Tuesday, September 29, 2015

When A Story Isn't Working, Fix It!

Have you ever finished a first draft, revised and edited a few times but are still not satisfied with it? Do you like all of it except the ending? Do you perhaps hate the opening lines? Or feel that the story bogs down in the middle.

What if I lose my reader? What if the reader doesn't want to read on to the end? What if the editor laughs at the serious opening lines and dumps it before reading the rest? If you think things like the preceding on occasion, relax. It only proves you are a very normal writer. We all have concerns about our writing. Be thankful that you do have concerns, If you didn't, you might never go  back and do another revision or edit.

There are fixer-upper houses that someone turns into a very pleasant, livable home. Ever watch one of those TV shows that details the ways a sad little house can be made into a breathtaking home? You can do that with your piece of writing that is just not working right for you. How?

First, put it away for a few days--or even longer. Then, read it from start to finish with an objective eye. That is not always easy to do but try it. You'll see more places that need to be fixed if you do.

Then decide which parts satisfy you? Leave them alone! Now, find the areas that are problematic. There may be one or several. Ask yourself what bothers you about the ending or the opening paragraph. In other words, pinpoint the problem. You can't change it if you aren't sure what the problem is. Maybe your opening is just plain boring, gives too much info and doesn't have a hook. Perhaps your ending is lame, leaving the reader disappointed or shaking her/his head.

Once you have defined the problem, start your repair job. You might add details that enlarge the section. You could up the tension. Or rewrite the opening to hook your reader immediately. Add sensory details that make a bland area more interesting. Create an ending that brings emotion to you and it will do the same for your reader. There are times where you rewrite an entire section even though you have no desire to do so.

When you get to a point that you feel like you've improved the piece, put it away again for a few days. Read it later and see if you still feel satisfied. Hopefully, you'll feel you have a better piece of writing. What if you don't? You have two options: start the revision process once more or file it and forget it. There are times it's best to kill a story completely. If it isn't working for you, it probably won't for anyone else.

Writing is fun. Rewriting is darned hard work but almost always worth doing.

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