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seun
10-10-2009, 05:15 PM
I recently wrote a short story which I've just finished reading through. It's shit. There's no way around it. It's shit. It's vague, without any character or drama, and worst of all, it's boring.

I've got a couple of ideas on what might improve it (other than writing the whole thing again, obviously), but I'm wondering if it's really worth it. The only thing telling me it might be is a similar situation I had a couple of years ago with another story that was terrible. I kept at it and eventually turned it into a decent piece. This one, on the other hand, is much worse than any other first draft story I've written.

So have you had any joy with salvaging a story? Or have you just let the ones that didn't work die quietly?

Mr Flibble
10-10-2009, 05:32 PM
Well there was this one bit of writing -- back when I first started this craziness. It was supposed to be a couple of pages of backstory that morphed into a 60k first draft lol

I've been looking it over just lately ( because I liked the story and I'd love to get it working) Obviously it needs some work - I was nooby, er, noobier when I wrote it.

I've tinkered with it, and in fact may have to rewrite portions of it. But it's better already. Shaping up quite nicely in fact.

We have the technology - we can rebuild it! :D

scarletpeaches
10-10-2009, 05:35 PM
I've never written a short story in my life and never will...but I have a trunk novel I want to resurrect. I keep saying, "Soon, soon..." but other projects always demand attention.

It'll need rebuilding from the bottom up, but now I've had the idea of how to salvage it, I know it's possible. What was my trunk novel will become Part One of the all-new novel, and I'll introduce some new characters and situations in Part Two.

The story was cliched but the characters from my trunk novel were fun. They have potential. I just wasn't mature enough to help them realise that when I first wrote it (I was eighteen).

seun
10-10-2009, 05:36 PM
I've never written a short story in my life and never will

Interesting. Why's that?

kct webber
10-10-2009, 05:37 PM
All I can say is that only you know if it's worth it. I've done both. Or... all three things. Salvage. Complete rewrites. And intensive edits. (The last two are close to the same thing.) I always keep my old writing--even the shit--for salvage. You never know what odd situation or character is going to come in useful in something else. :)

ETA: By salvage, I mean parting it out like an old car.

scarletpeaches
10-10-2009, 05:38 PM
I try to limit my ideas to, say, -10k and they go on and on and on.

The characters and situations that come to mind demand to have their stories told over a period of 80k words or more. I've never been able to separate out a 'slice of life' and confine myself to short story length.

I know people who write shorts and I admire them for their talent, but...it's not that I don't like short stories - I occasionally read them myself, but at heart I'm a novel writer. I'm not avoiding shorts; it's just my ideas are always longer than standard short story length.

kaitie
10-10-2009, 05:42 PM
Being the person I am, I'd just toss it for a short story. I've written quite a few and rarely have been happy with any, but also can't imagine putting the work into making them worthwhile. I think that's because I don't take my short stories seriously, though. If I've written them, it's typically because they were required for something. I'm like Scarletpeaches in that anything I write attempting to be short ends up a novel haha.

But if it's important to you as a story and something you really want to tell, or even just for the challenge of improving go for it. :)

Brutal Mustang
10-10-2009, 05:42 PM
I try to limit my ideas to, say, -10k and they go on and on and on.
That happens to me. Recently I tried writing a short story to submit to a magazine. It grew into 40K, and is at the halfway point.

As for salvaging, I have sooo many fresh ideas, I can't see myself bothering with any of my trunk novels. Better to write something that excites me more.

ChaosTitan
10-10-2009, 05:45 PM
I know people who write shorts and I admire them for their talent, but...it's not that I don't like short stories - I occasionally read them myself, but at heart I'm a novel writer. I'm not avoiding shorts; it's just my ideas are always longer than standard short story length.

Up until about three months ago, this was totally me. I just did not understand short stories and I couldn't figure out a way to keep my ideas any shorter than 15k. But a lot of folks put together anthologies in UF, so my agent suggested I try a few. First couple failed. Then I finally read some advice online that perfectly voiced what I was missing--the thing that makes a short story...well, short. :)

Back on topic...

seun - Not every story is meant to be saved. If the story is as bad as you say, will all the work in saving it really be worth it? Or can you just take whatever there is about it that makes you want to save it and write something completely new?

