View Full Version : Can you read your early writing without cringing?

06-25-2009, 05:05 AM
Because I can't. *shudder* I opened an abandoned WIP the other day, and wanted to burn it on sight. Unusual or not?

Chasing the Horizon
06-25-2009, 05:14 AM
I can read mine without cringing much. Not because it's any good, but because I take satisfaction in seeing how much I've improved. Sometimes I do end up rolling my eyes and wondering how I ever thought something was a good idea, lol.

What makes me cringe and wish I could throw my computer out a window is when I realize I've screwed up something recent.

06-25-2009, 05:16 AM
i have never seen so many adverbs, purple prose, unfeasible coincidences, etc. in my life.


06-25-2009, 05:23 AM
I cringe only for as long as it takes to cannibalize it and make it into something worth reading. No decent idea or sentence should go to waste, even if it's jammed in the middle of garbage.

06-25-2009, 05:32 AM
Heck, I can't read any of my writing without cringing.

06-25-2009, 05:34 AM
I'm with Medi. I cringe over everything I write.

06-25-2009, 05:37 AM
No. God it's awful.

I read my trunk novel - not even the first draft, which was handwritten - but the one I have on my computer. The 'after loads of rewrites' version and I cringed so hard my liver turned inside out.

06-25-2009, 05:40 AM
Oh, and given the option I always vote Colin.

06-25-2009, 05:41 AM
When I mentioned that the anthology lying on the floor contained my first published story, my boyfriend bolted towards it with a cry of, "Let's have a looksy!"

The ensuing cry of, "Noooooooo!" was suitably hammy, I think.

06-25-2009, 05:48 AM
Depends how early you're talking. If i find something i wrote when i was a wee one i don't cringe, i chuckle. If i read something i wrote anywhere between 6 months to 12 years ago i cringe. A couple months back i sold a short story i wrote a year ago (after it'd been considered by this mag for just under 4 months) and almost asked the editor if i could withdraw it, because i cringed so much when i came back to reading it.

And i know in a year or two i'll read stuff i've written just now and cringe.

All part of the process, i guess.

06-25-2009, 05:48 AM
Oh God, I can't even read the fantasy novel I finished less than a year ago. I shudder to think of how sick the first two drafts (written in 2001 and 2004) would make me.

I was actually going through some old notes last night from some previous WIP's. They made me throw up in my mouth a little.

*goes off to console myself with my current WIP...and Colin Farrell...*

06-25-2009, 06:04 AM
I can tolerate it, cringing only upon occasion. Plus, I enjoy a good laugh, and that's always to be found. :D

06-25-2009, 06:05 AM
Depends how old it is. 10 years? God no.

5 years? Not so bad.

The piece I'm working on right now actually includes a first 20-30~ pages that I wrote something like 4 years ago. It's not the strongest part of the piece, but it isn't bad either, it was good enough to inspire me to continue it.

06-25-2009, 06:06 AM
*Gag* When I was a teen through my early twenties, I wrote the most atrocious navel-gazing slosh and I thought it was LIKE OMG SOOO DEEP. God, I'm glad I never showed it to anybody. But I was convinced that it would all be "discovered" some day and I'd become one of the literary greats.

Lolz. So not gonna happen. Not with that stuff, anyway.

Robert E. Keller
06-25-2009, 06:27 AM
I don't cringe over anything that's not in print, because anything not in print can still be changed. When I look back on some of my oldest writing, I just kind of laugh at it. If I wanted to and I felt it was worth it, I could upgrade it. So what's there to cringe about? Now if I had a printed story that really sucked (which I don't think I do, but readers can decide for themselves), then I would definitely cringe and look forward to it going out of print.

06-25-2009, 06:54 AM
I don't hate it. I don't love it, but I don't hate it.

06-25-2009, 06:58 AM
I'm such a noob that I fear what I'm writing right now is what I will look back and cringe over 5 years from now. I have nothing more to look back on, other than college papers, and, in my defense, many of those were written mid-hangover.

06-25-2009, 07:19 AM
I can read some. They're BAD, but it's a nice way to look at how far I've come. I still have the short stories I wrote in third and fourth grade, and I have some of my earlier novels from middle school on a floppy disk somewhere. It's important to remind yourself that there was indeed a time when you thought you'd be the next <insert author's name here> and see that such things are foolish.

06-25-2009, 07:24 AM
I was actually disappointed when I went back and read some of the stories I wrote about 4 years ago - not because they were terrible, but because they were halfway decent. There were mistakes, sure, but overall they were okay. I had so been hoping to laugh at myself and say "but at least I've grown since then". I mean, have I really gone nowhere in 4 years? But then I read some of my work from 8 years ago, and good Lord...that's where I was hiding all the terrible! Maybe I got it all out of my system? Yes, that's what I'll keep telling myself...

