A friend visited the other night and offer a big pitcher of my purple margaritas, we started talking about the benefits of a critique group and how writers learn from each other. We started talking about our own writing journeys, and how we have seen our styles change, and more importantly, we discussed how we see signs of that progressive journey in other writers.
Then we went into the discussion of how bad some of our drafts are.
And I bared my soul.
I went into my closet and grabbed the true second or third draft of the story that morphed into the Fashion and Fiends series. I wrote it in 1993. I used every cliché available and had the Anne Rice-style "misunderstood vampire" angst oozing from every other sentence. Now, my vampires are witches who practice blood magick.
I wasn't even 18 when I wrote this manuscript. It got shelved for several reasons.
1. It sucked.
2. It obsessed me and I could not move on with developing my real life.
3. I had no real life experience so the characters were cliché and two-dimensional.
When my friend, who is also a member of my critique group, saw this manuscript, we had a few chuckles. In the end, she recognized certain elements of my style and certain writing practices that I was good at then and how they're my strengths now.
It took me seventeen years to improve my writing, and those seventeen years brought a literature degree, foreign language study, raising a family, finding more of myself, and lots of reading and writing.
Writers who work together can achieve similar growth a lot faster, but we all travel the same road and have some point struggled with the same problems in writing growth.