A ‘Bad’ Story or Just Difficult?

I recently read this Writer’s Digest article about there being no such thing as a failed story because you can learn from the ones that don’t work. In fact, the author argues that you will produce a lot of bad stories, that you will have to get through them, to write a successful story.

Now, I’m all for learning from our mistakes and I do believe that the process of writing is one through which you learn and develop and improve as a writer. Thing is, though, creating a story takes such a lot of time it seems to me that if you can tell you’re working on a ‘failure’, to continue to do so would be to waste time that could be spent on a story that ends up a success. So, what happens when you’ve created a story and you really want it to work but it just won’t? Should you persist in your efforts only to declare it one of these ‘failed’ stories you had to write? Or should you give up now, before it uses up any more of your limited time?

Giving up on a story, though, it feels like giving up on your child. Is it even possible to do that? To let go of something you’ve struggled with for so long? What if you’re wrong about that story – what if it could become a success if only you’d try another different approach? The way to make it work might be out there. I’ve been close to giving up on a story, before, and then had an epiphany and tried another approach and had it transform into one of my best.

How do you know whether it’s a bad story, and never going to be good, or just difficult?


One thought on “A ‘Bad’ Story or Just Difficult?

  1. I have given a lot of thought to this over the years…In all honesty, my measure of when a story had run out the end of its string or whether it remained a story with life in it yet has always been whether or not it garnered and/or maintained interest from an agent or an editor.

    Looking back, ehh…Maybe that wasn’t the truest measure, but it was the one I used. After I went through roughly a kazillion revisions of my current novel and saw how strong it could be given the right direction and time, I did admittedly think about all those manuscripts of the past that I shelved in favor of a new WIP when they didn’t “seal the deal” so to speak.

    I think it comes down to what the endgame is for the writer. If it’s to become published, then perhaps a story is always considered fundamentally “bad” after however many submissions. If the goal isn’t to become published, then maybe the manuscript will always be difficult, and the author can flesh it out until it either pleases them or they tire of it, or a new project brings inspiration.

    Either way it is always a tricky thing to determine. I’ve had manuscripts that I had a terrible time putting away and others that were so easy to part with it made me wonder how I’d come to write them in the first place.

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