because it couldn’t possibly have been me! There were a few that were “eh.” Nothing to get excited about, although probably with some major work they could be something. Then there was the one I revised today, in the category of “almost there, but needs some work.”


I opened it up, and I found a miracle—I had never really stopped working on it, even though I had put it away years ago. I knew the changes I wanted to make as soon as I clicked on the file name. Before Word had finished the virus scan, the new first paragraph was clear in my head. And, now, it is much better than it was.


I have always been a believer in never getting rid of old stories (or getting rid of anything else, but that’s an entirely different sickness). This proves to me what most experienced writers will tell you—visit your personal backlist every once and a while. Old ideas may suddenly be current, old stories can be dressed in new writing skills and given new life. I find that even the stories and novels I wrote as a teenager (which make me laugh so hard I cry, even though they aren’t comedies) have some solid ideas and interesting characters.


Old stories. New vision. Future sales? Could be. I hear retro is in right now.


  1. Another thing I love about re-discovering old writing is that it tells me so much about who I was at that time. My fifth grade journal reveals, for example, that I <3 <3 <3 James and I'm never marrying or kissing anyone but him. EVER! (Don't tell that to my husband, he'll be crushed!)
    As much as I think I remember being 10, or 11, or a high schooler (it wasn’t that long ago, right?) my memories are tarnished by my current perspective. Having old journals and logs – although they’re get-the-matches-ready embarassing – provides me with a glimpse of my worldview and priorities at those ages; great things to know for when I’m writing characters.
    Now, excuse me, I need to go figure out James’s last name and how to tell my husband that my 10 year old vow supercedes our wedding vow.

  2. Old writing can be like visiting old friends. I still have the first story I ever wrote. It will never see the light of day (the only revision that might help would come with matches and a gas can) but I remember the fierce joy I had writing, the freedom to make my own world. That’s why that story will always have a home with me.

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