Gutting your story

For writers, let’s be honest you can spend what feels like an eternity on a story and think it’s done. Finished. Complete. But after a 2-3 day break from it, you feel like its not. That maybe you could do better. And this shatters your heart because you just want to be done. You thought it was a master piece. So what do you do next? Well, you gut it!

Say what? Well, hold on I only say this because I recently went through this. Over the summer I wrote a few short stories, one being a water story featuring a particular mythical sea creature. I worked hard on it for a bout a month and sent it out to be considered for a water themed anthology. It was rejected. I was like, okay where did I go wrong? Was it not interesting enough? Should I have taken a few different creative liberties? Frustrated, I just put it aside for a while and reworked some of my other stories. Just recently, I reviewed it again. And my perspective changed. The story was okay… but it could be better.

I’m currently in an Advanced Creative Writing class where each week we have to read two stories from the Best of Horror 2022 anthology and then two stories from our class peers. However, in order to get those stories each of us have to turn in a short story every month for 4 months that’s around 5,000 words. And for one of my stories, I chose to redo my water one. So I ended up drawing Freytag’s triangle out and then wrote in what the original story had, then asked myself a few questions. What if this happened? What if my protagonist did this, instead of that? What if I changed the ending and made it dark? When I answered all those questions I created another Freytag’s triangle with these new points. This really helped keep me motivated and on track.

By using Freytag’s triangle it helped me stay on track and helped me streamline my writing process. I was able to use parts of my previous story to create my new one where it felt right. I was able to polish it up and edited it to death. By the end I wanted to trash it because I was so sick of looking at it. But that’s when you know you tried really hard. After all that hard work, I actually loved the new story so much more than the original. Once I was really done, I sent it to a few of my beta-readers. After a few days on pin and needles one got back to me. Her comment made my day. She said, “I liked the previous version, but I love this one, it’s more tragic.”

Gutting my previous story did hurt, but it had to be done. Sometimes we think that our story is perfect. But let’s be honest we are really so close to the story we may not notice certain things right off the bat. However with some time you can look at your story with a fresh pair of eyes again and really see how it compares to your previous work or compare it to the works you are currently reading.

So keep reading and writing! And remember you are only one good gutting away from a magnificent masterpiece!

If you are a writer, have you ever gutted your story completely to make it better? And if so did you like the end product better like I did?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: