Making an Old Story New

Back in the early 1990’s, before self-publishing was common, before I even owned a cell phone, I wrote a fantasy novel called Feast of Five Crowns. I dutifully attempted to get my manuscript published in the old fashioned way. The rejection letters I received were very polite. One publisher told me that, if it was my second novel, the company might consider it, but it was not good enough for an unknown author.

After a while, I gave up and went onto other books and other pursuits (little things like getting married and buying a house). So the manuscript for Feast sat on my various computers in WordPerfect format for all those years. I think my original backup copy was on 3 & 1/2 inch floppy disks, just to show you how old it was.

Then came the 2010’s and the Emerald Cove anthologies (Kidnapped! and Stolen!). John and I used a generic fantasy setting for our tongue-in-cheek kidnapping story, Lord Larrin’s Daughter. When I decided to write a humorous sequel for the second anthology (Lord Larrin’s Trophy), the story setting fell naturally into one of the lands from Feast of Five Crowns, so I placed it there.

Like many fantasy novels, Feast involved potentially world altering events that the characters had to address. I avoided any mention of those events in Lord Larrin’s Trophy, because I was not sure if I wanted to set the story before or after the events in Feast. However, by the time Trophy was finished, I had set it (at least in my mind) shortly before the opening of Feast.

As I mentioned in a prior blogpost, when 60th Hour was published, I thought I could dust off Feast, add the characters from the two Lord Larrin stories and have a second self-published novel. However, after some of my fellow authors at Emerald Cove reamed…err…gave me constructive criticism regarding the first four chapters, I realized: 1) my writing has apparently improved since the 1990’s; and 2) it would take the ton of work to make Feast into a novel worthy of publication. Essentially, I would have to rewrite the entire novel from the ground up (with John’s help).

Thus began my dilemma: did I really want to spend that much time rewriting a story that no one wanted to publish 25 years ago? Should I put it back in storage and move on to another novel?

In the meantime, John and I have been working on a story for Emerald Cove’s upcoming anthology (Haunted!). Almost from the first moment Emerald Cove announced the theme for the third anthology, I knew which story I wanted to write. Not only is the story set in the Feast of Five Crowns universe, it contains background material from the novel. In effect, it is a prequel to the novel.

With three short stories now set in the Feast universe, I guess it’s time to take a stab at rewriting the old manuscript. At this point, I am thinking of using the main characters from the short stories as the point of view characters for the novel. I’m also thinking of giving the novel more of a light-hearted feel, perhaps not as overtly humorous as the fish story, but not as serious as the original book.

Will the help of my wonderful co-author and more than two decades of writing practice be enough to turn Feast into a book that people will want to read? Only time (and my Emerald Cove critique group) will tell.

Susan 9/4/2020

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