History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Identifying and Fixing Flawed Stories

Writer at work on a typewriterAs I’ve written more and more stories, I’ve reached a point now where I can draft a story and often see that it’s a flawed story. Sometimes, I’ve grabbed onto something too big for the scope of a short story. Other times, it’s that not much is happening, in spite of having a lot of words. Reaching a point where this is something that you can identify about your own stories is a valuable skill to learn.

The corollary to this skill, however, is figuring out how to fix a flawed story that you’ve written. This is something that I’m not as skilled with at the current stage of my writing career. Just because I can locate the various flaws doesn’t mean that I can come up with the solution on how to repair those flaws. Sometimes, a flawed story is just not able to be fixed. But other times, the story can be fixed, but maybe not at the present time.

When I come across one of these stories that I’ve identified as flawed, but I’m not sure how to fix it, there are two choices in my mind. The first is to completely rewrite the story with a new approach and likely a new plot. Sometimes the characters need a few tweaks too. But it’s unlikely that I can get the story to where I want it to be without starting over from scratch.

The second alternative is to file the story away in my partial stories folder and come back to it later. I know that I’m always learning new techniques and tricks in my writing, even after spending more than a decade working on my craft. Sometimes, today’s problem can’t be solved with today’s knowledge, but it can be solved with tomorrow’s knowledge. So every once in a while, when I’m looking for a project and don’t have any new ideas, I sift through that partial stories folder and see what gems I’ve got hiding in there. Sometimes, learning something new over the course of writing more stories shows me the way to fix that flawed story months or years after I had to set it aside! And it’s always a nice feeling to be able to pull something from that partial stories folder, fix it up, and send it out into the world to find a home. It’s magnificent when those stories find their homes, because I was willing to give them and myself time to figure out how to fix them!


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