Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Time for a Break?

Summer is finally over, school is back and with it a sense of order returns to our lives. At least for mothers and fathers it does, anyway. We look at our messy house and sigh a sigh of relieve. We survived the insufferable attack of our kids under the influence of too much leisure time, too much sugar, and heat waves. We greet our old friend Silence as we sit at our desks and open our computers, ready to retake control of our writerly dues.

With this welcome change of pace comes another Insecure Writers meeting, and how wonderful! I could actually hear my thoughts as I mulled over what route to take for this latest installment. Given that I haven't been able to write much lately, I decided to talk about rejection. When is it time to pull the plug on a story and let it go into the archives labeled as 'For Future Analysis?"

I have three short stories I considered finished by the beginning of summer. In fact, two of those I've been trying to publish for a little over four months; for the last piece, a Flash Fiction, although I finished it over a year ago, it's only recently that I decided I was interested in publishing it. So far I've garnered four rejection letters for the shorts and both are presently being considered by a fifth mag. No word on weather they have already read them and are thinking about it, or if they're still on the slush pile. You know how it goes.

The flash, though, I only submitted to two publications. Both rejected it, but the latest was awesome enough to actually write back with a series of commentaries as to why they had found the story wasn't up to their standards. It was so good and refreshing! Finally someone telling me what I'm doing wrong, at least to their eyes. After reading their mail, I re-read my piece, thought about it, considered their words, and found out there was so much more I could do to make the story better. Before submitting the story I had send it to a reader to get feedback, but still I guess I was too close to the story to notice many of its shortcomings. Now I'm now working on it, polishing it for a new round of queries.

Then, about the other two... A few months ago I came across a publication called The Rejected Quarterly which mission, they state, is to publish unusual fiction that doesn't fit anywhere else. The first requirement? Have at least five rejection letters for the piece you are submitting to them. My plan is to query both stories at least two more times (provided that this fifth time isn't the charm), then submit them to Rejected Quarterly, and if rejected again, file them for good.

I don't mean to let those stories gather dust forever and ever, but to let them rest a few years as my skills develop further and I become less attach to them. When I feel like it's the time to give them a new chance, or I have no new ideas (it can happen), then I'll revise them and make them pretty all over again.

I don't think a story is ever truly dead. It tugs at you to be told and weather you let it lay dormant for sometime, or you choose to tell in a whole different way, it will always find its way out of your mind. What do you think? How many rejections are enough for you? What do you do with those stories? I've always heard that you should let your stories breath between drafts to get a better perspective of them. I give three to six months before I go back to a story to work on a second draft, maybe I should leave more time. What do you think?


Paige Lollie said...

I like that you don't think a story is fully-dead. I have to agree with you there. It just means that it is not yet time for that story to be seen. Or the ideas that come from that story are fully developed (though at the present time, we might think so).

But that can be a hard thing to do. Letting go of any sort of hard work would be hard, even if you always know where it is.

Wish you loads of luck with all that you are sending in! Hopefully now isn't the time for them to be put aside!

Gina said...

Thanks, Paige. Letting go of a baby is always hard but we have to be ready and recognize when that time has come. Still, there's always hope =)

Lexa Cain said...

Hi Gina! Thanks for commenting on my post about putting stories/novels in the deep freeze.

Your situation is a bit different. I can only speak from my experience with pubbing short stories (over 10 before I switched to novels). From your post,I don't think you've done all you can with the stories. Feedback is super important when you're learning. Find a writing site or a critique group. Any story should go through many critiques and revisions before you submit them. After many revisions and the final approval of my crit group, I used Duotrope to submit to every single venue that took the genre I was writing in (like 20 places!). A few of my stores and flashes never sold,but most did. Keep searching for feedback and revising before you give up on the stories. :-)

Gina said...

Hey, thanks for commenting Lexa! Though I don't have a crit group (haven't been able find one in my area), I do ask a few people to check out the pieces several times before sending them to my editor. The flash fiction was the only one which wasn't professionally edited, thus I didn't receive the extra advise. It could be that which made it a weaker story. I'm setting things right now, but it certainly helps to know you tried in some cases as many as twenty places. Thanks for your advise and input!!

Lynn Proctor said...

i think you are right gina, a story is never truly dead, just tucked in our memories sometimes :)

~Jennifer~ said...

I think it helps to put a story away for a while and come back to it later. I admire you for submitting your writing for publication--that is a testament to your determination to achieve your dream and shows you are dedicated to your passion. Keep on going! I'm a brand new follower and am happy to meet you through the IWSG. Best thing that's happened to me since I've been needing encouragement for quite some time.

M Pax said...

I keep reworking my short stories. It's fantastic when en editor writes why they rejected. It's encouraging. I learned from a writer years ago that there are different levels of rejection. That's the gold star kind.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm in awe of anyone who stays the course and racks ups rejections. There should be a merit badge.
And Jennifer's right, blog hops like ISWG are a great way to rub elbows.
Have a wonderful day Gina.

VikLit said...

I agree that a story isn't fully-dead. Sometimes they just need a break and can be returned to later. Or might spark off another story which *does* get taken up. I wish you luck with them.

Thank you for visiting my IWSG post.

Gina said...

Lynn, you got it right!

Jennifer, thanks for your kind words. Sometimes it is hard to find the strength to keep going in the face of rejection. It is groups like this one that makes it easier. :)

MPax, I'd love to know more about the five kinds of rejection! I definitively am with you in the Gold Star Kind and instead of feeling discouraged by that letter, I actually felt much better. If my work deserves a little letter with tips from such a busy bunch, all is not lost. There's still hope!

Kelly, a merit badge is a great idea! ISWG writers are a very deserving group! :)

VikLit, thanks for stopping by. I guess what's important is to keep believing in ourselves and never stop trying. Sooner or later we will be in the right place at the right time.

~Jennifer~ said...

I'd like to know more about the different levels of rejection, too, MPax.

Nicole said...

"I don't think a story is ever truly dead. It tugs at you to be told and weather you let it lay dormant for sometime, or you choose to tell in a whole different way, it will always find its way out of your mind."

THIS! Love it.

Chris Fries said...

Absolutely -- I was going to pull the exact same quote that Nicole did just above me!

Beautifully stated, Gina!

Like you said, stories never totally die, even if you try to kill them off. They'll keep popping up in new ways until they eventually get told.

Gina said...

Those pesky little voices in our heads, pestering us to keep them alive in the pages. ;) Thanks for your nice comments Nicole and Chris!