Story Flaw Fixes

Wednesday, March 27, 2013
You write a book, you begin to market it to agents or publishers, and then, zero. Nada. Zilch. In other words, the story you poured your heart and soul into sits in the document file of your computer or is shoved to the back of a filing cabinet.

If you find this happening to a piece of your writing, take another look at what you've put on paper. More than likely, the story has a flaw that can be fixed, and in the long run, these edits will make it a stronger piece of writing.

  1. No action, no reaction. Without a catalyst for action, a story sits - and will more than likely never sell. It's a basic notion of physics, and in this case, literature: Something must happen that causes a reaction from characters. Now, the action doesn't have to be major, but a single event or non-event acts as a turning point for a story. 
  2. Whoa, Nellie! Have you ever started reading (or writing) a story that has too much exposition and by the time you reach what should be the beginning, you've lost interest? I find this a lot when I edit stories for a publishing company, and it always reminds me of lines from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. "Begin at the beginning." "The beginning?" asked my  mother. "The beginning of the story." Readers don't want to get bogged down with information that does not impact the storyline.
  3. Repetition. I'll plead guilty to this common flaw. I find I overuse certain words or phrases. They are everywhere! A few weeks ago, I was reviewing several poems I have written to submit to a contest. That's when it struck me: I have a pet phrase that showed up in all five poems. It's the same principle when you write fiction or non-fiction: tell us what you want to tell us. Readers don't need to be constantly reminded of something that happened.
 If you have a manuscript stuck in a drawer, give it a second perusal and see if you can apply any of these fixes.

Have you committed any of these story flaws?

by LuAnn Schindler


Unknown said...

My first and only attempt at a novel had, I think, every one of these stinkin' flaws! I tucked it away for now and am pursuing other writing I find more fulfilling and chalked it up to a fun learning experience. These are good flags to be aware of.

Sioux Roslawski said...

LuAnn--I'm working on a novel and I am afraid it's full of some of the flaws you're warning about, along with some "new" ones. Yikes!

Thanks for the flares you've set off. I'll be sure to keep an eye out for them as I proceed down this curvy path...

LuAnn Schindler said...

I always apply the action-reaction premise to acting when I direct a play; students don't always realize there needs to be a reaction to every line, whether it's a physical change in stance or a changed facial expression. I hope that has carried over to my writing. Now I need to work on the other two...

I'll be giving a few more fixes then next time I blog. :)

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