Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stories that Fizzle

As agents and editors, we see this all of the time. Stories that start out great. The first three chapters totally rock (in the words of my 7 year old). We start reading and can't wait to keep going.

And then...

The bottom falls out. We hit chapter 4 or 5 and the whole story completely falls apart and it leaves the reader questioning what happened? Where did the story go wrong.

Actually, this is a common problem among many authors so if you feel your story is doing that, don't panic. You are not alone. Please also remember this is an easy solution. Let's take some time to talk about why this might happen.

CONTESTS - That's right. We hear about this all of the time. I'm talking about the people that consistantly enter contests and get feedback on those first chapters. The process is always the same. Enter a contest, get feedback, revise, enter a contest and the cycle starts over again. Now I need to stress there is nothing wrong with this process. This is something you need to be doing with all of your manuscripts. This is why you have a critique group or critique partners. But here is the problem. You don't translate the comments you have received for those earlier chapters to the later scenes. Hey, if you are making mistakes in the first three chapters, the odds are it continues through the rest of the story. You are not, mysteriously, fixing all of this by chapter 4.

PANTSTERS - Yes, you knew I would go there. Those writers that just "let the muse tell them what to write" are often the ones that have the stories that fall apart later on. You have to see where your story is going to and know how you are going to get there. Remember that the story needs to build to that climax. This is where I go back to that same formula we all learned in literature classes (and yes it begins in elementary school). Remember that graph with the rising action and climax? Same thing here. When the story falls apart after the first three chapters, it simply means the author has taken the time to figure out what the story is about, established the setting and the characters and then it stops. Solution? PLOT

BIG PICTURE, LITTLE PICTURE In this case, authors struggle with seeing their entire story as a big picture. If an author takes a long time writing a story or doesn't begin each writing day with reviewing what was written the day before, the story becomes very fragmented. Instead of seeing how all of the story fits together, the story is viewed as a series of individual scenes. Now, if one of those story elements doesn't work, or doesn't fit with the grand scheme of things, the story falls apart. Solution? Constant reviewing and certainly to Plot!


No comments:

Post a Comment