How much should you change?

(Note: if you’re the editor who I was recently in touch with, please understand that this is not personal against you – your feedback was extremely valuable to me, but it did make me think about my own writing.)

After a recent flash fiction submission, the editor replied that my story idea was good, but there wasn’t enough tension in it.

I certainly don’t disagree with this opinion. I know that my stories tend towards character pieces, and I like to think they work without a big dramatic moment. But I chose to accept the very positive feedback, and as well as the offer to resubmit after I’d rewritten it.

I reworked the piece into what I believed was stronger than the original had been, but it was declined again. Initially, I was hurt; I’d listened to what was wanted, and tried to meet that, but apparently I still failed. I briefly considered another rewrite.

And then I thought about it. How many times can you rewrite a story into someone else’s requirements before it’s no longer your story? Are there times where you should just accept that your story doesn’t match the requirements, and walk away? Or should you continue editing, moving further away from your original idea?

I began thinking about my 2017 NaNoWriMo novel. It was terrible in the end, but what bothers me more is that it’s so far away from my original idea. I ended up changing and compromising so much to make a ‘story that worked’, and it wasn’t the story I’d originally planned. In hindsight, I think I changed it to make it easier to write. I’ve recently decided to go back and work on it from the beginning, this time sticking to the idea that I wanted to write.

It’s a difficult line to find – at least it is for me. I desperately want to see my stories published online, but I also want them to be my stories still. I don’t want to lose the idea that got me excited enough to want to write the story in the first place.

In the particular case of the flash fiction piece, I’m going to try submitting the story elsewhere, in the hope that it was just a case of it not being right for that particular publication. But in my mind there is still the thought that maybe I’m just a terrible writer and no one is brave enough to tell me that outright. I’m about 98% sure that it’s just my paranoid anxiety talking when I think that, but I’m still not entirely convinced.

But I do know one thing – whether the story is published or not, and whether it’s crap or not, it’s still mine.

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