It was a historical fantasy with magic, elves, griffons and various other magical creatures. I was heavily influenced by several authors at that point. Tolkien was something of a god to my 13 year old self, as were Tamora Pierce, Mary Stanton and Bruce Coville. Looking back I can see influences from all of these authors and a few things of my own invention based on personal experiences.
The storyline was simple: a spirited noble, Lady M, is betrothed to a prince she loathes, she rides off upset, falls through a magical portal and ends up in a land beyond the Uncharted Wilderness. She is rescued by the half-elves and ends up in a love triangle between an elf and a half-elf while endeavoring to get home.
It was fun, and hilarious to re-read. Not only were there huge gaps, but my 13 year old self was highly dramatic and created an emotionally immature 16 year old protagonist. However, there were several redeeming features to this story which helped me decided to re-write and publish it as part of my planned saga.
1) It was well thought out in terms of character development. I made the immature 16 year old girl grow up. She grew from a spoiled, tantrum throwing noble into a decent, caring young woman. I was actually surprised as I read it and noticed the change in her that my 13 year old self had perceived as necessary. (Although, I think some of that development had to do with my own growing emotional maturity.)
2) The progression of the characters around, over and through obstacles was actually rather interesting. Several tropes will have to be removed, however the fact that my characters never got to take a deep breath was fantastic.
3) The various dangers I invented were delightful if a little excessive. The half-elven citadel is attacked by horrific beasts known only as Trozates a mix of man and beast straight out of Greek mythology. Griffons (blind but with an incredible sense of smell) interrupt their journey to the elves. An evil sorceress held prisoner by the elves lures the main character into her clutches. The sorceress’s husband the wicked Sorcerer Garyth is building an army to attack the elves and half-elves at the end of the book. The humans (medieval in design) beyond the Uncharted Forest are ignorant of all these goings on.
While I will not be keeping the Trozates, Griffons or use of magic (at least not the usual fantasy kind) I will be taking a page from my 13 year old self and bombarding the main character with obstacles. Lady M never rested. Ever. I was constantly yanking the rug from beneath her feet and dumping her on her bottom. She either had to adapt or die. It was brilliant if a little sadistic. As I have told many people after re-reading that story, the mind of a 13 year old girl is a very scary place. The world is entirely against you and nothing you do ever goes right or is approved of. It was melodramatic, highly emotional and charged with rebellion against any and all perceived authority.
Buried deep within that confusing mess were gems that, when pulled free and cut, will shine. There is a lovely circle I have observed in reflecting on this first completed novel. Not only did it set the stage for my numerous fiery, outspoken female heroes, but it also played a role in forming the world that I am now building my saga from. I had created detailed maps and cultural ideas for each group of people in that initial story. Those thoughts continued to bleed into all similar writing. I realize now, reflecting on that story, that I created my fantasy world at 13. It just needed some tweaking.
The moral of this rather lengthy post is simple. Don’t throw your old work out. I will repeat. DO NOT throw away your old work. There is so much that can be learned from what you have previously written, not only to see improvement, but also to see where you had talent from the start. Keep at it, keep improving and keep checking your characters for growth. Make them adapt or die. Give them a reason to live. Give them a reason to fight.
Above all though, give them a reason to triumph.
What have you learned from your old work?