I was doing some additional thinking about my post about the unremarkable story, and I thought about how stories move down an assembly line. The birth of a story idea quickly moves down the conveyor belt to the Excitement Phase. Sleep deprivation sets in as the author bangs out their words with glee. After a bit of a honeymoon, the work moves on down the line to Self Doubt. Here is where the writer begins to wonder if anyone will like their story or if it’s better suited for kitty litter. The story can then take another trip down the conveyor belt to This Sucks, Why Did I Think I Could Write? or Hey, This Is Great!
The main problem I see here is that this assembly line is sitting on Writer’s Island. When we write, we’re surrounded by a metaphorical body of water that isolates us from the outside world. If we’re not getting feedback, then it’s easy to see how the assembly line can wreak havoc on our spirits. We either wallow in doubt and failure, or we operate under a false sense of success.
The author I talked about in the previous post hadn’t built a bridge off her particular island in order to talk with trusted friends or other writers in order to see if her story had legs. I was her first encounter, and it was a rude awakening for her – enough that we went back and forth discussing the particulars of why the story was little more than a meandering diary of someone’s quasi-interesting life. She was so enthralled with her story that she never considered whether it would be of interest to anyone else.
Of course, plot, conflict, resolution, and characters comprise the elements of interest, but you have to have a solid foundation in which to build your plot. This is where getting off the island can be of great benefit. This gives you the opportunity to talk to people you trust – be they friends or fellow writers. Ask them whether they think the story is interesting. They can be the catalyst that either spurs you on or confirms your fears. The important thing to know is which station you’re headed for on the assembly line.