It wasn’t a horribly-written story. In fact, it had amused me and a couple of other people who’d read it. My critique group had given me stunningly insightful feedback on what I needed to do to take it from ‘promising’ to ‘good’.
But instead, I put it away and will probably never look at it again.
How Do You Know When It’s Time To Give Up On A Story?
This is a question that comes up surprisingly often among writers.
Wouldn’t you think we’d KNOW if a story was worth working on, or whether it should be consigned to the darkest recesses of our cloud drives, never to be accessed again?
This week’s podcast features a clip from an episode from two years ago, in which I talked about the different cycles in a writing life. And I apologize in advance for making you crave some freshly baked bread…
Pick and implement a ‘tiny win’ for today, that doesn’t involve writing new words.
It’s very important to feel the reality that not everything in a writer’s life is about adding words.
These suggestions are designed to help you carve our time not just for writing, but for ‘writing’ (all the other stuff that goes with it).
Choose from one thing from this list (or make up something similar) and carve out 15-20 minutes to focus on it. Turn off all your notifications and just allow yourself to focus.
Then report back, to let us know what you did, and to celebrate!
Find a tiny notebook in your stash (you know you have a notebook stash!) and commit to carrying it with you every day for a week, so you can capture ideas. Start by writing down something you can see, hear, taste, touch and smell right where you are, right now.
Read a story by someone else and write down everything you love and hate about it.
Go for a walk or get some other kind of exercise that gets your blood pumping. Bonus points for getting out of your usual space. (Your brain is connected to the rest of your body. Take care of them!)
Write a review of a book you loved and always meant to get around to reviewing. Bonus points: write a letter to the author, if they’re still with us (you can send it to the publisher listed in their books). Connecting to the rest of the writing world builds your commitment to your craft, and reminds you that authors are just people. Hey, you’re a person! Maybe you DO have a right to write, too!
Ask another writer how they’re doing. This can be someone who seems to be doing “so much better” than you. (Connect on Twitter or some other social media site.) Trust me they’ll appreciate it. And again, building your connections with the greater writing world will help you feel more committed, and stop you from slinking off and saying “I could never be a real writer so I might as well not try”. Of course you can be a writer. And having connections with people in the writing world helps remind you of that.
Revise a short story or scene that you’ve previously written. Focus on crafting one sentence you really love, somewhere in that piece.
Rework a story or scene to cut it down by 10% of its word count. Be ruthless (work on a copy if you have to!). What does that do for the story and your prose?
Set a timer and spend 20 minutes (no more! It’s a rabbit hole!) researching publications you might want to send stories to.
Doodle or illustrate a story you previously write. You might draw a portrait of a main character, sketch the house they live in, or splash colors on the page to represent their personality.
Make a Pinterest board of interesting characters and places you can use in stories (thanks to MoniqueAC for this suggestion!). Again, set a timer, because this is meant to be a tiny win, not a new lifetime project!
Go on–or book–what Julia Cameron calls an Artist’s Date. What inspires you? For me it’s often music. For you, it might be art. Can you book an outing now, to an art museum, a live music concert, a play? Can you put a time on your calendar to walk in your favorite park, or call your funniest friend?
What other tiny wins can you think of? What did you try and how did it go? Leave a comment and share your ideas!
It can be hard to write endings (So many logistics! So tired from writing the whole story!), but the ending is the thing that sends your reader off into the world feeling good about your story…or deflated because you let them down.
In this week’s episode I talk about the importance of endings, and a powerful way for you to think about them so you can delight your reader.
Also: I talk about StoryADay’s writing prompts for November and my impressions of the 2019 edition of the Best American Short Stories anthology, edited by Anthony Doerr.