Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I have a handful of short stories in my query list, ones for which I’ve been trying to find homes for months now. Each time I’d get a rejection, I’d shake my head and submit that piece elsewhere.

Last week, I opened one of them to re-read it (it’s been a while). What I found was that after sitting unviewed for a “fermentation” period, the story’s rough spots jumped off the page and into my face screaming “fix me!” This caught me off-guard. I’ve advised here in previous blog posts to let your work sit before reading it fresh and “completing” it. I thought I had done that. I honestly thought this story was the best it could be when I began submitting oh-so-long-ago. In truth, it didn’t yet shine.

You know the next part. I revised it, cut out bits that didn’t work, tightened connections and flows between others that did. Let it sit another day or two. Re-read it and tweaked it even more. Now it’s sitting while I begin another (exciting!) new project. I’ll read it at my next break and make any changes that jump out. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Once the story in question is (again) where I think it can’t get better/tighter/stronger, I’ll begin anew the submissions process. But—and here’s the thing—those magazines to whom I’d already submitted this story are no longer options for it at this point. Most markets don’t want/won’t accept resubmissions even with revisions unless they specifically ask for them. Once they say no, it’s a done deal. With all my prior choices off the table, I’ll have to root out new markets whose editors have not yet seen prior incarnations of this piece and try with them.

My point is this: Don’t rush your work. Every story, every essay, every poem takes as long as it takes. Rushing them into production or a query process can burn bridges.

Meanwhile, start on your next project. Pull out another WIP that needs a fresh review. Read works in your genre. Read works in other genres. Do whatever it is that fills you and inspires you so that when you come back to review that story, you’ll have fresh insight and see it with new eyes.

Photo by Steve Johnson
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2 Replies to “Lather, Rinse, Repeat”

  1. great advice.
    a lot of times when i want to write a blog post, i end up writing something completely different than what i wanted to do. but i still end up later on in the week or the next month to write what i wanted to do when i wasnt able too.

    and not pushing your work, as in you have to do this one this day and all that, it removes the stress and the pressure from your writing, and you are able to produce something even better.

    1. Yes! And isn’t writing something better the whole point? Thanks, Elissa!

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