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  1. Stammis

    Stammis Banned

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    My story is garbage; what do I do?

    Discussion in 'Short Stories' started by Stammis, Nov 3, 2017.

    So, a little context: this is a story I've been working on for the last three years, it was the first short story that I seriously intended to finish.

    I've developed much since then and the story has gone through many iterations, and became longer and longer the more I learned how a story is constructed.

    Even though it has changed a lot, there's always been a central theme: there is a small community, in a desolate land, that had their memories altered for purposes that are revealed later. I've built upon this idea, and tried to incorporate others, to make overall plot make sense, to answer the why and how questions. But, over the years, as I learned, the plot feels more like a patchwork than a cohesive story.

    There is some good in there that I'm proud of, such the environments, and the human condition, but when you think about the reasons behind it all, you start to find the holes and it suddenly doesn't make much sense.

    The story have been a great learning experience and I'm glad I made it. The story is roughly 140 pages long and fully edited. I always intended to put it up for free but I now hesitate to do so.

    What do you think? Is my reputation on the line or is it forgiving to put it up if it is the first longer story you've ever created?
     
  2. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Simple answer - you work at it until you're happy enough to share it with others. I wouldn't worry about reputation (it's not like you're a best selling writer who suddenly starts publishing crap). Folk will read it and tell you what they think, but if you knowingly put garbage out, then expect criticism.

    I've lost count of the number of stories I've abandoned because I come to the conclusion it's not feasible or there's too many plot holes. The idea is to work at fixing these, but I'm a born quitter so never do.

    You either work at fixing it, or you abandon it and move on.

    If it's any consolation, I like the premise and it's probably something I'd read.
     
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  3. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

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    Have anyone else read it yet?

    While I don't think it would be a bad idea to post it once you're satisfied with it, I'd suggest you try to work out the problems that you're unhappy with first.

    What is the problem with the reasoning?
    Why does it feel like a patchwork?

    Have you been working on it non-stop or have you tried putting it away for a while? Sometimes it's good to get some distance from your work. Seeing it with slightly fresh eyes.

    If you think it's the best you can do with this story - just post it somewhere!
     
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  4. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Forget this one and write another one. Then do that again if you have to. Seriously, how many bad stories can you write in a row? I know, for me, sometimes I have to write the bad stories to be able to write the good ones.
     
  5. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If you don't like it, why would you post it? What would be the point?

    I wrote a few attempted novels (there is an old saying that the first million words you write are practice; I believe that is an underestimate) before I got to one that I had enough confidence in to seek publication. I still have them. They all were excellent learning experiences, and I value them. But, like you with yours, I look at them now and I can see the holes, the imperfections. I wouldn't dream of posting them anywhere because they aren't my best work.

    You say you started out writing a short story, but that it grew as you learned what makes a story. It sounds as if you have, now, a novella. Decades ago, my grandmother, who had recently learned how to knit, decided to make a sweater for my great aunt, who was a nun. But she didn't know when and how to stop. So, she decided it would be a shawl. Still couldn't stop. When my aunt finally opened it on Christmas, she pulled it out, fold after fold, layer after layer - more an afghan than anything else.

    The thing is, you really need to know when you start what it is you are writing. A short story has different boundaries than a novella, which is different from a novel. Understand what makes up each, then pick one and go.
     
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  6. Thunderhead

    Thunderhead Member

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    If it was me I would probably shelve it and move on to the next one. You might come back to it someday, look at it with fresh eyes and fix the issues, or alternatively, you might incorporate the aspects of it that you were happy with into something new. But maybe take a break from it for now and write something else, using everything you learned from this experience. Personally I wouldn't put something out there that I don't feel great about.

    Edited to add: I think your story has a cool premise too!
     
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  7. Poetical Gore

    Poetical Gore Member

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    Well, to be fair, your reputation is already in the shitter. :p

    I just read this like 20 mins ago, sorry I am just copying and pasting here from someone else

    quote!
    The events of the short story in altering a protagonist’s perspective thus reveal her or his soul.

