Tricky decisions and flawed stories

I’ve been looking over some of my stories, and reading critiques I’ve gotten for them, this week. And I’ve come to realize that at this point, I’ve got a fair few stories – three or four, I figure, where the following things are all true:

  • There’s good things going on in the story, that some readers like considerably.
  • There’s also plot or conceptual problems in the way that the story is written at this point.
  • Try as I might, I can’t figure out a way to resolve the fundamental problem or flaw, without starting again and writing a truly different story that would share only some of the same elements of character and plot.

So, in general – what do I do with these pieces of my work? Is it worthwhile to clean up the more superficial issues that I do know what to do with, (which usually still exist,) and try sending the story out to potential publishers? Or would I be better off just filing the entire mess, including the critiques, away against some future time when I’ve grown as a writer and might actually be able to (and interested enough to) fix the core problem?

And, if applicable, how do I ‘saviore faire la difference’? That is, know how to make the decision on a case by case basis.

5 Responses to Tricky decisions and flawed stories

  1. Lisa says:

    Ah, yes, the ever revolving writer’s conundrum! You ask. I have an opinion. Keep working on the story… you have put time and effort in it as have those who critique for you. There is something there covered by too many words or not yet revealed.

    Good luck. I like that you write with such transparency of the issues we face as writers. I think about your question and how I’d answer it. Such contemplation helps in finding answers to the ‘flaws’ of my writing. For my WIP… I have great scenes, great characters. But large parts are disconnected. Transitions and bridges have been very challenging.



  2. Catherine Johnson says:

    I’ve had the same thing such a lot this year. I’d learn from it and write something new. After a bit of distance you are much more objective. Whatever you decide good luck!


  3. Kurt says:

    If there are one or two with obvious fixes, fix’em and build up your body of work. Keep the stuff that you like that needs more time in a file of “can be salvaged” and put the rest in a file variously triaged “can’t” or “won’t” be salvaged. Then you can start cannibalizing the ideas that really _did_ work from those other stories for use in your newer ones.


  4. Donna Hole says:

    Sometimes a step back is a good thing. Sometimes plowing through with the changes you agree with is the right move. Perhaps you would do well with actually starting to write those changes and see where they lead.

    I had to do a lot of that kind of thinking with the story I submitted for An Honest Lie. I’m sure you will figure out what is the right answer for those novels.



  5. I don’t really know how to answer that except to say it depends on how you feel when you consider what to do. If you look at one MS at a time and consider the heavy rewrites, do you get excited? Are you eager to do it? If not, it may be time to give it a vacation and move on to something that is keeping you interested, but perhaps set a date to come back to it, whether that’s in a month, 6 months, a year. If you just want it to die, I say let it die and use bits of it for later or save it until you feel yourself drawn back to it.


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