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Rewriting When It's Godawful (1 Viewer)

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luckyscars

WF Veterans
Here's the situation: You have written a story...and it sucks.

You like the general idea behind it, enough you don't want to just throw the whole thing away, but the problems are rife throughout, to the point there are very few or zero scenes that are remotely in the ballpark of acceptability.

Do you:

(1) Start completely over, referring to the original as a guide
(2) Start completely over, not referring to the original, try to revisit it 'fresh' and with no loyalty to the prior iteration.
(3) Go through the existing text and make a zillion painstaking corrections to try to rescue it
(4) Give up and go stick your head in the oven.
 
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TWErvin2

Senior Member
Make a list of what worked with the initial effort and what didn't.
With all of that in mind, if you think the story is worth telling, start over, keeping an eye on the list, to keep on the right track and avoid the pitfalls.

I say 'if the story is worth telling' because you probably have many other tales to tell, and you have to decide if it is worth the time and effort. Or possibly that, at this moment in your writing career, you may not have the skills to tell the tale. In that case, save it (with the list--as a reminder), and move on to the next project.
 

Tiamat

Patron
So far that answer for me is: Set it aside, go write other things, and then if the idea still won't quit nagging you, take another shot at it a few months or years later. That said, I've found that sometimes the second attempt still sucks--but differently, and possibly less so. Option four is always on the table. (Unless, like me, you have an electric oven.)
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
What works best for me is to put the story away and start work (or continue work) on something else. Sometimes after ignoring the bad piece for a while, then coming back to it, it's easier to see where it can be improved. An intense period of reading can also help. We can get inspired by other writers' strategies. I write lots of poetry, short fiction, essays, am working on a couple of novels, and a nonfiction book, etc. so I *always* have work that needs improving. The oven is never an option for me. I have too much work to do in getting my work to shape up the way it should. Literally hundreds of pieces are patiently waiting for my attention. Some bad pieces have been with me for over twenty years . . .
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
Put it away and go about my normal business while it turns over vaguely in my head, until one day there is a degree of coalescence and I feel I can rewrite it, or include some essential parts of the idea into a different story.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I would personally rescue it only if I got the right feedback. In a rejection I got it said (hence me rescuing it and rewriting it): needs more prose, read choppy in some places, you got the technology right. People sugarcoat often but I know it's because they don't think I have thick enough skin despite the fact I respect them despite their opinions. I respect them and sugarcoating which was probably best since I have an emotional disability ( although now I am stable according to my doctor). I can accept that I need to keep improving and that feedback is important despite this. I need to read out loud if not dictating. That is to say people should respect abledness and it's brother or twin that represents the opposite. Its an attitude I have seen. I got a story I got paid for despite some saying it had problems. I would take the less cynical approach to rewriting. Because of my unique background and circumstances. I suspect scrapping wasn't a option I wanted. I rewrote the old story many months later since I wanted to since I always thought it had potential. Now if it is a bad approach many famous writers have said rewriting is for them or never rewrite. And between the long period of acceptances of short stories it seems to me worth it. A zillion is an exaggerated number. Writing is for most of us a solitary pursuit. I don't want to throw away my muse. It can be used. A bad story is subjective. I don't know what that is. I do know what rewriting is. Sounds like biased language used to discuss rewriting. I hope my opinion doesn't sound negative. I am the very definition of a rewriter. I rewrote old works of mine. Maybe since I received positive feedback. But now I just reread something. I didn't concentrate on that strategy before as much as now. Now maybe this is just me. But then I only write short stories since it is therapeutic. For dsylexia rewriting happens even if you don't want to do it. Because of that I rewrote often. Then I need to double check for mistakes. So yes dyslexia makes this happen quite often in my case.
 
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Bloggsworth

WF Veterans
Put it a drawer for 6 months while you deal with the covid crisis, then, without looking at it, write a synopsis; that way you will possibly remember the bits that worked and find a better way to join them up.
 
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Kyle R

WF Veterans
You're describing what a lot of writers refer to as the "first draft". :D

Granted, not everyone likes to draft. But for some writers, writing a crappy/terrible first draft is a normal step in the process. Then they get started writing "Draft 2", now that they have a better idea of the story they want to tell.

I think a lot depends on expectations, as well. If you go into it expecting a near-publishable product on the first shot, you'll either be pleasantly surprised, or terribly frustrated. (For me, it's usually the latter.) :grief:

But if you go into it expecting a "first draft" on the first shot, then you're more likely to be mentally prepared (and, hopefully, eager) to tackle the second draft.

Worth considering, anyway! :encouragement:
 
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Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
I have a huge collection of totally failed haiku. Hundreds and hundreds of completely failed haiku. I don't destroy them because I've at least captured the images I might want to use in other work (and I've done that very thing several times). I find my collection of failures quite handy for my other writing. So I think what can seem to be failure in one sense, can turn out to be helpful in another. Or that's what I tell myself.
 

LadySilence

Senior Member
I put it on pause, I forget it.
Then I reread it, and change it.
I wait a while.
Then I reread it and decide.
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
(1) Start completely over, referring to the original as a guide

I would take it as a story I wasn't quite ready to write. So, I'd put it on hold and come back to it at a later date.
 

Sir-KP

Senior Member
I did number 2, though not exactly.

The concept of the story was unchanged. The nuance, theme, genre, characters (except protagonist and a supporting character), events, were changed.

Saved the draft as new doc file, wiped nearly everything out and began the new-same story.
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
Here's the situation: You have written a story...and it sucks.

You like the general idea behind it, enough you don't want to just throw the whole thing away, but the problems are rife throughout, to the point there are very few or zero scenes that are remotely in the ballpark of acceptability.

Do you:

(1) Start completely over, referring to the original as a guide
(2) Start completely over, not referring to the original, try to revisit it 'fresh' and with no loyalty to the prior iteration.
(3) Go through the existing text and make a zillion painstaking corrections to try to rescue it
(4) Give up and go stick your head in the oven.

It depends if it's gas or electric.
 

JJBuchholz

Senior Member
Here's the situation: You have written a story...and it sucks.

You like the general idea behind it, enough you don't want to just throw the whole thing away, but the problems are rife throughout, to the point there are very few or zero scenes that are remotely in the ballpark of acceptability.

Do you:

(1) Start completely over, referring to the original as a guide
(2) Start completely over, not referring to the original, try to revisit it 'fresh' and with no loyalty to the prior iteration.
(3) Go through the existing text and make a zillion painstaking corrections to try to rescue it
(4) Give up and go stick your head in the oven.

This doesn't happen to me often, but when it does, the choice is usually #1. I have started completely over, but kept the rough draft to duplicate the idea, and modify the story to make it more palatable. It's a bit of a pain when this occurs, so when I do start over, I make sure that the second attempt works because I don't like to keep reinventing something over and over while wasting so much time on it.

-JJB
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
I like to go off the wall with suggestions sometimes. ;-) Have you let anyone else read it? If not, get someone to do that. Don't tell them you think it's bad. Let them tell you that. Maybe you are your own worst critic. It's not uncommon for even veteran writers to have a crisis of confidence over something they just wrote, when what they just wrote doesn't really have a problem.
 
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