February 26, 2014

How to figure out if your story is any good

Dear M,

Every idea we come up with for a story need not be great. But when the inspiration comes, we do not know if it is going to be good or bad. Naturally any idea that strikes us feels superior to any other idea that has hit anyone else on this planet so far. (It's like a What An Idea Sirji moment.)

There is a way to find out if the new story idea or our execution of it is any good. It may not be a foolproof method, but having some way to figure out is better than having none.

I began writing a story a month or so ago. The idea had been hovering around for a long time now, then suddenly it occurred to me how I could present it. Who was going to be the protagonist, how is he going to uncover it, what was the POV, etc. As always, it felt like a flash of brilliance. So I quickly made notes and arranged things in chronological order and made short character sketches.

Then I plunged into the writing. I knew it was going to be a long story, more than 20 pages. My stories don't usually go beyond 10, or 15. But I figured this was one story that needed space. I had to take the reader through a lot of stuff. So I kept at it, day after day. Then I skipped it for one day, because I had to edit the synopsis for my completed novel. Then I skipped it the next day when something else came up. Soon it was four days since I had written a word on the short story. Then the gap became one week. When it became ten days, I stopped short and asked myself what was going on.

I had lost interest - was what had happened. I did not feel excited when I read the story, any more. I did not feel the urge to go on. It was not driving me now. If I, as the writer, had lost interest in the story, how would the reader find it? No one is holding a gun against his head to make him read.

I have been writing stories long enough to know the difference between a story that does not allow me to rest until I finished writing it, and one that kills me of boredom while writing it.

So if you are bored writing it, and if you try to keep away from it as much as possible, if you don't feel excited when you read it after a gap, then the story isn't going to excite the reader either. Better try to rewrite it or trash it, and move on. Otherwise we will be stuck there for weeks or months. The effort will not be wasted. Good story ideas never leave us. At the right moment, they will return to haunt us again. And this time, we may get it right.


Like this post on Facebook!

No comments :

Post a Comment