When Your Own Writing Makes You Cringe
The Importance of Finishing
A couple years ago, I wrote a serialized thriller story called Extraction and released it in episodes over several weeks (It’s free here on Medium). I’ve been fortunate that a few people have read the entire story and enjoyed it. I’d like to think I’ve grown as a writer in the past couple years, so recently, I decided to read back through Extraction from beginning to end.
It was painful.
Within the first episode, I kept asking myself, “How could anyone think this is good?” Of course, I did at one point, but I also understood a couple things about this story. I was making it up as I went along (which shows), and I was practicing in public something I hoped to dive back into and revise later. It was never meant to be the final draft.
Why Getting to the End is So Important
Maybe you’re like me and have had more than a few cringe-worthy moments reading back over things you’ve written in the past. Those moments when you think, “This is the best I could come up with?”
The good news is that, no, it’s probably not the best we could come up with. In fact, when I was reading through Extraction, I saw some things I liked in the midst of all the things I didn’t like.
What I liked the most, however, is that I finished the story. I remember when I was writing it, there were several times I just wanted to stop. There were even months at a time when I wouldn’t write a new episode. But I eventually pushed myself and finished the story.
Why was getting to the end so important?
Because I can look at the story as a whole, and I know what I need to change. I know what works and what doesn’t.
Most of all, I know I have it in me to write a complete story.
Being a writer with so many unfinished projects sitting on my Google Drive, knowing that I have it in me to finish a project is vital. It means that I can do it again.
And if I can do it again, then I can take whatever awful first draft I come up with next and turn it into something better.
I tell my students all the time that writing a first draft is like creating the raw material from which you can shape a masterpiece. Without the raw material, however, you may never create something great.
Good Writing is Rewriting
I’ve considered going back and completely rewriting Extraction, but, ironically, what I discovered most as I was re-reading is that it wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. I discovered a character who wasn’t the main character whose story actually interests me more. Maybe I’ll write her story next.
When you read back through stories you’ve written in the past, and you feel like cringing, it might not be a bad thing. The cringe-worthy moments might be the ones that remind you that you’re getting better as a writer.
Tom Farr is a writer, teacher, and storyteller who believes in crafting lies to tell the truth. When he’s not enjoying the good life with his beautiful wife Lindsey and their three much-adored children, he’s striving to create stories that thrill and inspire and preparing for the day Disney calls him to write a Star Wars movie. His work has also appeared on Panel & Frame, Wordhaus, Curiosity Never Killed the Writer, The Write Practice, and The Unsplash Book. Check out his fiction writing portfolio on Medium.