Kirvin on Writing

The journey of a reluctant writer

Friday, May 26, 2006

Up to date, or Timeless?

Okay, I’m editing Between Heaven and Hell, a novel I originally wrote ten years ago. As many of you may have noticed, the world has changed quite a bit since 1996, what with the new century, lots-o-war and conspicuously missing tall buildings in NYC.

So I have a question. Should I update the story to remove any and all indicators of time, or just update them to the present?

I see pros and cons both ways. When Daniel’s rattling off “bad men” throughout history, a reference to Osama might lend some weight to the scene. But will it also make the story feel as dated ten years from now as it does to me today?

On the other hand, while removing time references would give the story a sense of currency no matter when it’s read, certain things, like how Susan does research on her laptop, are going to be giveaways. I may not mention the model years of cars, but I do mention the smell of gasoline. How long will that be relevant?


  • At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Alan Grassia said…

    Some of the best stories are timeless. Ok, Star Wars may not be some of the best writing around, but there is no time tied to when the script was written. Star Trek, and I'm willing to bet, Fire Fly (haven't seen it yet, sorry) are the same and probably the same, respectively.

    I say, if you can you rework the story without having to rewrite large portions of it, I'd go with the timeless option. Are you really going to want to go back in another 10 years an update?

    As for the smell of gasoline, how about the acidic smell of the spent fuel cells as they are pulled from the fuel cell storage compartment?


  • At 10:19 PM, Blogger Jeff said…

    That's just it, though. The story is set in the present day, whenever the present day happens to be. How do you pull that off?

  • At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Alan Grassia said…

    Well, then if the story is set in the present day, then I would just leave it alone.

  • At 9:10 PM, Blogger Lee Hauser said…

    Depends on if you plan to be Jeff Kirvin or George Lucas. Should a piece of work ever be "finished"? Lucas says he can use digital techniques to revise his work whenever he wants -- and we have a choice whether to pay for it again or not.

    But William Gibson's Neuromancer is very outdated. Does he revise it? No. It exists as an artifact of its time.

    But you need to decide whether you want to spend your time endlessly revising your past work to match current times or spend your time and effort on new work.


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