Co-writing with my younger self

I’ve done a fair bit of co-writing with other people over the years. At the moment, I am in the slightly surreal position of co-writing with myself.

Tom and I are working on the 4th book of Hopeless Maine right now. I wrote the original script more than eight years ago, when I knew far less about comics. Younger me had a rather different voice to current me. Younger me did not really know how to lay out a comics page or tell stories visually. Younger me used to just hand scripts to Tom and leave him to figure out how to make it work on the page. Since then, I have become someone who can think pretty well about visual storytelling and how to get the words onto the page. Having a better grasp of the visual side also means I can see which words to take out.

A few years ago, when contemplating how best to handle an old prose piece in the Hopeless setting, I was given some advice from a fellow writer. Don’t you want it to be your best work? They asked. They were clear that I should revise and update it. In the end, I didn’t do that much. I may have more craft skills than I used to, but there are also things I used to do that I couldn’t do now. How I think about people and situations has changed. I no longer tell the same stories. I am wary of assuming that my current writing self is my best possible writing self. I think previous me had some things going for them.

I find myself working with my old scripts, trying to edit them for best effect, and feeling as though I am working with another author. Usually when I edit for people, the other author is there to talk to. This one is dead, or disappeared, or trapped in another time. I have to edit their work without being able to discuss it with them. I try to honour their vision while applying the things I know that they don’t know. It’s a very odd process. It’s shown me there are things my younger self knew and felt that I need to re-find and re-feel.

We don’t always improve with time. Sometimes our first, unpolished attempts can be the best we do because they have the most passion and energy and are least self-conscious. Sometimes the tools we collect freeze us up and have us second guessing ourselves. Younger me frankly had no idea how to write a comic, but was brazen enough to do it anyway. I am at the moment failing to write a script for something because I’m so bogged down in what I know that I can’t get started. The only way to do it will be to emulate younger me, and write the way I used to write, and then come in for a second stage with all the useful, technical things I know.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

5 responses to “Co-writing with my younger self

  • neptunesdolphins

    The historian Barbara Tuchman did this with her essays. She later published a book explaining each of them, and what she thought of them later in her life. She had a similar experience that you about.

  • Ellen Efenricea

    Sounds like a really fascinating process.
    I read a second edition book recently where the author (John Holt) hadn’t so much edited as annotated and self corrected while leaving the original passages in place. It was brilliant- his young self was so convincing and had me totally agreeing with what he wrote originally and then would blow it all away with something equally convincing yet from the totally altered perspective of his mature self.
    I guess you can’t really do that with fiction but it was brilliant to actually be able to read that change process.

  • Leeby Geeby

    Thank you for your teflections. Yeah, its kind of surreal to revisit an old piece of work. Back when I was writing for passions sake. Now as I am older and economic concearns are different, it has made a big difference on how I tackle my work. Its great to get paid, but the old coffee shop romance of losing ones self in a piece. Kind of like the transition between the boy in the Neverending story who takes the book up to the school attic and loses himself in Fantasia. Now I have become the crotchety ol bookseller that gave the kid the book. Lol.

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