Thursday, 2 February 2012

Should a writer EVER give up on a story?


I wrote a short story called Last Ranch On The West around 12 months ago. It was intended for Wicked East Press's Dead Rush Anthology (last submission date 28th February this year). Since writing the first draft I've written three different endings, cut scenes, rewrote scenes, but all the while been unhappy with it. I can't give you concrete reaons for my unhappiness; I just don't think it works. My gut instinct tells me it's lacking something - that magic spark that turns an okay story into a great one.

So, after 12 months of uneasiness, should I try another edit or admit defeat and press the delete button? Should a writer ever give up on a story? Or are there other ways to establish what isn't working and how to remedy it?

As ever, I'd love to know your experiences, thoughts, and advice.

32 comments:

  1. Never, never delete! That's the point of electronic copies. Leave it for a bit, get on with something else. You'll probably forget it, unless it's still got potential: then you'll be glad you didn't hit that button.

    Never delete, because you're unlikely to run out of digital space ... hang on. I just had this weird vision of abandoned stories, stacked up there in cyberspace, breeding their own endings ... Hmm. Could use that maybe.

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  2. I want to say never give up, but back about 12 years ago... my life took a bad turn and I was forced to stop writing. Well not forced and I have never returned to it... I have my monster book that is done, just sits there. I would never delete it, I just need someone [not me] to edit the mistakes... though sometimes I fell it was a mistake to write in the first place.

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  3. I understand from the biographys of many authors that keeping a story they were not happy with often has a happy ending. Returning to it months or years later many authors have found its flaws are much more easily removed than they seemed once and another gem emerges.

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  4. Don't delete! Just save it for another time. If it's not clicking now, obviously you can't force it to happen, but if you let it sit the answer might come to you.

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  5. STEP AWAY FROM THE DELETE BUTTON!!

    No never give up! Never surrender!

    Even if you move on to another story - this one may contain elements of things you may wish to explore later

    Stories are born and some are just born too soon - but born they are and they remain uniquely yours!

    Take care
    x

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  6. Keep your story. Find a beta reader or two or three and let them tell you what they see or don't.

    Also, sometimes we need to just let that story sit awhile. I've got like three stewing in a crockpot. Most times it's because one or two of the characters have become out of control or maybe the plot wasn't original enough. Whatever. It'll work its self out some how.

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  7. I know exactly what you mean about "something" missing but you can't put your finger on it.

    A story like that, I put away in my desk drawer, where it's accessible but out of sight. (Other stories disappear into the closet but that's a whole other thing...) Again, it's that unidentifiable quality that tells me the story is good/almost there/has promise but it hasn't reached its potential just yet. :)

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  8. I have a Junkyard of short stories and such that are "deletes." I save them and use them as needed as I write. Throw nothing away. If you have to write another story, so be it. Maybe focus on a 100 page story or a series of short stories. What ever is missing from your current WIP will take care of itself and that missing something will pop in your brain eventually.

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  9. Never. Throw anything. Away. Ever.

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  10. I wouldn't give up on a story. Every day that goes by, your craft improves.

    Give it a while. Put it away and bring it back at a later time. Then you can look at it with more experienced eyes, make improvements, and sell it.

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  11. Leave, set aside, sure. Sometimes stories need to mature. But don't ever, ever actually delete it! It can sit there waiting for you to return to it, when the moment's right ...

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  12. You may get this many times, but many times it should be heeded: Giving up is like the ultimate, uber last option. But, perhaps if you could take a break from it, let it and you breath different space for a bit while you work on something else. What about beta readers? Have you had any feedback on it that may spark what may or may not be missing (could just be that darned inner critic niggling at your mind telling you the spark is missing when it might be there and you've just read it 1000 times too many to notice it's there?)

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  13. Put it aside until you're itching to work on it again.

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  14. Hi Ellie. I agree with pretty much everything that's already been said. NEVER DELETE a story! Sometimes I print mine, if they're SHORT stories, go sit on the couch, or somewhere comfy, get my pencil and start reading it...again...and I always find things to "fix." BUT I do know, too, that you can't FORCE a story. I've tried that and it just makes me crazy. It cannot be done. It sounds like you really need a good/great critique group. Is it possible to find one in your part of town? I know there are online types, but the real thing is awesome...as long as it's a GOOD/GREAT group. I have improved so much since attending mine. If none of that is possible right now..then just put it aside, like the others have said..and do something else for a while. I even do cross-stitch, or something totally away from writing....for a while! Hugs!

