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Killing stories (putting them out of their miseries)

Crumbly Writer

Trying to create a new, subject related post ...

I just realized that a new story just isn't working. Unfortunately, instead of discovering this during the early first draft, I was halfway through the revision process and getting started on the editing phase. Although I knew the story had 'issues' before, I kept plugging away on it. Now, it's so far along it feels like I'm killing one of my children.

How many of you have killed stories in:
1) First few chapters (when you realize it isn't working)
2) Midway or near completion (of the first draft) when you realize the story doesn't hold together or hit a major plot hole
3) Midway through the revision cycle
4) During the editing cycle (say when a helpful editor points out a major plot hole).
5) midway through a story posting?

How are each of these phases different? And did you eventually go on to resurrect those stories, or were they completely abandoned?

Replies:   Argon  Daydreamz  DeYaKen

I think killing it and deleting any posted chapters is preferable to abandoning a story to languish uncompleted and ignored, frustrating the hell out of readers.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer


In my case, since I finish, proof and publish before I post to SOL, no one ever sees my failed projects.


@Crumbly Writer

I keep my abandoned projects. Some of them were quite advanced but did not work out. Others I started only to realise they were developing into remakes of my older stories with new character names. I keep them and sometimes I made use of fragments from them, just situations that could be recycled in a new context.
I cannot imagine killing a story midway through posting. If a story makes it that far, I must like it. So it gets posted. If people don't like it, I can always deactivate feedback and scoring :o)


@Crumbly Writer

I edit as I go, but all too often I get really into my characters, am completely absorbed in the story, publish, then my readers have to tell me with their votes that it needs killing!

Sometimes I can rescue a story with a lot of editing, though. But I'm not a natural storyteller, is my problem. It takes me a lot of effort.


I found this with my very first story. I went into the story and began posting with a good 25 chapters written and ready to go to keep a good weekly post calendar going. But after the very first chapter, I had a great idea during that wonderful time right before you fall asleep. With that idea, I decided to change the entire story and launch and entire new universe within the story that I felt needed to be told. But by opening that can of worms, I find the story I wanted to tell while initially straightforward, I changed it into something a lot more difficult to try and keep up with.

As such, the majority of the feedback I am receiving is from people who wonder why do I flip from one story line to the other and that I should just drop one story line in favor of the other. Amazingly enough the percentage of readers wanting to follow only one story line versus the other is damn near close to 50-50.

So maybe I am doing something right.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Celtic Bard

I had the hubris to embark on the writing of a NOVEL when I graduated high school. The damn thing took me 3 years and six hundred pages (I was a disciple of the Frank Herbert & Robert Jordan School of Novel Writing), after which I started thinking about getting it published. Thank God nobody in the publishing industry ever saw it! I moved directly into writing the sequel and I was about halfway through that and lost my continuity so I went back to start re-reading the first book only to realize that it was drivel. Absolute drivel. The concept was a good one and I liked the characters, but the writing was technically horrible. I abandoned both and started from scratch. Some of the new efforts eventually led to Reign of Madness and Justice Resurrected. Killing a story can be a good thing, especially if you realize why it should die a quick death.

Replies:   cavejug
Crumbly Writer



Shrinedrinker, I almost never posted my first story ("Catalyst"). I'd most of the story and was into the editing process when my editor and I knocked heads over chapter 7. He insisted it had to go, but I insisted it was necessary to understand the character. Neither one would budge. So, figuring there was no way to rescue the story, I decided to toss the entire thing (I'm guessing it was already 35 chapters by then).

However, after letting it sit idle for some time (about a month) it started bugging me and I decided to rewrite the entire story (rather than revising it). Unfortunately, I got three chapters in and realized it changed the entire story, and I really liked what I'd written.

At that point, I tossed the new story and went back to the original. In the interim, I'd figured out a lot about the main character and how I wanted to portray him. I revised the hell out of it, and the dreaded chapter 7 was simply no longer needed. The rest is history, that one story ended up as a 3 book series, and I later added another 3 books on top of that.

Celtic Bard, I think the above details bear out your insistence that some stores NEED to die. But ... the pacing and plot line were simply not working (and another has an unsympathetic lead character). I may need to rewrite both, but right now I'm trying to figure out how to save them so I don't lose all that time invested. :( The one story represents my worst writing, while the other represents by best, so it's complicated giving them both up.)


@Celtic Bard

It is absolute delight to read this, Sir. The self critical view is immensely important and so little present. You style of writing has been, in my view, in a very short supply on this site. Mostly drivel as you put it, but you will not read this kind of observation from other writers, only from readers. Getting a writer angry is easy, especially if he or she has an ego that is out of proportion. Any critical observation is unwelcome. Naturally praise, on the other hand is sought out and appreciated by a recipient. As a reader, I get really annoyed when bad grammar and poor spelling makes to the final edit. I'm being, as few writers put it in the past, a member of Nazi Police. I'm sorry, but since I can not make you (a writer) pay attention to the basics of this wonderful language, I will not keep reading a story with spelling mistakes, and will give it as low score as possible. One can not tell a worthy tale by butchering English. Won't have it!

Crumbly Writer

Good point, Cavejug (any story behind the unusual name?). However, it's difficult being so upset at what might not be a malicous intent (regarding spelling and grammar). Often, those authors just haven't developed an editing team.

I typically will have from 3 to 5 editors at any given time. Technically, they're alpha-readers, who check for spelling and grammar mistakes. As we've stressed before, it's nigh impossible for authors to catch their own typos, as authors read the story as they remember it, rather than as words on a page. And the value of multiple editors is that each picks up their own errors (i.e. multiple editors don't all turn up the same errors).

That's why authors, when they're between stories, will often work as editors for other authors. It's a kind of 'spreading the wealth'. Thus, those authors who 'can't clean up their stories', are usually newbies who haven't developed their own team yet. Sometimes you have to give someone time (and a few pointed suggestions). Beyond that, though, it's mostly an ego thing. Authors who obsess over their work, who build teams of editors, are obsessed with quality, which marks their work as being more 'professional'. (i.e. we take pride in our work, investing in making it the best we can.)



Don't bother to read any of my stories. I don't need your vote of 1, and I certainly don't need you as a reader if you are too stupid to realize that NOTHING passes 100% inspection. Why do you think all quality control is based on sampling? It's because errors inevitably slip past 100% inspection, no matter how thorough it might be.

I do my best to put out a high quality product, but I don't fool myself into thinking that it is perfect. I'll bet I do a better job of writing exactly correct English than you do, except when I am trying to write the way normal people speak. As for spelling, I have arthritis in my fingers, and that causes me to punch a wrong key on occasion. My editor and I catch all of those errors that we can, but I realize that we will occasionally miss something. Sometimes the error is so funny that I deliberately leave it in the story so that the reader can be amused if he should find it. The occasion I mean is where I accidentally wrongly wrote "the truck was delivered with a factory-installed wench..." If you don't think that is funny, then stuff it in your ear!

Yes, I am thin skinned when it comes to what I write, and I do not appreciate ill mannered criticism, though I do welcome constructive criticism, but I don't think that I would get that from you. I write because it is fun. If you don't like what I write, "then shove it where the sun don't shine!"

-- aubie56


@Crumbly Writer

I seem to have to get them written first. Usually, I will let someone else read them first. When they come back with a critique I look at it again and if I feel that it is so bad that it should be scrapped or completely re-written then that's what I do.

I am usually not the best judge of my work. One of my most successful stories sat on my machine for six months because I thought it was no good. I used it as trial material when I was looking for an editor.

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