#IWSG Reworking Old Stories @TheIWSG #amwriting #WWWBlogs

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

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Every month there’s an optional question to discuss.

March 1 Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Some people think we live in chaos.

I don’t believe in chaos. There is order in nature, in the universe and in our comparatively small lives, because every cell in our bodies is both part of the universe and contains the universe.

There is no chaos.

The sun doesn’t rise every now and again, the moon doesn’t spin and show its dark side whenever it pleases, leaves don’t turn blue if it’s cold, people don’t have two noses. There are exceptions to some rules; it might be hot on a spring day, someone may claim to have seen a heavy snowfall in the middle of summer, really? But when exceptional events do occur, it doesn’t mean there’s chaos, it’s only a tiny glitch.

The universe works like clockwork.

And nothing happens quite by chance. I mean there’s always a reason for everything that happens, although we might not realise at the time, or ever, in fact, but that needn’t worry us; there’s so much we’ll never understand.

The IWSG question resonates with me this week because, quite by chance, I’ve been rereading the beginning of a novel written by my sister twenty-eight years ago. Of course, you all know by now, that I don’t believe this happened by chance, at all. It was meant to happen.

My sister died, twenty-eight years ago. It seems like yesterday, every day, but still, the calendar says it happened twenty-eight years ago.

Last week, one of my sister’s friends ‘found’ me on Facebook and we started chatting. I’m afraid I didn’t remember her very well, she and my sister were five years younger than me, which isn’t a lot when you’re over thirty, but is a great deal when you’re under twenty!

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She was intrigued that I had become a writer, and I mentioned that it must run in the family, because my sister was writing a novel when she died. Her friend knew, but she had no idea what the novel was about. Elsa, my sister, was very secretive about it. I myself found out about it after she died.

She lived in Harrow, London, just around the corner from where she had been born twenty-five years earlier, and I was married and had moved to Spain, where I lived with my husband and three children, so we only saw each other once or twice a year, although we often spoke on our landline phone and wrote letters, as people used to do twenty-eight years ago.

Elsa had only just started her novel when she died, unexpectedly and tragically. 

I have a prologue and one chapter printed out on an old dot matrix printer, and obviously corrected. There are a few more chapters, but although they’re also typed, these were typed on an old typewriter and it’s obviously a first draft, which hadn’t been edited yet, in fact, it may not even be part of the same novel.

Unfortunately, there was no outline, no handwritten notes, or any other evidence of how she meant the novel should progress, and nobody knew about it, because she hadn’t discussed it with anyone, at least not with anyone I knew. This leads me to believe she was obviously a pantser and it was all in her mind, or there might have been a plan, but it has been lost.

I’m not a pantser, but I have nothing against panters, yet I don’t believe she wrote without a plan, because it was some kind of intricate thriller, so she must have written notes somewhere. And, in the 80s, people used pen and paper a lot, I was there, and I remember.

The novel is called ‘One Woman’s Story’, which may be a working title, and starts out with a woman who dreams about her own murder, death and funeral. She tells her best friend about her recurring and distressing nightmare. Shortly after, she is murdered and everything happens just as she had told her friend it would. There it stops.

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The few pages I have of my sister’s novel, One Woman’s Story.

I have no idea at all what she had in mind for the rest of the novel, but it was obviously going to be either a detective or psychological thriller, which would have required at least some notes, and a brief story line, yet, there is nothing at all to go on.

Elsa had no first hand knowledge of police procedure, that’s why I’m inclined to believe it was more of a psychological thriller, but that’s a hunch. We both loved reading Ruth Rendell novels at the time, and psychological thrillers weren’t as popular in the 80s, as they are now, but who knows?

I’ve often wondered whether I should continue her novel or not.

Last week, after speaking to her friend,  I reread it once again and tried to imagine a novel of my own, unsuccessfully. My version would probably look nothing like hers would have, because I have no idea what she had in mind.

Yesterday, reading the IWSG question, I started to think about continuing my sister’s novel, again. Is that a coincidence? But I don’t believe in coincidences, do I?

Any suggestions or ideas? Should I go for it or forget about it?

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11 thoughts on “#IWSG Reworking Old Stories @TheIWSG #amwriting #WWWBlogs

  1. This would be a wonderful way to honor your sister, but you will need to rework what she wrote so the book sounds like you – there could be a big chasm between the end of her writing and yours.

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    1. Yes, I agree. I’ve often thought it was something I should do, to honour her, but I’ve always had trouble imagining what would have come next… Perhaps I need to stop thinking about what she would gave written end just get on with my version?

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  2. I would be torn. Honouring your sister in finishing her novel would be touching indeed. I agree with you, I don’t believe in chaos either for the same reasons. The novel came to you for a reason. If you didn’t finish it, how would you feel? Something of your sister left undone? If you finish it, would you feel as though you shared something special? I’m sure your sister would applaud your efforts either way. Whether the novel was different than hers, to my mind, matters not. It’s what you would feel about having finished this that counts. Just sayin.

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    1. Thank you.💗 That’s an inspiring reply. Perhaps if I don’t do it, or at least try it, I’d feel worse about it in the long term…? And it’s something we can still share…. 💝

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      1. Exactly my thought on the matter. What a precious opportunity. You could either go with the flow of what your sister started, or branch off and make it something close to what she’d be interested in reading, or indeed make it all your own (as in adding to) not taking away from. You sound like a very caring thoughtful person, and no matter how you proceed, I have a feeling it will be with a gentle caring heart. You certainly have a plethora of options. What a delightful find either way.

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      2. Thank you again for your encouraging words. You’re right, it is a find, a sort of special present she left me. I should work out what to do with it…The thing is I’ve recently started a new #wip, but I’ll keep you posted!

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  3. I think running with your sister’s idea, whether the end result matches what she envisioned or not, is a wonderful way to honor her. You would have each contributed to it and that would make it special.

    I had a critique partner who I was close with. We worked together for 12 years before she died of cancer several years ago. I have her notes on the last novel she was working on and she gave me her blessing to run with it.My version would surely be different than hers, but I’ve often thought of working on it as a way to honor her memory. She was only a few chapters in but she left many notes and we used to brainstorm together on various projects.

    Whatever you decide, you have a wonderful treasure in what your sister left behind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your words and sharing your own similar experience with your critique partner. I’ve never really discussed this with anyone before, so although I’ve been rereading it over the last 28 years, it was like having something which belonged to her in my hands. Only more recently have I been seriously thinking about doing something with it, such as continuing it. Perhaps this is the right moment?

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  4. What a beautiful post. I echo many of the sentiments shared above. I do believe somewhat in chaos, and the human need to create order. Whether the order is real or not, we make it real, and that may be all that matters. Another thought is simply the serendipity is a nudge to re-examine these things and reflect on them, whatever you choose to actually do with the story. Good luck with it. Whatever way you decide to pursue, there will be beauty and insight in it.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words💗 I’ve experienced serendipity more than once and I do interpret these ‘coincidences’ as a nudge, but there’s a lot of self-imposed pressure to get it right. I’m more convinced now than I was a few weeks ago that I’ll write it, probably sooner than later.

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