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Roasting My Old Writing
Roasting My Old Writing

Roasting My Old Writing

ThomastheRayThomas Ray
2 Reviews

I’m embarrassing myself to prove that even if your writing is trash, there’s hope. A light at the end of the tunnel, you might say.

So, a brief introduction! I wrote the beginning of a story when I was fifteen. It’s posted on here, it’s now called “Zaire (Old Version)” and is one of my first attempts at a full-length novel… Spoiler alert, I stopped after chapter two. I recently decided to rewrite it, because however bad it was, there was a heart to it, a core of something at least a little good. I wanted to see if I could salvage that. If you haven’t read the stories, feel free to do so. This breakdown might make more sense that way.

(Also, I’m not an expert, I’m just a guy who’s been writing for a while. My thoughts and opinions aren’t facts.)

Brace yourself.


The original starts out with a prologue where a lady infiltrates a palace, killing guards by saying magic words until she reaches the king and assassinates him. She then pulls something out of her bag and thinks to herself “I’m doing this to save my friend.” The sequence is vague, confusing, and cringey to the point that I almost want to delete it from existence.

Instead, I just skipped it. Here we have our first comparison: the opening line.

Old: Zaire sat down on the stool next to the counter. It’s wordy and bland. I changed it.

New: The tavern was empty. Simple but effective. It paints a picture. The first line needs to engage the reader.

We learn that Zaire (the main character) is here to talk to his father. In the original the father is sorting bottles, which— What? What’s that? Who does that? Are some of them cracked or something? Anyway, now he’s polishing glassware. I like this paragraph pretty well.

Old: Zaire sat down on the stool next to the counter. His father—the barkeep’s assistant—looked up, glared at him, and went back to his work sorting bottles. Not… awful…other than the sorting bottles part.

New: Zaire slid onto a stool at the counter. From behind the counter, his father glanced up at him, still polishing the glassware in his hands. Tired hands, Zaire noted. Always tired. In the dim candlelight, the lines on his face looked deeper than ever, hanging eyelids not even attempting to hide his exhaustion.

Notice the changes. Slid vs sat down. Showing the reader that his father works here instead of telling them. Here we get into the head of our main character, seeing things the way he does.

Then the dialogue. The terrible dialogue.


“You didn’t come to my ceremony.”

His father Lehn looked up. “No I didn’t.”

Zaire raised his hands in a questioning gesture.

“What makes sense to you about staying at the tavern all the time? You didn’t come to my Graduation Ceremony last night.” He waited for a response and when his father didn’t speak he clarified. “The one where the headmaster tells which students earned the advancements? The bar was closed, yet you stayed here!”

The weathered bartender looked up with a bored expression on his face.

Yeah, me too! I’d skip his stupid graduation ceremony!


Can he see my anger as clearly as I see his exhaustion? Zaire wondered. I hope so.

“You didn’t come to the ceremony.”

He closed his eyes, sighed. “No. I didn’t.”

“You didn’t come to my ceremony.” Zaire repeated. He raised his hands in a questioning gesture.

He nodded.

“What—were you busy? Were you afraid?”

His father set down one glass, slid it to the side, then started on the next piece.

Can you see a difference? It’s not perfect, but it’s readable now.

Fathers response:

Old: “I knew it was happening, and I knew what it was. I just don’t care one whit about you or the university, so leave me be and go home to your mother. The gods know she needs all the help you can give her.”

New: “What difference does it make?” His low whisper rattled.

Less wordy. He’s an actual character here instead of an exposition machine. And again, it paints more of a picture. It feels more natural!

Zaire gets upset by his father’s lack of caring and leaves the tavern. From there, the new version is practically unrecognizable from the old one. Comparing it is nearly impossible.

Here are a few especially terrible lines from the original.


“Why can’t you stay? What’s making you want to leave?”

Master Verin sighed. “It is not that something is making me want to leave, it’s just that everything keeping me here is leaving. You included.”

I hate it. He’s leaving… Because. The teacher leaving also carries no weight if Zaire is also leaving. What we need for Verin is an actual motivation for leaving, and for Zaire we need him to say things he means.


Zaire nodded. A sudden realization hit him that he might not see this man ever again after today.

“I’ll miss you.”

A sudden realization, huh? You didn’t already piece together that leaving = maybe never see again? You say “I’ll miss you” but from the rest of the conversation, I’m not convinced. You’re an empty shell, Zaire. You’re hollow and boring and passive. I hope you find a personality during your travels.

In conclusion… I’m not sure why I’m even writing this. I guess what I learned is that an awful story can absolutely be salvaged, and only practice can get you from bad writing to good. Chances are your story has a heart, even if the writing doesn’t show it. With time and practice you learn how to actually communicate ideas and feelings and characters.

If I can do it so can you. So keep writing!

Author Notes: I don't think this actually gets across how bottle-sortingly terrible the old version is. I don't recommend reading it.

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About The Author
Thomas Ray
About This Story
9 Sep, 2022
Read Time
4 mins
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5.0 (2 reviews)

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