Ever have something that you’ve written just suck? Just stink worse than the worst gooey, festered french cheese? And, just as you’re getting ready to scrap the mess you’ve made someone comes along and tries to talk you off of the tower-o-whiteout? They say, no wait, save it. It could come in handy later.
Did it stop you from hitting delete?
If your answer is yes, my follow-up question is, why?
Maybe I’m just brutal with my stories. If something doesn’t work for me, I don’t copy said section and carefully tuck it in between files hoping that on a rainy day it will cease to suck. No. If something doesn’t work for what I’m working with I highlight that son-of-a-gun and wipe that muther out.
No mercy. That’s how I roll.
I am the slayer of sucky script, the tick-tock bomber of tacky text, the…well you get the point. Let’s face it, as a single mom with a day job, I don’t got time for that. Ain’t nobody got time for that. (sorry, couldn’t resist) I really only have time to move forward – to work with what works and ditch the rest. If it’s good enough to include in something else, trust me, it’ll resurface. If it’s “great” and you forget it, well, that’s awfully telling isn’t it.
What matters most to me is flow, how the story works. It’s one of the things that I catch people in writing when I peer edit. If something blocks the flow, cut it out. If there’s fluff getting in the way of the story moving forward, delete. If the ending doesn’t work with the flow of the rest of the story, erase it and start again.
I recommend that to others and I catch myself on it too. I wrote a story recently that, once it was done, I hated the ending because it didn’t flow like the rest of the story. It was abrupt and killed the affect of the story as a whole. It made a creepy horror short into something tacky and it had to go. Because I was more concerned with the flow of the story I didn’t have any trouble dropping the last 4-5 paragraphs and re-writing them.
And because I threw out what didn’t work and took the time to re-write, my readers came back with positive reviews. And It got accepted into an anthology and should be published in the next couple of months. Yay! Whoohoo! Hoorah!
But I digress…
What are the key points that tip me off to something arresting the flow of a work? Whether it’s exposition or dialogue, whatever is being said has to be important and relevant. The shorter the story the more important the details become. Even if it’s a critical detail, another key point is: does it move the story forward, or does it adversely affect the pace? Even a critical detailed placed in the wrong spot at the wrong time can make a story stumble.
If you’re in an action scene, you’re writing short, concise, abrupt sentences. It ratchets up the tension. If you drop in a paragraph long mega sentence you’ve just effed up your flow. Rewrite.
If you’re in an scene where a character is being introduced and you have the other characters thinking about how they’d rather being elsewhere AND you want this new character to be important, you’ve just effed up your flow. If you’re going to divert attention from the new character there has to be an excellent reason for it. Otherwise rewrite.
If you’re at the beginning of your story and you’re hoping to hook your audience, then hook them dammit. If you spend your first 10 pages or so talking about randomness because your MC has focus issues worse than a tweaked out junkie, you’ve effed up your flow. Time to rewrite. Especially with beginnings, you have to be focused and concise – what you set up as flow here will set the tone for the whole story.
(The adverse is true too, if your first ten pages are too slow, good flow or not, you’ll lose the reader.)
If you’ve come to the end of your story and you feel like everything just fell into place…almost too easily… step away for a day, and come back to it to read it through. Most likely, if the ending comes easily, you’ve effed up the flow and dropped that ending like a frozen turkey into a vat of boiling oil.
There’s lots of ways to mess up the flow of your story, but only one way to fix it. Be courageous. Be bold. Dust off that delete key and don’t be afraid to rewrite.