Brutal Mustang
10-10-2009, 05:48 PM
Then I finally read some advice online that perfectly voiced what I was missing--the thing that makes a short story...well, short. :)


Well, what is it?

ChaosTitan
10-10-2009, 05:58 PM
Well, what is it?

Hehe. Sorry. The post is from the blog Genreality, run by a small group of UF and paranormal romance authors.

http://www.genreality.net/writing-short

Perhaps it was because I studied film in college, but this particular part of the post is what lit the metaphorical light bulb for me:



In my mind I think of things like this.


Short stories are like a half hour sitcom. A situation.


Novellas are like the one-hour drama. Not the soap opera or Desperate housewives type that are serials, but more like Law and Order or The Closer or even Angel, Buffy and Firefly. Each show deals with ONE PLOT. These shows also have threads that continue all season, and underlay each episode, but thatís because they are continuing. Make sense?


Novels are like a feature film. The good ones have it all. Action, drama, emotion and resolution.


I read this right after watching an hour of "Everybody Loves Raymond" episodes, and realized yes! Each episode was about a single situation that Ray was in. Not all sitcoms work exactly like that (Friends tends to meander between several situations), but that's what a sitcom is--a situational comedy.


Helpful? :)

scarletpeaches
10-10-2009, 05:59 PM
It's cleared things up, but I still know I'm a novelist. I can't see me (voluntarily) ever writing a short. It would probably take me as long to write as a novel!

Mr Flibble
10-10-2009, 06:02 PM
It's cleared things up, but I still know I'm a novelist. I can't see me (voluntarily) ever writing a short. It would probably take me as long to write as a novel!


I used to think I'd never write a short story - too fond of gabbing on lol. I finally did to a prompt in the SFF forum - it sparked an idea to write a short from an incident in one of my character's earlier life.

My shorts tend to be silly affairs for a giggle but as an exercise in doing something different ( and then using that experience in your novels) it's quite informative

seun
10-10-2009, 06:09 PM
I think the best thing for me to do with this story is leave it for a week or two. I've got a couple of ideas for it but as it's that bad, it'll help to leave it alone for a while.

kaitie
10-10-2009, 06:11 PM
It's cleared things up, but I still know I'm a novelist. I can't see me (voluntarily) ever writing a short. It would probably take me as long to write as a novel!

Ditto. I just don't have the drive to do it. Wow. That sounds weird, doesn't it? :tongue I can spit out 700 pages of a novel, but ask me to write a 20 page short story and I'm going, "Ew...I'm just so unmotivated." :D

ChaosTitan
10-10-2009, 06:12 PM
My shorts tend to be silly affairs for a giggle but as an exercise in doing something different ( and then using that experience in your novels) it's quite informative

I think the "doing something different" is why I'm glad to have finally made progress in figuring out shorts. I like different kinds of writing. I adore novels, obviously. But I wrote essays in college, and I really enjoyed those. I've written screenplays and television scripts. I've tried poetry, but am just not very good at it.

The only fiction formats I haven't conquered yet are micro-fiction and stage plays. We'll see. ;)

(ETA: sorry for the derail, seun)

seun
10-10-2009, 06:49 PM
(ETA: sorry for the derail, seun)

Just make sure it doesn't happen again ;)

Izz
10-10-2009, 11:54 PM
I think the best thing for me to do with this story is leave it for a week or two. I've got a couple of ideas for it but as it's that bad, it'll help to leave it alone for a while.Yep, you've given yourself good advice, seun.

Don't try salvaging while you're still thinking how terrible it is. You'll likely end up deciding never to look at it again.

But after a week or two (or a month or two) you'll find it a lot easier to salvage. Just recently, after about three or four months away from it, i came back to a short that i was sure was total crap-on-a-stick. Read it, thought, 'hey, i just need to change the ending and sharpen up some of the characterization and edit/tighten and it might work.' I just started subbing that story this week.

StandJustSo
10-11-2009, 12:07 AM
I keep all my writing, even the shit ones. One never knows... I could find something usable in some of the shit to apply elsewhere. That's what I tell myself, anyway. It's the only form of hoarding I do now, after conquering clutter in my life. I have several short stories in the horror genre that are unfinished; I find writing them much more difficult than writing a novel. Poetry is the easiest thing for me to write, but I haven't worked on any for a long time, because the muse right now is to finish my book.

