Another name for this could have been – surprising yourself. The two things go together.
I’d been submitting for a year when I got my first “maybe”. It took over 90 days to get this reply, a month for me to figure out what they wanted me to do, and then another 80 or so days for them to say yes.
A week ago, I got a cheque in the mail from America.
This particular short story was born of an idea – an arranged marriage that a daughter was not happy about, but when she listened in on how it was arranged, she was surprised by the terms and conditions. Originally it was going to be set in a historical setting. Originally it was going to be a flash piece involving her overhearing her father speak with a prospective suitor.
I don’t plan when I write, but I do make decisions as I write. I mainly wanted to do something quickly, so I picked modern day London, but with magic (because I lived in London). I’m not sure where the brother in the story came from (probably because I myself have a brother). Some of the main relationship probably has to do with the misunderstandings I’ve had with my own parents (often I think children and parents forget that they want the best for each other, and don’t see that at the root of the disagreements they have about life and it’s many paths).
I did not think it was the best thing I’d written. I thought the ending was quite pat – it was a “twist” because I didn’t want the end to be one of the two obvious options. It was written in about an hour and a half. My betas weren’t amazed, just generally responsive. I sent if off because that’s what I do with stories – I send them off.
It was accepted by the first place I sent it to. After about half a year of back and forth, yes. But accepted, it was. (Yoda ftw.)
There’s a story to be learnt from this. I’d been submitting things for about 8 months at that point. The first thing I ever submitted was to this same magazine. And the first thing I ever sent out was a big step for me. It was good. It had to be good at that point for me to want to send it out.
They said no after about 30 days. And for a while that crippled me. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it. It was *good*. That’s why I’d sent it out in the first place.
6 more months of this, and I’d stoppped waiting for something to be brilliant before I sent it out. I just sent stuff out. And the same place that had originally said no, said yes to something that I didn’t think was worth their time.
You are a terrible judge of your own work, as a writer. You’re married to your piece, it’s yours, it’s part of your soul. You’ll doubt yourself. I still doubt myself.
It’s not worth it. Especially with short stories. They’re not (hopefully, anyway) going to take up months of your time. Just write the bloody thing, go over it, and send it out. Someone will either say yes or no.
It does you no benefit to have it lying on your hard-drive, because no-one can has a chance to say anything then.