If I Get Lost, the Story Falls Flat

There’s been a lot of talk online* recently about craft and voice and when to know if your work is publishable or best kept in a drawer.

Linda Cassidy Lewis posted about the fact that everyone can write a story, but a writer hopes to craft one.

Jennifer Stanley and Donald Maass posted separately on voice. If you stay true to your voice, the work, according to Maass, will read “authentic and passionate.” The story, Stanley believes, will “outshine” all the others.

Rachelle Gardner said that rejection after rejection may imply a writer needs more than just good grammar skills. That writer should sign up for a class on the craft of writing with a good teacher who isn’t afraid to say, “This doesn’t work. At all.”

I wrote a story a while back that was a good story. I remember sitting in a diner watching a scene unfold across the restaurant in a way that I thought, “somebody should write about that. That’s crazy!” So I did. I made up a story that paralleled the scene I witnessed, but I didn’t tell the story well. I wrote it with a particular literary magazine in mind. And, I wrote it in a way I imagined a particular famous author would write it. My voice was lost, along with the passion. The story read flat, no matter how hard I infused it with vivid details or realistic dialogue.

I know better now, but I still have much to learn. I do recognize when a story is becoming my own – when it’s a story that I enjoy reading myself. That sounds narcissistic, but when I read my own story and think, well, I might pick it up, but I hope they will pick it up, then I need to go back, rework it, and find the place where I got lost.

There’s still no guarantee my well-crafted story will get published. But, I can lean on the belief that if it’s authentic to me, it will at least stand out next to another writer’s tale.


* If you’re on Twitter, consider following Debbie Ridpath Ohi @inkyelbows. She rolls out tweet after tweet of great links, resources, and retweets.


10 responses to “If I Get Lost, the Story Falls Flat

  1. Hey,I know what you mean about making the story your own.I am personally trying to write a book,though I have a diffirent problem:

    I dont know how to explain myself properly on paper,though I believe my idea will intrest others.

    Can I ask you a favor,can you look up my blog and read what wrote so far and tell me what you think,it will mean alot to me ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Talikatzman,

      I, too, struggle sometimes in getting a great idea to flow onto paper. In those moments, I write anyway. The ideas that come out choppy at first can be refined during rewrites.

      I also spend a lot of time reading what others say about writing, sharing my own writing experiences on this blog, and putting pen to paper every day in the form of morning pages. All of those exercises have helped me hone my craft a little more each day.

      Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way is a great book for discovering the roots of your creativity and envisioning goals for yourself.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. And, keep on writing!

  2. Thank you for the link to my post, Christi.

    I think you’ve just explained to me why I avoid editing certain pieces of my work: they aren’t written true to my voice. In that case, I might have to try that experiment of setting what I’ve written aside and starting the story fresh.

    • Linda,

      You’re welcome on the link.

      And, maybe we should both embark on a “no peeking” rewrite: put the old draft away and see what unfolds. I don’t know if I could do it with my novel WIP, but I’d be willing to try it with a short story! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I think I will try it. I just have to figure out which of my stories I think is worth the effort.

        Gee, like I need something more on my to do list, though of course, I did vow to work on short stories this year. ๐Ÿ˜•

  3. I agree, all the blogs you’ve linked to were very insightful in the discussion of craft and voice.

    Great post, thanks for your illustration of the point!

    • Thanks, Cathryn. I really love all the links I come across on Twitter.

      And, I think you said you’ve done a “no peek” rewrite exercise before, but are you up for another one?

      • Not right now. I’m keeping all my focus on getting this one out the door. Then I’m diving in to complete the first draft of my next.

        After THAT, I might be up for it!

        I’ve been thinking more about this post, loved the title by the way. Voice has been on my mind a lot lately, and what I meant to say above is that the other blogs, and your thoughts, made me think about the fact that I fret too much about voice, and if you’re true to yourself, it emerges. Thanks for keeping me thinking.

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