I've written some short ER Fanfictions though, with little trouble. Maybe the borrowing of characters has something to do with that, and also being able to rely on the readers knowing the background and history of the scenes I write about is the reason Fanfic is easier???

ishtar'sgate
10-11-2009, 12:08 AM
So have you had any joy with salvaging a story? Or have you just let the ones that didn't work die quietly?
If it's a short story I usually file it away and leave it for a year or so then have another look. If it still seems as if I can't do much with it I let it die.

Stijn Hommes
10-11-2009, 01:09 AM
I would never give up on a short if I still had ideas for improvement. Keep at it. You had success with it before, so you might very well do well again this time.

Lady Ice
10-11-2009, 06:29 PM
I recently wrote a short story which I've just finished reading through. It's shit. There's no way around it. It's shit. It's vague, without any character or drama, and worst of all, it's boring.

I've got a couple of ideas on what might improve it (other than writing the whole thing again, obviously), but I'm wondering if it's really worth it. The only thing telling me it might be is a similar situation I had a couple of years ago with another story that was terrible. I kept at it and eventually turned it into a decent piece. This one, on the other hand, is much worse than any other first draft story I've written.

So have you had any joy with salvaging a story? Or have you just let the ones that didn't work die quietly?

Yep, I think it's possible.

Take the idea and rewrite it, without referring to the original. Then compare them.

mathewferguson
10-12-2009, 09:44 AM
Rewriting and repairing is a very necessary skill so yes, have another hack at it. Giving a piece of writing some time to rest is a great idea but it's not always possible. For those cases, you need to learn how to rewrite when you haven't forgotten the work yet.

Having said that ... knowing when to give up is a necessary skill too.

Ruv Draba
10-12-2009, 10:39 AM
It depends on why you wanted to write it in the first place and why it's crap and what it took to get the draft you have and what else you have bubbling at the time.

Often I'll write a short to prototype a setting or characters or style for something bigger. So 'crap' then might mean there's a problem in the bigger thing. I'll be keenly interested in what's making it crapulent and what it needs. I'll probably redo it until I'm satisfied.

Sometimes I'll write a short to explore a simple question or a theme. 'Crap' then either means a) 'I haven't thought about it enough' or b) 'I don't yet have the skills or experience to execute this treatment'. So a) tells me think more; b) tells me see where I'm falling short and how I can improve -- which might entail working on some other stuff until I get a handle on it.

Sometimes I'll just write a short brain-fart. 'Crap' then means I was just amusing myself in between serious writing. I'll trunk it and move on. :)

Red-Green
10-12-2009, 05:33 PM
I recently wrote a short story which I've just finished reading through. It's shit. There's no way around it. It's shit. It's vague, without any character or drama, and worst of all, it's boring.


Well, based on that description, I'd let it die. No drama, no character, and boring? What in hell does it have to redeem it? :D

Phaeal
10-12-2009, 06:04 PM
I get out all my crap in the prewriting outline stage, so I've never shelved a story yet. NOTE: I do a LOT of prewriting.

Maybe if you went back to the prewriting stage, as it were. Did some freewriting about the story until it sparked for you again.

I used to think I could never write a short story, as I too thought long. Determined to rack up some publication credits, I told myself, "Self, you are going to write at least ten short stories."

Self whimpered.

I started by thinking about what snips of my bigger stories had their own little arcs that could stand alone. Bits of backstory, bits of future story. My first short story was one incident from the history of a novel character.

Weird, once I wrote that first short, lots of naturally short-length bunnies started flocking to me. It was like I'd put on glasses that picked up wavelengths not formerly visible to my eyes, and wow! Look at all the short stories running around out there! The world's lousy with 'em.

(Also started listening to NPR all day long. NPR gives more attention to each report than most media venues, so the reports are long enough to get my imagination going, but still short enough so they make for compact bunnies.)

Recently bagged the tenth short. And lots more short bunnies in the hutch!

seun
10-12-2009, 09:46 PM
Well, based on that description, I'd let it die. No drama, no character, and boring? What in hell does it have to redeem it? :D

A very small degree of potential. :tongue