Excuses, Excuses
~Not Far Enough~

As I was working on my Rules are Rules essays, I remembered an excuse that I see a lot of people bring up. "I haven't gotten far enough along in my story for you to judge whether the story is good and/or a Mary Sue." One of the things they like saying is that "you can't judge a book by its cover". Which I am going to point out the last part does not apply despite the fact the people using it think it does. Why? Because the first chapter is not part of the cover, it is actually part of the story. Not to mention the saying was about judging people, not actual books.

There are some people out there who do not think that one chapter is enough to determine whether or not the story is good or not. One of the arguments they make runs along the lines that the story will improve later on, that the writer will improve and/or certain things will end up being explained. This argument does work for a few stories out there, but not the majority. So, when does this argument actually work.

The first situation is when the writer intentionally planned out the story to be vague and mysterious and the other is when the writer takes the criticism they are given and works into their story an effective way to fix the problem. Some people may say right about now, but I meant to be vague and mysterious from the very beginning. Why is my story different from these few other writers who also choose to be vague and mysterious with their stories?

First, a good deal of writers don't understand what it means to be vague and mysterious. To them this means having a special character show up with a special past. They think holding off how special their character is adds an element of mystery when it in fact doesn't. The reason it doesn't amount to an element of mystery is because the whole plot revolves around the big secret, rather then the secret being an actual plot element to a bigger plot line. The first amounts to showcasing a special character while the second amounts to implementing a great plot idea.

On top of this, even when a writer plans their story being vague and mysterious they can still sometimes fail miserably. The more knowledgeable writers though know full well that what they write may or may not end up falling apart simply because this kind of story isn't easy to write. These writers are familiar with other works and have had a lot of practice, while many of the other writers have not. There is a higher chance of failure for a writer who doesn't know what they are doing then one that does.

Fixing a story is another tricky issue as well. It involves two very important things. First, the writer must be able to admit that they made a mistake and they need to admit it before they get to far along for the story to be fixed. Second, the writer must also have a good idea of how to fix the mistake, otherwise the fix they attempt may instead make the situation much, much worse. Sometimes it is better to simply rewrite the story then to try and fix the existing story. Or it is better to simply finish the story as it is as soon as possible.

I will also note that a few writers are able to take a story and turn it around later on because they have grown as a writer. This actually occurring is rare though and here is he reason why. For most writers the process of learning to write a good story is a very slow process. Typically one has to learn to write a good story before they will be able to improve a poorly written story. Some stories are also so bad that it would take a lot of talent to turn the story around, while others not even the best writer can turn around without a complete rewrite. There is also the fact that a story isn't just about the really good ending, it is also about how one gets there.

Now, there are a few out there that the first chapter of a story isn't enough for them to judge whether the story is going to be good or not. This isn't because it is impossible to judge how a story will be via the first chapter. To do so requires being well read and requires the person to have a good, strong background in literary analysis. Not being able to make a judgment based on the first chapter only works when the writer happens to have little to no symptoms in the first chapter and a few more chapters are needed to determine where the writer is indeed heading.

There is also a very good reason why it is best to voice ones concerns on the first chapter rather then later ones. A writer is more likely to practice caution in the later chapters and some of the writers with less experience are less likely to bite off more then they can handle. On the flip side, it isn't right for the writer to expect the reader to stick around and see if the story will indeed get better. I've seen stories that have gone on for chapter, after chapter to the point I've gotten seven, sometimes even twice to three times the amount and the story hasn't improved.

Here is the reason why. A writer whose writing ability needs improvement typically grows in small amounts, not the large amounts some of these writers are expecting to grow. Some writers mind you can in fact grow in great strides, but most people aren't that likely. Second, even if they do grow a great deal, the amount they've grown is likely to show up more in a rewrite or a completely new story rather then towards the end.

There is also the fact that the later parts of a story depend as I've already said on the earlier parts. The enjoyment of the later parts is going to be effected by the enjoyment of the earlier parts. On top of this, if someone was a good writer that could craft a story that was complicated to the point of having worked everything out, it would have been apparent from the very beginning. The best thing for writers is to learn to pre-plan their stories and at that, pre-plan the stories well.