06-25-2009, 07:35 AM
My older work is better than my current work. I read the stuff I wrote as a teen and think, "Why can't I do this now?"

06-25-2009, 07:40 AM
I've been thinking about this question since I posted, and the following occurs to me:

1. When I teach college comp classes or lit classes (which always have analytic papers) I almost always bring in my own writing to show to students--old stuff, and new stuff. I can talk about the problems really candidly, and not risky hurting anyone's feelings.

When I was still working on my dissertation, I would bring in bits of it, to show students how to revise, or at least, how I did it, and I'd bring in commented versions from the editors of publishers where I'd submitted things for publication, too, so students could see how different readers read differently.

So I can tell, at least intellectually, that yes, I am learning, and yes, still, even now, I am improving.

2. The fact that I look at my own writing, even the published stuff, and see ways to *make it better* is, in the long view a good thing.

No, really--why are you laughing like that?

06-25-2009, 07:52 AM
I just read three pages I wrote this afternoon and I cringed...

06-25-2009, 08:07 AM
I just read three pages I wrote this afternoon and I cringed...Heheh--yeah, i'm in the process of writing right now and cringing at every sentence once i finish it. I'll pretend it's the flu that's making my writing even worse than usual. Yes, the flu, that's it...

06-25-2009, 08:33 AM

so many innocent nouns died in that genocide by the pronouns.

06-25-2009, 11:19 AM
No, I cannot read it and will destroy any evidence of my early work that is found (especially if it happens to be the poetry and ST:TNG fan fiction that I wrote when I was 12).

06-25-2009, 11:32 AM
My current writing is awful. My old writing is unforgivable. At least I can speak from experience when giving advice to the newbies, right?


Linda Adams
06-25-2009, 02:29 PM
I've been writing since I was eight, so I have a lot of stories. You know, it was the best I could do at the time, so there's no reasons for me to cringe.

06-25-2009, 03:17 PM
I sold the very first novella I ever wrote and can look back on it and see where I could have improved it somewhat, but I'm not ashamed of it at all (And still getting royalty checks every quarter)! I look at my earlier WIP's that I never finished and think, Damn, that's pretty good!

Alpha Echo
06-25-2009, 03:25 PM
Oh man, absolutely NOT! My first full-length novel wasn't written all that long ago...well about 2 years. And it is awful. I can't believe I wrote that thing! I'm not saying I'm amazing now, but boy. I have learned a lot since then, that's for sure!

06-25-2009, 05:08 PM
I binned a load of my really early stuff a couple of years ago. It was awful. I mean, so bad that you wouldn't have used it to clean up cat sick.

Stuff from about ten years ago is pretty bad but I can just about bring myself to read it.

Banango Cheesecake
06-25-2009, 05:32 PM
I turn redder than a tomato when I read my first work. And yet, I can't bear to burn it...oO (It's written in a notebook)

06-25-2009, 05:32 PM
I usually cringe more at what I wrote in my 20's & 30's than my first writings as a child or teen. Though the prose lacked polish (and sometimes coherency), there was always a spark that I greatly admire in my earlier writing that's missing when I concentrated on improving prose and technique.

06-25-2009, 05:34 PM
My early stuff ain't pretty. ;)

The first half of my first novel is AWFUL. Not looking forward to the rewrite.

06-25-2009, 05:38 PM
No cringing unless the writing can be traced. Then, it's cringe so much I look like a hundred year old woman trying to push out that last, dry terd.

06-25-2009, 06:06 PM
Sure I can. I wrote it, didn't I? I don't think it's fantastic, and some is down-right cringe-worthy, but there's almost always a nugget, a gem in there somewhere, that redeems it enough for me be able tolerate reading it.

06-25-2009, 06:19 PM
Some of my early stuff--ugh. But I've taken bits and pieces and reused them.

06-25-2009, 06:26 PM
No, I really can't. Mainly because I don't have anything before 1987.

06-25-2009, 06:48 PM
Well, I've been writing for years so I've accumulated a lot of horribly, bad, terrible, no-good writing to my name. It's overall a good thing I think that I can't read my own old writing because I like to think I've gotten better taste and developed better skills since high school. I actually don't think I will ever be able to force myself to read anything I wrote before I was 17 or 18, which leaves me with three or four years of stuff I can maybe stand.

I mean, my old ideas were at least mostly not clichéd, but the writing is majorly lame and the plot if it's there is simplistic and poorly executed, and I think the longest prose piece is one about 30,000 words long of scenes (I write at a staggering tortoise pace) which I was writing with a friend years ago. Shockingly, it's probably not that horrible though although I don’t think the concept and plot is marketable so I doubt I'll be dredging it back up.

06-25-2009, 06:55 PM
I can't.

