Back in 2013, still basking in the glow of my recent competition win, I wrote a story called Kisses for Curses. Set in a fantasy world, it revolves around a classic villain, the notion of evil and the prospect of redemption. I took a lot of time over it, playing with structure and narrative technique. I had fun with it, thoroughly enjoying the process from initial concept through to polished final draft and I felt confident that I was creating exactly the sort of story I would like to read. I wasn't writing for a market and I wasn't writing with money in mind - I was writing for me.
The final result was, as it always is, a million miles away from my original idea. The theatricality of the tale in my head didn't quite reach the page but I was as happy with it as I could be. I never feel a piece is 'finished' but it seems that's nothing more than rampant insecurity masquerading as perfectionism. If it's not finished, I can't send it out and if I can't send it out, it can't be rejected, erego I can continue believing it's wonderful. I'm wise to my own game. I got the story as close to perfect as I could and I started sending it out.
Three rejections later and I was feeling a little less positive. The tricky thing about rejections is that you're not likely to get a lot of feedback. Editors are busy people and writing for publication is competitive. They simply don't have the time to explain in detail what works, what doesn't or why a story isn't the right fit. The comments I was recieving ranged from a simple 'Thanks, but no' to 'We thoroughly enjoyed your story and are thrilled that we got the chance to read it. However, it's not right for us at this time.'
Cue long hours of self torture trying to work out if:
a) The story is utter crap
b) I've been sending it to the wrong publications
c) I've been sending it to the right publications but it's too similar to what other writers are doing
d) I've been sending it to the right publications but it's too different from what other writers are doing
e) It's a great story but my timing is bad
Of course, there are a milion and one reasons a publication will reject a story. The trick is knowing what to do next. I was torn - I wasn't sure if I should edit it, rewrite it or just keep sending it out in the hope that it would eventually land on the right person's desk. Thankfully, I did the latter and submitted Kisses for Curses to the Wells Literature Festival. It made the shortlist.
The story didn't place in the competition BUT being shortlisted restored my faith in myself so I threw myself into submitting anew, carefully researching the publications and labouring over formatting guidelines so that the story wasn't dismissed out of hand for having the wrong font/wordcount/spacing. Three more rejections followed. I considered cutting the piece to 250 words for a microfiction contest (I'm not particularly precious about things like this but the thought broke my heart). I considered changing the viewpoint. I though about altering the structure. My head told me to stick it in a drawer(universal writers' code for bin) and forget about it, to let it go and move on. My heart told me to take one more chance.
I came across New Realm Magazine quite by accident during an innocuous web search. I did a little digging. I submitted my work. I waited.
Last week, I woke up to an email that confirmed New Realm's acceptance of the story. Kisses for Curses wil be published tomorrow in e-book format alongside contributions from several other writers. The world I imagined finally gets a chance to exist out there in the heart and the mind of the reader instead of lurking in a drawer in my bureau or stagnating in a file on my laptop. The lesson here is to hang on to that thread of self belief, however frayed and fragile it might be. Ours is a game of talent, chance and circumstance. It's all about the right story landing in the right lap at the right time. When you consider the odds, it seems miraculous that any of us manage to get published at all. But there it is folks; work hard, believe in yourself and never stop trying.
Until next time...