Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rewriter's Block

Somewhere around the deadline for the last Fully Booked contest, I noted that I was leaving a trail of unfinished, unpolished, or otherwise unsubmitted stories behind me. While this was to be expected — I mean, what writer doesn't maintain an archive of unpublished works? — my practical side was telling me that these were all such a waste of words and filespace. Some of these things would probably be readable after a little waxing and buffing, after all.

Another issue, I think, were the technical limitations. I've had three or four computers conk out during my lifetime, for example, and I'm not in the habit of making regular backups of my stuff. That means that I've lost my full archives around two or three times so far, and there are some of those missing works that I'd like to have back, if only because I could have used them in one way or another.

The problem, however, lies in exactly how I expect to use them. The obvious answer involves rewriting, adjusting and submitting these... but would that compromise our drive for original works? I mean, any time I spend making changes to these old writings can just as easily be spent coming up with completely new ones.

So now I'm wrestling with quite a few questions: Is it logical, ethical, and practical to re-use old works somehow? Is there a limit to what you can do with these old works? Should it be done only within a certain frequency?

My submission to the last Fully Booked contest, for example, was a revised version of Mausoleum 618, which I had previously submitted to the yearly Philippine Spec Fic anthology over a year ago. For that purpose, I kept the original concept (as well as most of the first page that I posted), added a second voice narrative to flesh things out, put in a bit more research, pulled some of the more clich├ęd aspects, and basically doubled the length of the story. Despite the work, however, I'm not sure if it counts as a completely new story... nor am I convinced that I should have just left it in my archives to rot.

Some thoughts on the matter would be helpful, of course. This is a strong consideration for me right now, as there are some heavy deadlines coming up, and I know of at least two old short stories that I would like to put through the critical wringer. I'll still be coming up with original ideas from my end, of course... but I'd also like to know if it's honest for me to take a few things out of the attic and find some use for them.

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