Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Earlier this week, I sent out two queries for stories I'd not heard back from for over six months. I've received a reply from one of them informing me they didn't know they were supposed to have it.

I queried the same two stories three months ago and received replies that they were still under consideration.

Go figure.

I was very kindly offered to resubmit and the editor would bump it to the top of the reading pile.

I pulled up the story file (System Failure) and read through it. I didn't like it anymore. I began to do a quick revision and found I was rewriting great chunks of it. I stopped about halfway through and junked it. I wrote a nice email back to the editor thanking them for their offer, but I wouldn't be taking them up on it as I didn't think the story worthwhile. This is another big market and this story just wasn't up to scratch.

Should I have just sent it and let the editor decide?

I don't think so. What if it had been accepted? I would have died. I would have also cringed at the thought other people would read this down the track and it would be associated with me. I'm guessing the editor would have come to the same conclusion as I did and gave me a quick, sorry - no thank you.

So instead of junking it, why wouldn't I send it off to a FTL market, or publish it at TLODS, or as an example of my work on my own website?

For the same reasons I said no to resubmitting it. I expect better of my stories, and I would like to think anybody who has read my more recent work also expects more of my stories.

From this moment forth, I shall no longer retire my older stuff (or any new stuff I write which doesn't make the grade), it's too nice a way to describe inferior work slinking off into the darkness. If it's not good enough to be submitted to TLODS, or my own examples page, then it gets junked.

Too harsh? Would you have resubmitted? Think I'm nuts?


  1. Not harsh at all. the subjectivity of ones own work is very important to the submission process. However, some works that I loved immensely have had horrid times finding a place to live and those I thought were technically okay, but only okay stories, had no problem finding a home. Go figure. Sometimes we are our own worst critic.

  2. I queried 'The New Yorker' this week - they've probably deleted me.

  3. For what my opinion is worth, I think you did the right thing. Resubmitting because something wasn't right for a given market is one thing. Shopping around something you don't think is up to snuff is... I'm not sure if it's lazy or vain. Burt it's not good!

    Well done!

  4. Having not read the story, I can't say. For me, a story has to be a dead end before I'll retire it. Or so much time/attention to fix that its not practical to do so.

  5. Not nuts at all. Although there might still be a few salvageable bits... I think there's something in every story that's worth saving.

  6. I go with my gut feeling and if its not sitting right, its not sitting right.

  7. For what it's worth, you did the right thing. If you consider a piece to be substandard, you should either fix it or trunk it.

    The best advice I was ever given was this: sit on a first draft of a short story for at least 3-6 months before polishing it and getting it ready to submit. This will give you a proper perspective on the piece, dilute the fragile artiste ego we all have etc. Plus you can always work on other stuff in the mean time. This also allows time for crits to sink in.

    Editors and slush-readers worldwide will thank you! A common complaint is that many stories are actually unfinished. Ie the writing hasn't been "matured" enough, and a decent idea appears rushed and incomplete.

    Hope this helps!

  8. Jamie - If I love the work (like Too late the rain) I will persevere. It's almost becoming a personal challenge with pieces like that. I know they're good, i just need to fin d the right home so everyone else can read it.

    Cate - their loss.

    katey - lazy and vain and very unprofessional.

    Nat - I was writing huge chunks of it and that led to a need to rewrite other bits. The stroy was told somewhat differently in the first place so it was just all too much trouble for something I think I could do a lot better now.

    D - or it's gas...

    Jason - Not sure if I could sit on something for 6 months. I'd be lucky to write 8-10 new shorts in a year at the moment. I tend to sit on them for a month or two before they go out but longer would kill me. I understand what you mean though and it makes good sense - and yes, slushers of the world, or at least this one, would thank you.

  9. It's probably not as bad as you think. You might set it aside for a while until you've got some time to look it over without a specific market in mind. At that point, you can revise it if you think it's worth the effort. But I don't think you did the wrong thing at all; if you're not happy with the story, there's no point in sending it out anyway.

  10. When I first absorbed this advice, I felt exactly the same way :-)

    "Are you SERIOUS?" I said. "I'm a genius, and the world needs to see my stories NOW."

    blah blah hubris etc :-)

    But once I started sitting on pieces for a while, I found it easier to find homes for them. Distance and perspective are absolutely essential to a good edit.

    I can report that it's totally worth doing. The magazines will still be there when you're 100% happy with a piece (well, they might be, given the GFC).

  11. I've junked more stories than I've ever admitted to writing. Sometimes, you have to dump 'em in order to move in a progressive way.

    And sometimes, stories are worth putting an extra effort into. If there is any inkling that you may want to develop it later on, save it in a separate folder, and don't delete.

    Now how's that for wishy-washy? LOL ;)