Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Curious Cat Question

Is it alright to re-do a story even though one has already published it?

Usually, I'm alright with a certain story once I've finished writing it. Aside from a bit o' edit and polish, the story is good to go and I'm looking forward to the next story. I do admit that I'm not like some other writers who edit their stories zealously such that there's nary a hole in the story you can drop a pin into. But basically, once I'm done-- I'm done.

However, there are times when certain ideas and concepts come cropping up that I would love to include in the aforementioned story-- but can't anymore because it's already been published. And those are the times when I feel like a tweak here or crank there would maximize the story's effect on the reader, especially if I add that lil' additional ingredient.

So: is doing a 'part deux' on a story one has already published a writerly thing to do?


skinnyblackcladdink said...

it's your story. do what you have to to get it done to your satisfaction. J.R.R.Tolkien did it (The Hobbit). so did Michael Moorcock (Gloriana, the Eternal Champion stories). M.John Harrison recycles material all the time.

just keep in mind what particular rights you might have sold with the story when you go to have the new version published.

Charles said...

Depends. First off is the rights as Skinny said.

Second, is it a major edit or a small edit? There are several edits/versions of some of Moorcock's stories running around for example. And there's a point that if it's a big enough change, why not just write a new story altogether, the same way Howard recycled some ideas from Kull the Conqueror for Conan (or was it vice versa?).

banzai cat said...

Too true on both counts. Though yeah, I should have realized Moorcock's Gloriana, given the somewhat major rewrite he did at the end.

As for rights, I do think that it's really for my sake than anything else I'll do the edits. (That and if I ever get into the compilation of collected stories thing. *winkwink*)

anansi girl said...

I think it was Heinlein who said that at some point you have to stop rewriting/editing your story. Maybe you should channel your energy into writing a new piece? After all, if your story had been published, it must've been good.

Sean said...

I habitually cannibalize stuff from my old writings. Sometimes I feel that a certain topic or approach didn't get covered very well the first time I wrote it, and as a result I'm willing to give it another go-around. Why leave such a good idea to rot, just because you've written something about it already?

That said, I try not to re-do stuff that I've already had published. I think that Anansi Girl hit it right on the head: If you managed to get a story published, then you can assume that you already attained that level of quality that you wanted for it. Besides -- what'll your readers think if you start reusing stuff over and over again?

On the other hand, it's your call. If you think you can put a new spin on an old piece, or otherwise make it better than its original incarnation, then feel free.

banzai cat said...

anansi: Hey you! Where you've been? Been keeping track of your blog and you've been tapering off posting. :-)

Seriously, yeah I actually have a number of stories on the backburner but some published stories keep niggling at the back of my mind. *sigh*

sean: Quite true in all points. However, I have the bad habit of hacking out a story and then submitting it as is (dependent on the editor's comments, of course). Thankfully, I have quite good editing skills myself so the story can stand on its own and some of my published stories I don't have any problems. However, some stories... :-P

skinnyblackcladdink said...

all these points have their merit, but it all comes down to one thing: sure, you could simply turn away from something you've dished out, and sure, if it's been published, at least one other person out there probably thinks it's 'good enough'. but how much does that matter to you, personally? it's your creation. why pretend you're satisfied with it if you're not? if it takes all your life to get just one work of art done just the way you want it, i think that should count for all the half-assed little pieces you could have turned out in the same amount of time. how concerned are you with living up to the standards you personally set for your work? put it another way, what matters more to you, quality or quantity?

the way you write also plays into this: is every story a deliberate effort, or do they 'just come to you' such that when the muse sings, you have 'no choice' but to write?

to my mind, the artist's prerogative is a given, even taking into account the reality of legalities (as long as you *do* take them into account, it should be fine). however, the point at which your question becomes truly interesting to my mind is when you turn out that piece and it becomes wildly successful, reaches an unexpectedly large audience, 'touches lives' and becomes, in essence, 'cultural property'. the Frankenstein effect.

case in point, if i wasn't being obvious enough: Star Wars.

banzai cat said...

skinny: Some interesting points to ponder there.

On the question between quality and quantity, I like to think that I'm just a simple storyteller with a story to write. Unfortunately, time has given the lie to my thinking that it's really a matter of writing the story the right way.

In other words, a story comes to me and I write it down: but at the same time (to use a metaphor), I see myself as a mirror to reflect the story perfectly (or as perfect as it can be).

Likewise, I don't see myself trying to change lives with my writing. However, as I grow older, I find myself being bitten by the urge to tell stories and this ha become my outlet. All I need is a campfire to throw shadows for the ideal setting. ;-)