Have you ever had a story that you know has potential, but try as you might you just can’t get it accepted?
I’ve been pitching one of my short stories, a Lovecraftian sci-fi piece, to various editors since I wrote it in 2008. Among the form rejections there were a few personalised responses, where the editor was kind enough to tell me why my story didn’t make the cut. Each time, I thanked them and took the story back and reworked it, all along convinced that my story idea was solid, and if I could just get the right angle, I would have a winner. Persistence paid off, and as the months went by the rejections were more and more favourable. Finally, my story made one magazine’s short list. I was on cloud nine.
But, as P.G. Wodehouse wrote in Very Good, Jeeves, “Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove”. A few weeks later the editor informed me that the magazine was ceasing publication. I was frustrated, but saw it as an opportunity to pull the story back and take another good look at it. However, it had already gone through nine significant edits, and I felt I was too close to the story to see what might be done to make it more marketable. I needed a fresh set of eyes.
Fortunately, I had recently joined a local writing group, so I submitted my story to them. We met last night, and I got four fresh perspectives on my story – what works, and what doesn’t. Their advice and reactions were very insightful, and they have given me ideas that I probably would never have considered – like trimming the story still further into a flash fiction piece, which might suit the single theme a bit better. Some of them even wanted to see it again. This experience renewed my enthusiasm, which is probably what I needed most of all.