Looking Back

I’ve been working my novel, so far I am up to about 8,500 words of notes.  Actual story, about 1,500.  At this rate I figure I’ll have to have about 200,000 words of notes with maybe a 50,000 word book.  I might have to rethink my work.  One thing I was thinking about, was past failures to complete projects, and some of literary works that have influenced me.

When I was in my teens I developed a test for apocalyptic science fiction novels and movies.  I devoured books like, Earth Abides, Always Coming Home, Alas Babylon, The Time Machine, and On the Beach.  When I couldn’t find enough of those books I read dystopia novels like Brave New World, Animal Farm, Player Piano, and 1984. The list just goes on with depressing books I read back then.

When I wasn’t reading these books, I was at the movies watching things like Planet of the Apes, A Boy and His Dog, Damnation Ally, War of the Worlds, Mad Max, Logan’s Run, Omega Man, Testament, and The Lathe of Heaven along with the film versions of the books I read.

By my late teens I had decided that I wanted to try to write a novel.  I started out with great enthusiasm.  I wrote some notes, a couple of scenes, and then let life interfere.  In 1983 ABC aired a made-for-TV movie with the title, The Day After.  It was a depressing film and not exactly a great work of film making or story telling.  It was more a statement on the dangers of nuclear war.

What was even more depressing was the fact that the novel I had envisioned was also titled, “The Day After.” Yup, they stole my title and I dropped the project.  Which is likely just as well because the PBS movie, Testament was largely the same story I was planning to write – except mine had a few battles between the survivors.

And thinking back, I have to admit that my book idea was mostly a rehash of every movie I’d seen and every book I’d read.  I think it was some time after my fifth viewing of On the Beach, that I finally realized two important things: I wasn’t adding anything new and I hadn’t really thought out the plot.

That coupled with the feeling that I wasn’t mature enough in my writing skills made me put the story aside.

Now, many decades later I feel like I am in a different place.  I’ve had more life experiences, I’ve read more widely than the Sci Fi isle, and have even studied a number of Shakespeare plays.  I’ve also written much more and feel more confident in my writing gift.

Looking back can be useful as it can help us avoid past mistakes, but it also has its dangers.  It’s far to easy to spend too much time there.

Today, I look back to see where I’ve been, in hopes that it helps me move forward.

Till next week,

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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20 Responses to Looking Back

  1. That book writing is tough business. Aren’t all stories basically remakes of other stories?


  2. Glynis Jolly says:

    I read someplace–can’t remember where or when–that most original ideas are not that original. However, the angle in which you approach that idea can be original. I think this is especially true with writing a story. The genre of the story is the basic story and there’s millions out there. It’s the twists, cliffs, and other unexpected things the writer injects that make it something that can be called original. Keep on drudging forward, Andrew.


    • It’s a common theme in literary criticism and there are tons of academic works on the matter. But as you say, how you combine old ideas and how you change up the story telling create original ideas. “Harry Potter” is my favorite example – all the magic, and monsters in the story have been around for centuries, but a school for young wizards based on the English public school model is a new thought. All you need is one new combination to create something original.


  3. Oh my – I remember The Day After… Uber depressing. Everybody kept getting radiation poisoning and dying. But on the bright side, we’ve made it 33 years since then are still alive and kicking!

    I’m excited about your novel and can’t wait to read it and say, “I knew him when…” It’s exciting to be a creative writer in this day and age of self-publlshing!

    Considering it’s all I can do to croak out less than 1000 words a week on AGMA, I will NOT be in competition with you. So you’ve got that going for you… 🙂


  4. LuAnn says:

    I am anxious to hear where those years have taken that novel idea.


  5. I like reading about your journey in this process.
    I listened to a podcast recently about the idea of there being no new ideas – everything is a remake or retelling of a previous work. On the other hand, each retelling is new because it’s a new person presenting it. In other words, there will never be another Andrew Reynolds with your same life experiences writing this story.
    I find that rather encouraging, don’t you? 🙂


    • We all tell stories that draw from our past experience. The creative part is what new thing we bring and how we recombine old things to make new things. Take the car, it’s just a wagon with a engine, but then add a computer and wow, you’ve got something very new – even though the components have been around for decades or centuries. What I find encouraging is the ability to think and combine these dissimilar things to create something new.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A worthwhile exercise, Andrew. I will say, my research file is usually shorter than my writing file. I’m pondering how you got upside down.


  7. The only thing I can think of saying is KEEP WRITING, you have the itch, you must continue to scratch it. 😀


  8. PiedType says:

    I almost chose creative writing as my college major, and one of the first things I was told was that there are only seven basic plots for fiction, and all fiction is just a variation of one of those plots. And no doubt you’ve heard it said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” So don’t let what’s come before stop you from writing your novel your way. Every writer has faced a similar problem (except maybe the first seven).


    • The trick is not inventing completely new stories, but learning how to creatively combine the old stuff into new stuff. I try to learn from the past, not let it stop me.


  9. YAPCaB says:

    There’s no doubt it will. Good luck and keep writing.


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