Trust Your Gut; Make the Cut
Over the past few weeks, I’ve revisited some of my older short stories, hoping to polish them up and send them out into the world. In most cases, I was able to distill these older stories into much more focused narratives. Sometimes, that meant removing unnecessary characters or plotlines, and other times that meant rewriting the entire plot. As a writer, I’ve always struggled with editing, but sometimes you don’t need to edit a story—you need to abandon it altogether.
The story that I abandoned was a science fiction short story about augmented human beings that revolved around a car dealer. Can you spot the problem already?
Before I delve into why I abandoned the story, let me explain my process a bit further. As I initially read the older draft, I actually enjoyed some of the character exchanges, but when it came time to edit, I found myself throwing out the entire ending. I outlined a new ending that was much more fitting, but then I was asking myself questions like: Why am I writing this? Why did I choose this character? Why am I so bored?
At first, I wondered why the story wasn’t working, and then I realized that the themes of the story did not match the plot at all. I wanted to write a story about the dangers of social media and celebrity culture, but those themes had nothing to do with my main character’s struggle aka trying to sell cars.
After I realized that the story was beyond salvaging, I took apart the themes (dangers of social media and celebrity culture) and considered writing a new short story with those themes heavily incorporated into the plot. As it so happened, I had brainstormed another story where those themes would fit much better, so I scrapped the old short story entirely and began writing my new short story.
Editing is an extremely important process for any artist. It’s the time when we decide what lives and what dies, and only by being completely honest with ourselves can we hope to create art that resonates with people. Put another way, trust your gut and make the cut.
P.S. If you’d like to read the new short story, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.