Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Any Story Can Be Fixed

I have blogged before about how much my girls love these Monster High dolls from Mattel.  After birthdays and Christmas, we are growing quite a collection.   My husband went on a business trip not too long ago and brought back Monster High dolls as a present for our girls.  That very day, my youngest proceeded to decorate the doll’s face with markers.  This is what she ended doing to the doll.

My husband and I were a little upset that she had altered the doll only hours after we had opened the package.  These dolls are not cheap.  My little daughter didn’t realize that the marker wouldn’t come off and tried to put on a brave front, but I could tell she really wanted me to fix the doll.

I tried everything I could think of.  Soap and water, rubbing alcohol, oxy clean, Mr. Clean’s magical eraser, and fingernail polish remover.  None of these products had any effect whatsoever on marker.  But I wasn't ready to give up.  At this point, I did what anyone would do when facing a problem they can’t solve.  I went to the internet.

Of course my daughter was not the first to mar the face of a Monster High doll with marker, and smarter people than me have found a solution, one I would’ve never come up with on my own.  Oxy-10, that over the counter acne medicine contains a bleaching agent, 10 % benzoyl peroxide that can be activated in direct sunlight.  Now this wouldn’t have worked if my daughter’s doll was any color other than white because it might bleach away the face color as well.  We were lucky.

I covered the doll’s hair with tinfoil and her eyes so that the sun wouldn’t fade away those colors, put Oxy-10 on the marker lines, and set the doll in a window for one week.  After a week, here is the result.

I was amazed how well the treatment worked, but clearly we missed a few spots.  So I repeated the process for another week, and the doll looked awesome.  

There are still some faint yellow marks, and we could’ve gone another round, but my daughter had been without her new doll for two weeks, so we decided it was good enough.  At some point, I might try another round.  But I was so pleased with how well this worked.  I really thought the doll was unfixable, but with a little research and a little time (well a lot of time for a five-year-old girl), we fixed her.

Now, what does this have to do with writing?

I know that a lot of first time writers are cautioned against getting stuck on their first book.  I’ve seen the warning many times on the internet to not get trapped into constant revisions, that you can learn more from writing a new story.  And I do think that that is good advice for some situations, but I also think that any story is fixable.  It might take a lot of time and effort maybe even a complete rewrite or two, but no story is beyond repair. 

I'm not the type of person who can walk away from a problem even if it is difficult or even seemingly impossible.  I don't like to be defeated by markers on dolls or a story that I just can't figure out how to end.  I know that any problem can be solved in some way.

If I know what is wrong with my story and if I have an idea of how to fix it and if I love the story and believe in it and am still excited about it, I’m not ready to give up.  It might take a lot of time, a lot of research, a lot of thought.  I may have to rewrite the entire thing maybe even more than once, but I don’t like to give up on something that I believe in.

I know not every writer is like me, that some writers are more instinctive and have a million ideas floating around in their heads and will probably learn faster writing a story once and then moving on to something new, and those writers need to do what is best for them.

But I think there are also writers like me.  Who have these stories that for some reason they feel really passionate about.  And it isn’t that they want to write stories, but that they want to write these specific stories.  I don’t think that these writers should give up on those stories even if they have horrible pacing or poor characterization or are anticlimactic or just don’t work for some reason.  These stories are fixable; all stories are fixable.  But only the writer can decide if that story is worth the time and energy to fix it.



  1. I love this MaryAnn. I am just like you. My first story took so much fixing, but it was worth it because I still felt passionate about it. There are other stories that I simply can't work up the passion to fix. I guess those are the ones to let go, though it is still hard to admit.

    And wow. You went to a lot of work to fix that doll. That's a trick I'm going to remember. Thanks!

    1. Yay, I'm not alone. :) I have a hard time admitting defeat too, but I agree, when you are no longer excited about a story, that is the time to let go or take a break from it. You never know, you might get passionate about it later on. :)

  2. MaryAnn, I love this too. Especially how you said "It isn't that they want to write stories, but that they want to write these specific stories" -- that's me. I think maybe it's even more that I want to write these specific characters, and then the story ends up falling flat. But I will never be a fountain of ideas and I feel better about that after reading this post. I think sometimes I need to take a break, to work on something fresh, but my project never stops marinating in the background. In fact I sometimes wonder if part of me is afraid to finish a story because that's where the letting go happens. (But mostly I just get stuck figuring out how to fix it.) Thanks for a wonderful post.

    1. I don't know why, but it sure makes me happy to know that some other people feel the same way that I do. :) I'll never be a fountain of ideas either, but ideas I have, I'm pretty passionate about. I understand feeling a little afraid to finish a project that you love because those characters have been a part of you for so long, but that is when you start thinking series. :)

  3. I have a lot of admiration and respect for anyone that can edit their finished project until it shines. I came across my printed critiques in a binder as I was packing this week--one from you, another from Sheena. I glanced through them before boxing them up, and I realized I need to finish my rewrite for Reaver. You guys gave me such great advice, and I was so in love with that story, I wish I hadn't given up on it. Sometimes the problem seem too big to get past, but you're right. You can't just walk away, especially if you know how to fix it.

    Great post, MaryAnn. I wish I wasn't trying to move right now so I could spend a few hours with edits! Very motivational.

    1. Trisha, I remember that story. It was awesome. I hope you do work on it because I'd love to read the whole thing.

      Let me know when you need a beta. :)


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