At least I've now gone through the First Unpublished Story (1UPS) myself - that is, scrawled some comments on the printed out text. The Second (2UPS) is halfway through.
Boy, was there ever a lot to comment on in 1UPS. I did find another big problem in the text. I just read someone rambling about how much one writer's stories sucked when they had omniscient narrators. Well, here in my story we have fact-throwing narrators and fact-throwing characters. It's not quite the same thing and not quite as annoying, but I noted one of my problems maybe that the characters - or the narrator, very rarely - starts explaining stuff. It's appropriate when it's appropriate - Gnedrnygr is supposed to know a lot of things, but he doesn't know everything either. But if any character goes rambling on about some background detail, it doesn't turn out very interesting. The story has one part where two characters talk on nature of magic - current version is rather weak, and basically the characters are just extensions of the Rambling Narrator. If there's any good examples of this, I kind of revere how Raymond E. Feist did boring-background-revealing in Magician: Apprentice - Two characters engaging in debate. The current dialogue in my story doesn't sound very much like a dialogue - it's two characters stating facts. Ugh. Boring.
Anyway, the 1UPS is progressing. It's been quite an educational experience: One of my big problems with writing was that I thought "hey, I can write, now can I? I've been doing this all of my life" and when my stories turned out okay but not great, I got disappointed. When I printed the stories, grabbed the pen, and started scrawling "this stinks" all over the copy, I remembered the real formula on how to make great art: You don't make great art by just spitting it out, you make something and then you refine it over and over until it's perfect. And I feel writing may be an art form where I actually can do the refining until it's perfect - I have less patience with other art forms, but I have infinite patience with words.
Now I have one very very scrawled-over printout here. Initially, I thought the story sucks because of the small bugs, and that I'm not a good writer afterall. Now, I have a profound realisation: I don't suck in general, because with good examination I actually know where I suck, and I can correct my suckage. Okay, my philosophy sucks if I think this is profound. After I fix the dozens of small errors (and the few really damn big ones) I found, I have a much more solid story and more tolerable language. I think, anyway.
And the reason why 2UPS has needed much less scrawlings so far is that I've actually read it a couple of times before I printed it - as I write earlier. I wonder how I fix the really big problems in this; I need to think about that...
[Note, 2008-04-29: I’ve tried to update the blog tags to mention which published stories I’m really talking about, but I regrettably can’t remember exactly what “2UPS” is. It’s either “Requiem for the Smashed Legs” or “Bidding for a Good Day” - probably the first one, because I printed it out and added notes, unlike the latter story.]