I have notebooks of stuff written from when I was 12 to 17. There are crummy character drawings in them, too. Absolutely awful stuff.

But my writing in the picture books I made when I was 6 or 7? Absolutely hilarious. :D

06-25-2009, 07:00 PM
Of course. I have great faith in the first novel length story I ever wrote. All I have to do is change the title to, "The Textbook of Beginner Mistakes". :D

Actually I picked up an older story and went through it the other day. Still liked the story, but kept scribbling edits all over it with a highlighter and pen. "Geez, did I add a dialogue tag to every single one? Acck!"

06-25-2009, 07:16 PM
Anything I wrote in high school or earlier tends to make me roll my eyes.

Thank God for my freshman college comp class. College writing and beyond doesn't scare me. Sure, I could rewrite many of those early stories and improve them a hundred percent prose-wise, but story-wise I'm still satisfied with the product.

Looking back and cringing isn't a bad thing, really. It means we've learned and improved enough to recognize our earlier mistakes.

06-25-2009, 07:23 PM
Once in a while, I am surprised at my wonderfulness... but there are times... I could just die.

I did find a pretty good sci fi story I wrote around when I 25 yrs old or so - I was surprised that it was so natural. I realized after I read a whole bunch of books about how to write, they really hadn't helped! All they had done was make me self-conscious and that came through in my writing.

06-25-2009, 07:28 PM
My very first published short story, in a small literary magazine, slithered out of my bookshelf the other day. I died a thousand deaths when I read it. At the time I gave myself the old, "Ah, well, I was only 16," excuse. But after finding this forum and reading stuff that the 16-year-olds on here write I don't feel like I can use that one anymore. It's just plain bad. And embarrassing. :o

06-25-2009, 08:06 PM
I used to write a lot of Pokemon fan fiction as a child, and you can imagine how that makes me feel...
Those are the things that make me cringe the most.

But once, and only once, did I pick up a piece of my writing from a few years ago and go, "I wrote this? This might not suck..."
I really dunno how I feel about it yet.

Mr Flibble
06-25-2009, 08:23 PM
I am actually looking over an old first draft at the mo

Yes, there's lots of telling, lots of errors that I know better about now.

But the most important bit, the story, works. And I've found some stuff I wrote that actually doesn't suck all that bad.

I can make this work.

But the best thing is now I know how to make it work.

So, no, no cringing. Just a 'I can make this better' attitude. What's the point in cringing when I could make something saleable out of it? I did the best I could at the time. Not the best I can do now. Or in the future. Because that's what's important.

06-25-2009, 08:33 PM
Oh God. I cry at my current writings.

And then there are the good people at AW that will slap my childish phrases so hard that my tears have ruined many keyboards.

06-25-2009, 08:40 PM
Lately I found something I wrote when I was about 14 years old. It's a science fiction story, heavily ripped off from Star Wars, but not bad at all despite the fact that it meanders quite a bit.

06-27-2009, 03:02 AM
I sprang forth from the womb with quill in hand! My earlier writing is outstanding! Epic. And awesome!

I never used adverbs in every sentence thinking it actually helped move my story along by adding them to already descriptive words. And I most certainly never flaked out on description because I thought it was boring to write and headhopped because I thought that would help my pacing.

Nope. Never done any of these. I came out perfect.

Yep. Perfect.

No mistakes...

Um...I'm leaving before it really starts piling up in this reply


06-27-2009, 03:06 AM
Everything before my Sophomore year should be destroyed (for reference, I just finished Junior year). After that, I can look at most of it without cringing. :D


Ali B
06-27-2009, 06:52 AM
My vote is "no". The cringe is usually followed by projectile vomiting.

06-27-2009, 07:27 AM
I keep all my young writings in a folder called "Old, Bad Writing." Looking at it now the word "bad" is nowhere near strong enough.

Sean D. Schaffer
06-28-2009, 09:44 AM
I picked "other," because even though I can read my early writing without cringing, I am the first to admit I did not even know what a quill was when I first started writing.

A crayon, maybe. But a quill? No.

06-28-2009, 10:08 AM
I have the third story I ever wrote. I've never seen so many exclamation points or all-caps words in my life.

Sample dialogue: "FINE!!! I'll arrange a meeting with Mr. Martin about your behavior, oh, and just so you know, I have the right to take away my free coffee deal to you, GOT THAT!?!?!?!"

It's great. But seriously, I have a hard time looking at the stuff I wrote a couple years ago, because I was Incredibly Serious about that stuff.

Barb D
06-28-2009, 06:41 PM
I just finished my first novel. And personally, I think its awesome. :) It's in the hands of the first agent now.

Time will tell if it will make me cringe one day.

06-28-2009, 06:51 PM
I just finished my first novel. And personally, I think its awesome. :) It's in the hands of the first agent now.

