Step one, re-drafting: identify theme

I’ve been really struggling in my attempts to redraft short stories recently. I can sit down and write one without much trouble. I can even usually work in a pretty good twist at the end without even thinking about it. However, once I’ve got that first draft on the page I have no idea what to do with it.

So, I turn to the internet to help me. Reading about how other people write short stories is great, but they never really go into minute detail about how to go about re-drafting one so that each word truly contributes to the story you are trying to tell.

I have a rough draft of the story all written out. I know who my protagonist is, I know who the rest of the cast consists of. I know what happens to prompt the story and I know how I want it to end. I even have some good examples of showing elements of each character rather than just telling. I know I have conflict and, at the end, resolution and reversal. I know what point of view the story would work best in.

But I am beginning to wonder if it is a worthwhile story at all. I don’t seem to be capable of reworking it into what I envisaged the story could be.

And the crux of the issue – the thing I am missing?


I could not define what my story is about without actually telling the story. As such, my story has no purpose. I know that there is a message in there somewhere, waiting to unfold. My protagonist makes that journey of self-discovery and ends up the better for it. Yet, what I have not succeeded in identifying is a theme; something that ties it all together, that gives the story a reason to be told. Without that it is just words on a page.

So, here I go in search of my story’s theme. If I can find it, perhaps all the words will finally stitch themselves together and make something worthwhile. If I can’t find it…well, then perhaps that signifies that this story wasn’t meant to be told.


7 responses to “Step one, re-drafting: identify theme

  1. Good to hear I’m not alone when it comes to working on more than one piece at a time. I will have a brain storm, and write like mad, get stuck and leave it alone to start another one. I might go back weeks later and finish it. I can see where Dan’s method would work, it’s so organized. I wish my brain worked that way but it doesn’t, 🙂 A little of this, a little of that, and eventually it gets finnished.

    • I’m not sure if my brain can be convinced to work in such an organised fashion either! But, I’ll give it a try and see if I can get a final draft squeezed out. Hopefully some structure will give me a focused plan to aim for.
      Thanks for reading
      Take Care, Cat

  2. Interesting. Well, if you are looking for advice, I’ll give you some–for what its worth.

    Theme– I don’t worry about that until after the frist draft is written, if at all. It seems to arrive without me looking for it and I usually don’t even realize I had one until some else tells me what it is. So my advice– don’t worry about it and focus on telling the story first–the theme will come along.

    Nuts and bolts of putting it together– Sounds like you have differnt pieces and you are having trouble linking them all together. This sounds similar to how I write. This is how I go about putting it together.

    1. Put the scenes in order of appearance. If you aren’t certain where they go, put them at the bottom of the doc.
    2. Identify what areas you are missing–beggning, middle, ending. Determine if the scenes you put at the bottom of your doc would fit in any of these. If you still aren’t sure, keep them at the bottom of the doc.
    3. Where you still have gaps–either brain storm, meditate to get ideas, or just add narrative that sounds like it would go.
    4. Repeat #3 until your story fleshes out. Place those scenes at the bottom of the doc to where they should go as your story comes together(or discard them–they may not go–and don’t force them).
    5. At this point, you should have a short story from start to finish that you can edit and smooth out.

    Sorry if this is all sounding too specific. That’s how I’ve written my short stories in the past and it works very well for me. I thought I’d just pass it on.

    • Dan, you are always a useful blogger to have comments! Seems like we might have a similar process, as just yesterday I put my scenes in order of appearance and identified a couple of missing ‘links’ that I will need to write.
      I think I’m just not used to exploring so much with short story writing – adding more words feels counter-productive, but based on your advice I see how it might make things fit together.
      As always, many thanks for your comments: I’ll give it a try and see how I fare.
      Hope you’re doing well.
      Take Care, Cat x

  3. I’m in the same boat at the moment. I have a short story I’ve been working on over the past year and found the whole editing process really difficult. Wish I could offer some advice, only thing I can say is maybe take a step back from it for a week or so, work on something else and hopefully a fresh look will help.

    • Thanks, that actually sounds like really good advice at the minute! Maybe I’m just too far into it to see clearly.
      Good luck with your own short story editing. Let me know if you come across any further tips: sounds like we could both do with some practical ideas to go about short story editing!
      Take Care, Cat x

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