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  15. Definitely not delete. You might just not be in the right frame of mind to see what's bugging you about it. I'd go work on something else, something very different from this story, and then come back to it in a couple of week. Hey, it's only the 2nd. You've got a LONG time before the submission deadline.

    Good luck!

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  16. It's certainly okay to set a story aside and accept that it'll never be "right" for publication. There are some tales we tell that just need to remain tucked away behind the scenes (until we become big and famous and we can sneak them into some collection of our own making).

    Every writer has a few stories that "don't quite work." Only, you never read them unless the authors get so big that they can publish anything.

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  17. I saying don't delete as well, just set it aside and work on something else. In time, maybe you'll dissect it and use it in another story or maybe one day the light will click on and you'll know what to do with it.

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  18. i have several versions saved of my first "novel"
    i laugh at how naive i was then, ha ha!
    but it is a great story that i hope to go back to and rewrite someday...

    moving on is tough, we have to work on what feels right.

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  19. Don't delete it! Never do that!

    Why not try telling the same story but from a different angle or POV? I did that recently and about halfway through found that there were big chunks of the original story that I could reuse. :-)

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  20. If only I could bring back stuff that I've deleted!!! Give it a rest. Let it sit. Don't touch it for another twelve months.

    You'll never know when inspiration can hit. Maybe you'll find that missing spark, or perhaps you'll want to combine this story with another to create a fantastic one.

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  21. A route that sometimes works for me is to tell the stalled story through the perspective of the antagonist. It puts a whole new spin to the story and adds depth to your antagonist, perhaps helping you and the reader relate in an empathic sense to her or him, Roland

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  22. Don't delete it. Put it away for awhile. Maybe a long while. Then you can come back to it in the future with fresh eyes and maybe find something that works. Believe me, I know. I've been writing seriously for 15 years.

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  23. I don't think the Delete button should come into play when it comes to writing. Even if you don't return to edit and/or revise, it could be useful for identifying and preventing similar problems later on.

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  24. Am I alone in saying don't delete it!

    I suspect another edit won't do much good either, unless you have some new inspiration for what to do with the story. I would shelve it somewhere safe for the day when you get that "Aha" moment and it suddenly becomes clear what to do.

    That's not giving up, it's just a tactical withdrawal :)

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  25. I believe the term in the industry is "trunk" story. If the story is not working, throw it in a trunk (real or virtual) and forget about it.
    Recently a short story contest came up, and I realized I had exactly one story that qualified, written in 2006. I revised it (version 2.0), had a friend proofread it (version 2.3), and I sent off version 2.5 this past Tuesday, Jan. 31. I'll find out who the winners are in March.

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  26. Never delete but you can walk away for a little and then come back later with clearer thoughts or a better plan.

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  27. Don't trash it forever. It might help if you get a second opinion or just sit on a while longer. I have a few short stories in the drawer because they lack the spark. I recently pulled one out and reworked it. Tada! A new spark has been struck! It's a great feeling, but it took a while to get there.

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  28. Never delete or throw away. It may not work out for what you have in mind now, but your creative instincts led you to this story and you may find a use for it in the future.

    I am a new follower. Glad to be here.

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  29. I found you in the A-Z Challenge list and followed you. I write sci-fi/fantasy/speculative/steampunk and so forth!

    I try not to fret over word counts too much. My current WIP spans four generations and so I have a lot of territory to cover which helps the word count go up. My main concern with this novel is that I don't fly through those generations too fast and cause confusion. My first draft did exactly that and so I am now revising it for clarification. All part of the process!

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  30. keep all you write, even if only on loose leaf paper... somewhere down the line you'll see how to polish that rejected work into a gem

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  31. I recommend saving the story for perhaps another day. I also have a bunch of stories I wanted to submit but just did not feel good about the strength of the story and aggrevated myself with rewrites and alternative endings, etc. Sometimes shelving the story for awhile will give you a different perspective at a later date when you go back through it.

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  32. I am an animation film maker for ads mostly but have been trying to make my own film for the past two years. I have been trying this... Stroring the story for a few months coming back to it fresh with a new point of view for a long time. People I talk to seem to think it has great 'potential' but I frankly think I should end it since I am not able to move on...

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