1

I've written a dystopian story ~3000 words long. The story stemmed from a dream after having a dystopian unit and reading The Giver by Lois Lowry. When I started writing, it just seemed to flow, it took around 2 weeks to finish the first draft. However, I'm aware that the way I started and my laziness led me to not plan as much as I should have. There seems to be a lack of motivations and intentions in several characters, and overall just a not very dynamic story-line, though I felt the ending was satisfying. I tried to plan after I got some feedback from my LA teacher, but going off what the characters were already written to do was too little information. The characters are flatter than I thought! I feel I need to rewrite the whole thing after thorough planning, but there's a chance I get sidetracked and make it worse. I think the story has little meaning, the opposite of what a dystopia is.

I'm just wondering if I have to rewrite it, or can I just edit small bits. If I do have to rewrite it, how do I plan it well the second time around?

1
  • 1
    The way I've found works best is to work backward. What do you want at your story's conclusion? Then plot out the steps from the beginning to the end. One of my favorite short stories was building up to a "Twilight Zone" twist. so I knew how I had to organize my story and choose my language carefully so everything said lined up when the twist was revealed but seemed like it was pointing to something else.
    – hszmv
    Feb 9, 2023 at 13:06

3 Answers 3

2

Write the Second Draft

When I started writing, it just seemed to flow, it took around 2 weeks to finish the first draft. However, I'm aware that the way I started and my laziness led me to not plan as much as I should have. There seems to be a lack of motivations and intentions in several characters, and overall just a not very dynamic story-line, though I felt the ending was satisfying.

At the risk of suggesting the obvious: write the second draft.

Second Draft is normal

This sounds like a normal part of the discovery-writing process. A quick web search of "how to write the second draft" turned up blog posts and writer discussions that seem very much like your problem.

An example from https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-a-second-draft explains the purpose of a second draft:

A second draft may help you bring about big changes to your character development or identify plot holes you didn’t catch before. It can help prevent writing yourself into a corner in later drafts by figuring out where all the problems of your story are now.

Notice how they mention there will be later drafts. A third re-write is also a normal part of finishing a discovery-written story.

rewrite vs edit

I'm just wondering if I have to rewrite it, or can I just edit small bits.

My understanding is that you are re-writing the entire story in the second draft, but you are not writing from scratch since the first draft is there with many potential surprises and mistakes to learn from.

But the reason it's called a second draft is because it's a full re-write, not just an edit.

The benefits to discovery writing are the feeling of 'flow' which you described, which should benefit your narrative voice and overall tone ––at the expense of some plot direction and character arc progression.

The benefits to plotting are tighter plot coherence and integrated character arc progression, at the expense of 'flow' and tone.

Both methods require full re-writes of the story, however in plotting the outline might serve as a rough first draft and the second draft being the 'discovery' of flow and tone. Both methods should end up in more or less the same place.

The decision to plot or discover is more about artist temperament – most writers are doing a bit of both all the way through.

making it worse?

there's a chance I get sidetracked and make it worse.

I don't see how this is a valid concern.

Your first draft is not destroyed in the process of writing a second draft. If for some reason the re-writes are 'worse' the original draft has not been harmed in any way, and you can simply try again or keep working on it until it is 'better'.

The alternative is to be satisfied with your work as is, and just write something else.

Analyzing your own work is a skill. Editing and improving on your own work is another skill. These things become easier with practice and experience.

Good luck!

1

I am a Discovery writer, I write (successfully) without much story planning. Stephen King is one of the most famous Discovery writers, he also writes without any particular plot in mind.

Discovery writers are character writers; we invent strong characters, throw them in the ring, and let them fight it out. The only rule is their motivations won't let them leave the ring. Then the story comes out somewhere. So we don't plot, the characters do what they will do, we just don't allow them to "cycle" or disengage -- unlike real people, they never give up, no matter how much their opponent kicks them down.

It sounds to me like you have a character problem; you have your plot, but your characters don't feel real. So you need a better cast of characters!

You need to figure out what character traits would compel a person to do what you need characters to do in your story. WHY would somebody do that?

It is possible your existing set of characters isn't quite right; and some of the actions you have Alice doing are just not consistent with a single personality -- You may need some of those actions done by a new character, Betty or Bob along for the ride with Alice (out of love, be it romantic, sibling, parental, friendship, unrequited, or out of greed, suspicion, or perhaps faking their reason on assignment by the villain (a traitor or spy), or out of responsibility, it is their duty to protect Alice).

Regardless, if you have a plot that needs to unfold in a particular way, you need a cast of characters that have emotional motivations at the center of their personality that will compel them to do what they do.

It is not enough to just assume that is the case, you need to showcase these personality traits; their stubbornness or pride or fears or insecurity that compel someone to take the necessary plot actions.

We readers need to feel that, knowing these characters, the story could not have unfolded any other way.

That happens rather naturally in Discovery writing because the characters really are true to form throughout the story.

But if you already have your plot planned and your characters seem like robots without any depth, then you need to reverse engineer the characters so they feel "emotionally correct", based on the personalities you introduced early, they are doing exactly what we (the audience) would expect them to do in each situation.

If Charlie impulsively pushes a button and causes a disaster, you should foreshadow Charlie's impulsiveness early, perhaps with an incident that works for Charlie, he does something dangerous impulsively and succeeds. Charlie's impulsiveness is reinforced by his impulsive successes. He doesn't call it impulsiveness, Charlie says he trusts his instincts. So it is understandable why he later pushes the button and causes a disaster, he's accustomed to "trusting his instincts" and that paying off.

Reinvent your characters, even add or subtract from them to get a consistent mix of personality types that can execute your pre-defined plot.

Stories are not just about a good plot, stories have to be about people thrust into a difficult situation, compelled by their emotions, beliefs and personalities to deal with it.

0

My all-time favorite author, Robert Heinlein, had five rules.

  1. Writers write.
  2. They finish what they write.
  3. They don't re-write. (Unless directed by a paying customer.)
  4. They send it out. (Meaning trying to get it published.)
  5. They keep sending it out until it gets published. (Unless it's such a stinker that they would not want their name attached to it.)

So, don't re-write unless some paying customer has suggested that a re-write would be the thing that made the sale. Time spent on re-writes is time you could be spending on writing another story.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.