That was the question posed by Larry Brooks on his blog, StoryFix.com. He regularly posts examples of his critiques (with the authors’ permission) to show how a faulty concept and premise can ruin a story. Invariably, this elicits all sorts of blog comments suggesting minor “tweaks” to save the story. “Well, what if you just change this or that . . . ” or “Maybe you could have your character do this . . . ” I sense Larry’s frustration. I’m re-posting my comment I left on Larry’s blog. I think it’s important, because, in my own evaluating/editing for my day-job, I see this mindset crop up in authors again and again. But there’s hope!:
Can all stories be saved by tweaking? No. I’m going to be a little harsh here and say that the issue sometimes boils down to a problem of ego. It’s essential to separate BEING A WRITER from THIS PARTICULAR PAGE. The two things are entirely different.
A person sits down, maybe with a glass of wine at hand, and types a novel. He types and types, but he doesn’t THINK. If he did, he would be forced to admit that what he’s typing isn’t working. Somewhere deep inside, he knows this, but his ego focuses on “the wonder of me.”– “Look, everybody! I’m a writer! I’ve written a novel!” So he forges on, beating the book over the head, requiring reassurance and massaging of his feelings.
This is so unnecessary. If a person has written a novel, then yes, he’s a writer. It’s admirable. It’s wonderful. That’s a given. ‘Nuff said. He deserves applause.
Now–let’s move on to dispassionately and objectively think about what is on this particular page. Some stories can’t be saved. The necessary tweaking of concept/premise would result in essentially starting a whole new novel. And that’s okay!
If a writer can get beyond his ego and focus on the page, there will be other pages, other novels–hopefully better ones as he continues learning.
As the TV show said, “There are a million stories in the naked city.” You’re a writer–Go find ‘em!
You can go to StoryFix.com for Larry’s original post and other comments about this issue.