I've been working on restarting an old project. It's near and dear to me, the one that had me the most views when I posted it in its first iteration online, eons ago (a decade in real-time, which is most likely a nonogenarian in Internet time). Unfortuantely, as old projects go, it's pretty terrible — the writing is clunky, several of the premises are cliched, and because the point of view was so limited, I essentially missed a good three-quarters of the story by trusting what turned out to be a naive and unreliable (though well-meaning) narrator.
I would toss it, but I love the characters, and I think the story has potential at its core. Its very deep, accessible only to Hilary Swank and her team of crack geologists in a government vehicle drilling to the centre of the Earth, core. If I want to rework it, I'll have to rip it out from the roots and start from scratch. I've already decided I'm never going to look at a piece of prose I've already written for it again; it's rough rereading something I used to be proud of and wanting to shriek and burn my computer just for housing something so bad.
The old version is still up online. I don't worry about first publication rights anymore like I did in my youthful idealistic phase when I didn't think its current iteration was complete drivel. It'll be hard to claim I've given first rights to something that will resemble the final product in name only — and not even in name, as I hate the title and will most likely be ushering it out the door with insincere promises to call it later. But I have affection for it, in a way, as it shows (without relying on using it to sell myself, as that would be idiotic) where I've come from and how far I've grown. And in a way it was part of myself, as what happened in the story was very closely linked to my experience at the time. Indeed. part of the reason why the plot is so cliched is that my high school existence itself was extremely overdone, only I didn't realize because I was living it.
That's another reason I don't want to look back; the original story was written through a lot of pain. Not the teenage, oh my life is so hard no one will ever understand me whyyyyy pain, but the impotent, fingernails-digging-into-palms, why isn't someone DOING SOMETHING pain that comes from being seventeen and watching people close to you consider ending their lives because the adults around them don't notice or care that kids are cruel, and that sticks and stones may break your bones but words will make you slit your wrists and bleed to death. I don't want to go back to that place. The original story's ending rings false because I didn't really believe it at the time — I wrote a happy ending because I couldn't bear to let those characters suffer, not because I really thought that would be the case. And, in some cases, I was right. The happy ending I envisioned for the characters back then isn't the one they'll get when I'm finished, but I like to think they'll be all right anyway.
The reason why I haven't deleted the entire thing, or at the very least removed it from the Internet, is because that story was a gateway to something very important to me — my relationships. Yes, most of my closest relationships now started on the Internet, through people reading that story and responding to it. Lame? Maybe. False? Not at all. I leave the story up, though I don't link to it anymore, because I met amazing people that way five, seven, ten years ago, and I think it should stay there as a testament to that. I still get e-mails from people now and then who read it and love it, and while I cringe (because if they love it and don't see its horrible flaws then they're in that place I was when I wrote it, and that makes me uncomfortable), I'm still glad that even that mismashed mess of a story can help. One day those people will come back to the story and wonder why they liked it, and in a way, that's a good thing, because they'll have grown as well.
But because I love the characters, and I owe it to them and to my teenaged self to do it right, I'm starting again, picking up the pieces and forging them into something new, something better. I've healed some wounds and opened new ones, and for the first time I'm excited, rather than dreading, to see what it will look like once I've finished.