Bad examples, good examples

I’m judging a small fiction contest, reading and ranking two dozen short stories.

Several of the stories are sturdy boats that transport me from shore to the port that’s promised in the first few paragraphs.

But I can see exactly the moment the other stories break down. Several start strong but spring a leak halfway through. The rest are less than seaworthy from the very first page.

I’ve found these broken stories useful.

I spend enough time reading finished, published, printed work that I can inadvertently start to compare my messy drafts to polished final products. Something about seeing a shoddy example is instructive. I can look through the holes to see how the thing should work (and why it doesn’t).

Next time you’re making something new and you need examples to guide you, seek out a few bad examples along with the good.