I cleaned up a few thumb-drives I had lying around and found a few old stories that I really liked, but that I hadn’t worked on in years. Feeling inspired (and perhaps a bit nostalgic) I pulled a few of them onto my laptop and began editing and reworking one in particular. I learned a great deal about how far I’ve come since I started writing.
While the story was sound, the telling left a lot to be desired. I was guilty of the age-old sin of telling instead of showing. A few reworked scenes later, and I found that it was easier to keep the basic premise and a few key scenes and just start fresh with the idea. While hunting around the manuscript for things that I wanted to keep, I found that I was leading down the same path that my new version took.
That could be because on some level, I remembered the story; I’m more inclined to think that the story has a natural progression and while I can rework scenes, the bones of the story lend themselves to a solid form that incorporates the little twist and turns I am compelled to write. When I got to the end of the old draft, I found I was coming out in the same place, despite some major revisions.
Maybe as writers, we subconsciously write the story and we get so lost in the details that it takes the distance of a few years or months to clearly see where we were headed without the distractions of overly written scenes and careful attention to every piece of dialogue. What I’ve found with my own writing is this: I can take off on a tangent, but ultimately I wind up exactly where I planned.
Haul out some of your unfinished manuscripts and read with a critical eye. My guess is you got lost in the minutia of the story, but under a bumpy skin is a strong bone structure that can be reworked into a glorious new entity.