I’m thrilled to be offering a series of guest posts for the next few months while I pour myself into my new books, my client work, and a certain very cute (and VERY busy) two-year-old.  Today, my guest is the talented Sarah Fox, editor and novelist.  Enjoy!

A few weeks ago, my dear friend and first reader texted me to tell me she found an old book that we were cowriting together. Unfortunately, we got only two chapters in, but she did send me a hilarious line from one of them.

This reminded me of a novel that I actually completed during the same time (college), and I decided to pull out the over-decade-old document. Normally, my throat tightens and my stomach feels vaguely sick whenever I try to read earlier work, but enough time had passed that I went into the experience with grace and a sense of humor. (I also think it helped that I knew I would use the experience to write this. There is something really freeing about a writing assignment; it removes some of the emotional charge and makes it a fun challenge.)

In no particular order, here are some real gems that I gleaned from the experience:

  • The first thing that struck me was the ridiculous font for the chapter titles. It looks like a close cousin to comic sans. I had yet learned the strength of Times New Roman. Less is more, kid.
  • I could tell that I wanted to be a professor of Victorian literature during this period of my life. My characters spoke like they were straight out of a Dickens’s novel. One character was even described as having “spectacles.” At the time, one of my friend mentioned that the writing reminded her of George Eliot. I took this as a compliment at the time. I shouldn’t have.
  • Similarly, none of these college kids acted, well, like college kids. This struck me as particularly strange because I was in college at the time of writing the book. All the characters did was quote poetry at each other and make obscure literary references. To be fair, this is what my friends in college did. (I never claimed we were cool, okay?) Strangely enough, I think my depictions of college kids is much more accurate now than it was then. I attribute this to my time as a teaching assistant in graduate school when I encountered a range of students. Most of whom were “normal.”
  • Everyone in the book was super rich. How many teenagers own expensive cars and have elaborate curtains in mansions? There was an alarming amount of description of the gilded furniture and large televisions, but there was absolutely no mention of people’s clothing. I guess I really knew my priorities back then. Forget the nice dresses or purses; it was all about the velvet loveseat. (Yes, I am vaguely worried about this younger version of myself.)
  • The protagonist liked to ask a lot of dramatic, existential questions. Things seemed to be very serious for her. Even choosing a meal in the cafeteria. The stakes were always so high.
  • All the chapters ended with a dramatic statement. For example, “Edward climbed into his BMW and drove away, but Clay remained in the stillness of the dressing room with the same pained look on his face.” There is a lot to unpack here (who the heck has a dressing room?), but the main focus here is the drama of lines like “pained look.” Please also note the BMW.
  • It is clear that I thought all flirtatious interactions began with “Hey, baby.” Why, yes, I did listen to No Doubt a lot during this period of my life.
  • This book is a total time capsule. I kept mentioning The Shins, reminding me how I used to listen to them on repeat while writing the book.

That’s not to say that everything was bad. I had some great descriptions, wonderful characters, and I loved the overall idea for the book. Still, the book is not something I would publish now.

Does that mean I wasted my time writing the book? Absolutely not! I am grateful for the younger version of myself because if she didn’t write that book, I wouldn’t be the writer I am now. By practicing my craft and making mistakes, I became a better writer.

So I challenge you to reread your writing from when you are younger. It will show you how far you’ve come and also give you hope for how much more progress you will make in the future. And, if nothing else, it will be good for a laugh, which I think we all need right now.

Catch up with Sarah at www.thebookishfox.com,  Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.