When Writing? Small Changes Can Fix Big Issues

Have you ever gotten feedback from someone who you respect, saying they hated your work? They liked the idea, but think you should have done it a completely different way?

No? Just me?

Recently, I submitted a couple of short stories to different markets, but after a pair of quick rejections, I sent them to friends for another look. Most of the feedback was along the same lines, so I looked at what I could fix and what I couldn’t.

But for the reader who hated the story? We sat down and talked about what they did and didn’t like about the story.

The real issue was the set-up — it was a horror/suspense sort of story and I was giving away too much too soon.

That was entirely in line with other feedback I’d had, although more precise in what parts worked, versus what parts should be changed.

So? I sat on that for a week. I pouted. I thought. I considered if these were even changes I wanted to make.

But my knee-jerk reaction (for once) wasn’t “they don’t get my story”, it was more of a, “I don’t wanna!” mixed with “How do I do that? While making sure the ending is still properly supported” (i.e. doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere).

Last night? I sat down to start on the changes, taking out the heavy foreshadowing (easily found in italics, on their own lines). And replaced those instances with more subtle hints at what lay ahead.

Fifteen minutes later? I was done.

I still need to do a re-read, to make sure the updates are smooth. I still need a second set of eyes (maybe fresh ones to make sure the ending wasn’t too abrupt), but this huge change? That seemed like massive structural issue?

With a few short line changes, I fixed it.

Takeaways?

Remember when setting something up in your writing, be it foreshadowing, backstory, world-building, or more — oftentimes, less is more. You only need enough to spark the imagination and flesh out the world. Not enough to slow the story.


Have you ever been intimidated by a suggested change you agreed probably needed to happen in your work?

Were you ever surprised at how little you needed to change your story to make a completely different impression on the reader?

Tell me about it in the comments below!

3 thoughts on “When Writing? Small Changes Can Fix Big Issues

  1. What she said. I’ve gotten some feedback from editors, and a sometimes it’s literally a few sentences that change the whole story… and the editor’s reaction.

    One other thing – in addition to pouting – is, when you finish the story, STOP. Put it aside for a day or a week, and do something else. When you go back to it, go over the whole story, paragraph by paragraph, and some, line by line, and you’ll see where you’ve got bad phrasing, used the wrong word, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I sent an early draft of my novel to a professional editor, and being somewhat tight on finances, only paid for a mid-level edit.
    So she did some broad-stroke editing, mostly cutting out huge chunks, and told me that I had too much description and the opening dragged but that I hadn’t paid her enough to fix it all.
    After everything she cut out I had almost no description left, and the world felt bare. So I set the manuscript aside for a while.
    Fast forward a couple of years, after some experience and feedback in a good critique group, and I realized that my problem hadn’t been too much description – it was that all my descriptions came in large clumps. The story stopped while I described scenery for a couple of paragraphs, or even a whole page.
    It was like I’d applied makeup in big solid globs – it didn’t need to be totally removed, it just needed to be spread out and blended with the action and dialogue sections. Once I did that (and wrote a new opening scene) the pacing issues disappeared.

    Like

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