    This lifting up and highlighting the best of what we, as humans, have to offer—our strength in yielding to life’s bends and turns, in spite of our deepest yearnings and desires—unveils the hope of mankind. Here again, we encounter the brilliance and challenge in crafting the short story. How to reveal soul in the midst of the mundane atrocities and eccentric beauties of life.

    And to do it in less words than required by a novel.

    It is helpful to introduce a symbol at the outset of the story, a physical object that travels with the protagonist and serves as a familiar for the major character and her or his soul. This object undergoes the catharsis along with the protagonist, and also mirrors the transformation of perspective the protagonist achieves at the close of the drama.

    As with the first sentence a client speaks in their initial session of psychotherapy, so goes the opening line of a short story. It tells the beginning and the ending of the story while also providing the moral tying each to the other.

    Character evolution occurs at warp speed in the short story as compared to that of the novel. Likewise, the short story depicts one aspect of the spiritual battle fought on the elaborate physical plane of life. The close introspection of life both internal and external do not allow for subplots or more than one major character. The writer, in revising and honing the short story, purges all that is unnecessary in the dive to the ocean’s floor of the protagonist’s soul.

    Each sentence is of most importance in the search of that pearl of greatest delight, that personality trait or human flaw causing the problem and that also holds the key to liberation. Writing short stories tries the writer’s way and method of fashioning words into sentences. Every word must display purpose, otherwise be sacrificed. Striving for brevity of words the writer achieves single-mindedness in thought and action. Not unlike the bodhisattva warrior, the writer aims the arrow of our pen and words towards not simply the soul of our protagonist, but in the revelation of what we hope and strive to attain each time we open our soul to craft a story.

    Writing short stories forces us to clarify why we write, and what our souls are trying to convey each time we write. Crafting short stories, we cannot help but improve our skill and artistry at creating fiction, while also increasing our love and compassion for self and mankind.
    endquote!
    https://saradobiebauer.com/2009/08/26/transcendence-and-the-short-story/
     
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  8. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    @Stammis I know how you feel, my story in a bizarre way is a
    patchwork quilt made from the underwear from every Sci-fi
    character that blew up in a space ship. (So I feel ya). :D

    Honestly though, at least put through a few Beta Readers,
    and get some feedback, before you either shelve it or put it
    out into the market.
    You might find that you need fresh eyes looking at your story,
    and sharing their thoughts and ideas of how the story goes. :)
     
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  9. Stammis

    Stammis Banned

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    Thanks everyone.

    The thing is, until recently, I thought the story was good. I don't know if I've "leveled up" or I'm simply tired of the story.

    Giving it some space is a good idea.

    I think the biggest issue is that I've been giving too much attention to the backstory and should focus more on the main premise to keep it simple. Backstory is there to enrich the world, after all. Everything doesn't need to be addressed as long as conflict of the main characters are resolved, right?

    I think it would do the story good if I did some cutting.
     
  10. Magical Writer

    Magical Writer Member

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    With this in mind I would agree shelving it for a while is the best thing to do. But before you do that maybe consider having the story read by a handful of experienced readers. People that will give honest feedback and not sugar coat anything. Once you've taken the time away you need you'll have the feedback there ready and waiting. Once your ready read the story yourself with a fresh mindset and write down your own critique then consult the feed back you received. Issues your worrying about might be because you've convinced yourself there present and not actually noticeable by the reader. Hopefully then you will have a plan on how to approach fixing or improving things.

    Whether you decide to shelve or release I still think letting someone read it is a must. I believe the feedback content is a valuable part of the learning experience for the next project and will only help you grow as a writing.

    Good luck
     
  11. Hwaigon

    Hwaigon Member Reviewer

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    Plunge into it, spout it on the paper, pick one character that's so full of inner chaos and so confused that the story not making
    much sense, just as the events unfolded, won't be a problem. Just as has been said, fill in the holes later. Sure you must know why
    the thoughts were altered, but hey, give that character(s) of yours the freedom to be screwed and feel screwed and just, generally
    imagine yourself in their shoes.