Time will tell if it will make me cringe one day.

Good luck!!! :D

Alan Yee
06-29-2009, 04:01 AM
Keep in mind that I'm 17, almost 18, so "early" is ages 10-13. Most of my early writing wasn't horrible, but it definitely wasn't very good. Good considering my age at the time, but still not very good. I think the biggest problem was the dialogue. In any case, I could definitely tell that I've improved.

The first half of my novel, which I started when I was 14, is going to need a lot f revising and rewriting. The second half (so far) is actually not too bad, though there are definitely weak areas that I need to fix later.

However, my recent writing is not so good because I had to take a long break from writing during the school year. It's very thin and not very descriptive.

06-29-2009, 04:30 AM
No. I love my early stuff. It's the stuff I'm writing now I can't stand. Seems I've gotten worse the more I've learned.

I just finished my first novel. And personally, I think its awesome. :) It's in the hands of the first agent now.

Congrats. I hate you. First novel already with an agent. Harumph! ;)

Barb D
06-29-2009, 05:26 AM
No. I love my early stuff. It's the stuff I'm writing now I can't stand. Seems I've gotten worse the more I've learned.

Congrats. I hate you. First novel already with an agent. Harumph! ;)

No, no, no. With an agent, as in I'm trying to get an agent. The particular one I sent it to as an exclusive wants the entire manuscript with the submission.

Saint Fool
06-29-2009, 11:58 PM
I love the mad improbablity of the stories I wrote as a kid. (My mom kept everything.) The let me die, let me die "poetry" of my teenage years got burned a few years ago. But I have paper copies of most everything I've written since then. Some of it is cringeworthy, some may get rewritten, but it's a map of where I've been so I keep it.

06-30-2009, 12:05 AM
Shoot, I cringe over stuff I wrote six months ago. I don't need to go all the way back to childhood to find stuff that embarrasses me. :D

06-30-2009, 09:32 AM
god no. lol. i have put all my early writings at the bottom of a box, never to see the light of day again. lol. i used to get it out every once in a blue moon and try and read it but just...no. lol. its sooo bad.

And on a different note, i also cringe at Colin Farell. I will never forgive him for taking the role of Alexander. *shudders*

06-30-2009, 09:40 AM
And on a different note, i also cringe at Colin Farell. I will never forgive him for taking the role of Alexander. *shudders*

He redeemed himself in In Bruges.

He and Jared Leto - along with Angelina Jolie and Jonathon Rhys Meyers - couldn't save Alexander from reaching epic heights of fail, but I still love them.

06-30-2009, 09:47 AM
I can't even look at my current work without cringing.

Wayne K
06-30-2009, 06:30 PM
In a word: No.

07-01-2009, 05:51 AM
god no. lol. i have put all my early writings at the bottom of a box, never to see the light of day again. lol. i used to get it out every once in a blue moon and try and read it but just...no. lol. its sooo bad.

And on a different note, i also cringe at Colin Farell. I will never forgive him for taking the role of Alexander. *shudders*

You criticised Colin Farrell.

You are now on my list.

penny manning
07-02-2009, 01:38 AM
When reading nonfiction stuff I wrote for a newletter, I sometimes think "I wrote that? Damn that's deep." When I read the 25 or so short stories I've written over the years, I think it's a shame I didn't follow through with most of them.

When it comes to my current novel, I can definitely see improvement from the earlier versions. I don't cringe too much. I even have the ever-changing versions of select chapters just to see how the story has progressed over the years. And I figure, if the book becomes a best seller...it might be interesting to see how the book transformed into its published version. That's when the real cringing starts.

07-02-2009, 09:07 PM
I only have about 15 years worth of "early writing." If it's from, like, a year ago beyond, I cringe. Majorly. I also laugh at it. But, stuff I've written in the last year--stuff that almost made me throw up while I was writing it--I reread and think, "Hey, this isn't nearly as bad as I thought it was."


Crap! Does that mean I'm an egotist?? *faints*

07-02-2009, 09:11 PM
I don't cringe so much at my old prose stylings as at my subject matter. Let's just say Deforrest Kelly fanfic is not a pretty thing...

07-03-2009, 03:16 PM
You criticised Colin Farrell.

You are now on my list.

Is that a...bad thing? hehe

07-03-2009, 03:32 PM
Is that a...bad thing? hehe

Trust me...you don't want to be on that list.

It took me six months of pleading, forty-seven megabytes of pics of sexy celebrities, and three novels written per her exact demands to get me off that list, and my offense was far lesser than insulting Colin.

07-03-2009, 04:05 PM
... depends on how you define 'cringe.' If by this you mean screaming out at the top of your lungs, "Ah, the horror of it," and then clutching at one's hair and giving it sporadic tugs, then yes: I indeed do cringe when perusing early stuff I've written.