Without thinking about it, I've been mentally dividing my writing life into "before" and "after" I took the writing classes at Bellevue College.
In the Before time, I didn't know I was supposed to maintain a point of view -- that it can be much harder to do an omniscient narrator well.
I wasn't dealing with plot. Instead I discovered the story as I went, through a series of exploratory detours, without thinking about how satisfying the resolution would be for a reader. And that can be okay, if I'd been willing to rewrite the story once I figured it out for myself.
It wasn't malice that left my stories sloppy, just good ol' fashioned ignorance. How I could be so well-read, and never notice the framework, speaks to the power of suspending one's disbelief.
My first story where the light came on started at 5,000 words. When I listened to the feedback I received, I compared it to what I wanted to say and found they didn't match. So I threw out all the words and rewrote the story completely, and on purpose. It ended up a much cleaner and compact 4,000 words.
Even though I was a technical writer for years -- and will probably do it again since I like the work -- I only count these last five months as real. I only count three of the short stories I've ever written as real. (I ignore the plays through a feat of mental gymnastics.)
The story that was rejected and now I want to "make better" is the second story of the three. It has a simple plot, but I believe it has potential. While cleaning the story up yesterday, I realized one of my crutch words is "it." The story was full of "its."
There are still so many tools I don't have yet, and I do not excel at this patient-acquisition-of-skills malarkey. But I guess it's true what they say, the only way to be a writer is to write.