    Pick one theme (the memory alteration), forget about all other, and play with it. Ponder implications. Imagine reactions (ya know the famous
    show-don't-tell mantra). Then pick another. Add a dash of a twist. Take something away from the character. His/her friend, a brooge, an
    intellectual book that is a beacon of sanity for them. Throw in some totally uneaxplainable sh*t.
    Get down to work. I myself have had many, many projects, reeling in my head. I am truly angry with myself I have not finished even one of them, largerly for similar
    reason you've mentioned.
     
  12. Hwaigon

    Hwaigon Member Reviewer

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    Second to the right, and straight on till morning.
    Oh, and don't fall into the trap of thinking you ideas are good or genuine. Ok, they may be.
    But, as Maester Sanderson said, ideas are cheap. So, deal with it, make their realisation exquisite.
     
  13. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Again, I sympathise. I think this is exactly what's just happened to me.

    Are you a procrastinator or do you just 'get on' with it when writing? I ask because I'm very much the former, and it's a problem. I obsess over the story so much, as I'm writing it, that I inevitably get bored of the world, the story and its characters in a very short space of time. Could it be a case of this?

    Sadly, at least for me, these are the stories that never see the light of day again, regardless of their initial potential, so I can't say abandoning it would be the best advice as you may never return to it.

    If you're a stronger person than I, then you'll work through these negatives, but that's very much your call.
     
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  14. Stammis

    Stammis Banned

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    I'm always anxious when I don't write so I physically can't procrastinate... Well, I do have a lot of unfinished stories so I guess I do, in a way.

    I think it's smart to abandon a story if you feel like it's a lost cause, because it's going to take much more time to correct a flawed one than start a new - I imagine.

    I shouldn't be surprised the state my story is in considering it's my first one. Instead of starting over when I could, I held on to what I've already written and rather worked around the flaws than address them, I didn't want my initial work to go to waste, you know, so now I'm paying for it.

    I've decided to give it a few days, cut the story as much as possible and see how it turns out, so one more go before I decide what to do with it.
     
  15. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Yes, if you've decided it's flawed and irreparable, then that's a different story. But I often abandon projects that are going well, simply because I've grown bored of them. That's what I meant about working through the negatives.
     
  16. Skibbs

    Skibbs Member

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    I must admit, I have given up on novels and stories before - whether they have been a train wreck or not - but I find that one should always work into their novel until they are sufficiently happy enough to show it to a close friend. When I do despair due to my work faltering in some way or another - I like to focus on the fact that I've just spent a LOT of time on working on that piece, whether it now seems excruciatingly painful to read or not. Therefore, my advice to you: work into it, even dissect it so that you change individual limb of the text until you are completely satisfied with what you have created. Then, show it to a friend - the chances are that they will like it as you have spent so much time on it so that it should be sufficiently polished to a hight standard. I would suggest this, but if all else fails - I find there is no shame in discarding the book.
     
  17. sprirj

    sprirj Senior Member

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    Open a new document, call it 'second draft' and re-write the whole thing. Keep the bits you liked, but solve the plotholes
     
  18. Mark Lemohr

    Mark Lemohr Member

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    I have collected a group of test readers over the years. They are intelligent, avid readers and have sworn to be brutally honest with me in all aspects; pacing, level of interest in the storyline and characters, ease of visualization ,etc. etc.
    They show me where my mistakes are, because I often can't see them on my own. If the story concept still speaks to you then you can change the parts that do not work. Try and take away the self-judgement and just focus on the process of re-writing until the mistakes are replaced. If you have any other stories on your back burner try working on them for a month so your pain level with your current story can subside. Frustration can be a killer of a cool tale, so try taking a break from it if needed. Happy writing! Mark Lemohr
     
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