22 March 2010

The Benefits of Not Giving Up

How many stories are saved, half-finished, on your hard drive? Or, at this very moment, have you written the first few pages of a story, decided it is not working as planned, and thought about putting it away? I want to encourage you to keep writing until the end--even if, with every word you type--you are more convinced it sucks. Why bother?
  1. Your story may be better than you think. Try giving it to your critique group. Chances are, they'll like it and you'll realize it was your mean internal editor sending you the wrong message about the story. Or, they'll give you some ideas about why it is not working that you can address on a rewrite.
  2. The writing process answers questions your left brain cannot figure out. Oftentimes, when I'm writing a story, I don't quite have the ending worked out until I'm typing. Or sometimes the ending is different than I planned. I love it when this happens--it is one of those ah-ha moments that makes writing fun.
  3. If the beginning of the story isn't working well, you can always go back and revise. The fact remains that you can't make an objective judgment about whether a story is working until you have an ending. The end may even force you to rewrite the beginning, but that's okay, right?
  4. If you "finish" the story on paper but it still isn't working, your subconscious is still working on it. You might get another one of those "ah-ha" moments about how to fix it when you're in the shower rather than on the keyboard. I've found these moment come more easily when a draft is completed, rather than when it is half-done.
  5. Let's say you finish a story and decide not to send it out to magazines because it is not your best work. A completed story still has value on your hard drive. You never know when you'll come across an anthology or context that fits your story exactly. You might just get it published after all.


Dale Carothers said...

My story "Bright Wings in the Ebony Hall" from the October 2009 issue of Electric Spec is a finalist for The Harper's Pen Award. Yet another of "The Benefits of Not Giving Up."

lesleylsmith said...

Congratulations, Dale! Awesome!

Betsy Dornbusch said...

Congrats, Dale!

Kat Heckenbach said...

One of the things I do is rant at my main critique partner--via email. I start listing things about the story that isn't working. I think there's something about my fingers on the keyboard--more than just my mind on the story--that gets things flowing. By the end of the email, I've often solved the snag that is holding the story back. Or, I've created a question in my critter's mind, and when she emails back asking, "So why is...?" I realize, "Aha! THAT'S what is missing!"

A.L. Sirois said...

I have more damn stories in various stages of completion around here... some date back to the pre-computer age (or my pre-computer age, anyway; I got my first one in 1986 or so). I do go through the pile every so often just to see of any of the orphans are ready for adoption. Earlier this year I finished one that had been sitting around for about 20 years. It was simply ready to be written... so now it's making the rounds.

I have also found that some of the ideas I have jotted down in the past may not be worthy of full-length treatment but *can* be repurposed... often into Twitter-zine stories. I've written half a dozen of these 140-character nanostories this month (MArch 2010) and am busy submitting them.

I also keep a journal for each story, partly for the reason Kat mentions above... just to keep my fingers on the keys. A journal is a great place to track ideas and concerns.

All of which is to say, don't throw anything away, and go through your idea file every so often. I feel that these things are definitely a part of "never giving up."