Today I would like to report on the Periodical challenge that I mentioned two days ago. I sent my revised first draft to a fellow writer to review last night and got it back today. She told me I had buried the lead and it had to be re-written. This is someone whom I trust. We've gotten past the nice platitudes of just saying "you're a great writer" and pointing out a few grammatical errors. We now feel free to honestly give ideas for improvement. Or in this case, going as far as saying this story doesn't work.
I have a few people who will do this for me and I really appreciate it. I need to know how to improve. As an example, I sent out a story that had been rejected to another writer who truly enjoys editing. She reviewed it according to the writer's guidelines and sent it back to me.There were notes and suggestions all over it. She even took the time to do a bit of rewriting. Seeing her review, I now had a better idea of the reasons why it might have been rejected.
This brings me back to the periodical challenge. As part of the challenge I read several past stories from the features section I was targeting before I wrote the article. I thought I had a good idea of what the story should be about. Then I wrote the story in the way I wanted to cover it. There's where the problem came in. I was writing for me and not the way the editor likes to have a story written.
I went back and read four past stories. I did detailed outlines for each of them. I now realized how much I had missed the mark. Here's the format for the story. Begin with stating the problem or situation that needs to be solved. Then you give details about the characters. Next step is the planning stage of how to make the change. Next the changes begin, and some tension or minor conflict occurs. Lastly there is a resolution and achievement of the goal. It all wrapped up in a final hook that ties into the title.
After reading this outline, I realized it is a typical format for writing children's stories. You begin with a problem that gives the reader a reason to get involved with the story. The attempts to solve get the reader wondering what will happen next and keep them involved. The tension keeps a story building and the pages turning until the denouement and final take away of the story. So now it's time to go back and write some more.