My First Rewrite Request

I sent off a short story to an anthology in recent months. My first anthology submission.

In the past, I’ve shied away from such things. Sometimes the calls are simply too vague. Other times they are so specific, I wonder how the editors can get anyone to write a story for them let alone a whole book full.

Plus, when you write a story for an anthology on spec, you automatically reduce the appeal of that story to other markets. If you get rejected, that’s it. (Don’t believe me? Clarkesworld Magazine specifically lists “stories originally intended for someone’s upcoming theme anthology or issue” as something they are NOT seeking in their submission guidelines.) That and we’ve all heard horror stories about anthologies that never materialize despite best efforts on all sides.

So writing a story worth writing for an anthology can be a risky proposition. But this case* was different. Within a few days of seeing the call, I had a story idea. And then I was writing said idea. And the next thing I knew, I had a fully realized story I was proud of. So I figured, why not?

I tinkered a bit, and then as the clock ticked down on the deadline, I sent it off. And I was fairly optimistic. I was pleased with how the story turned out and I knew the story was flexible enough I could rework it for another market if it was passed over. And best of all, by submitting, I was pushing myself to do something different. I was showing up to work, so to speak. I was taking my writing seriously.

A few weeks went by and then I received an email that my story had been shortlisted for the anthology – not a sure thing, but it was welcome news nonetheless.The only caveat was the editor wanted revisions.

I stared at my computer screen and blinked. Revisions… I had already shifted gears and was working on another project, and now he wanted me to go back? My story was fine as it was…wasn’t it?

He told me he loved the story concept and my character’s voice, but he wanted more. Especially at the end when the story just sort of stopped without a clear resolution.Ambiguous endings are kind of my thing, didn’t he know that? Maybe he fell into the camp that thinks ambiguous endings are a copout. Maybe they are…

I didn’t know what to do. I wanted another publication credit so bad, I thought I would do anything to get it. But how could I expand a story I thought was complete? How could I not?

Just like everything else with writing, a rewrite request can shake the foundation of your self-confidence. As writer Wendy Wagner describes in her Rewrite Request post for Inkpunks:

Getting a request for revision scares the crap out of me. On one hand, it’s wonderful to hear that your story has caught the attention of an editor. The things that are good about your piece are clearly working. But then you’re challenged to go beyond your original concept and make changes. I always worry that in fixing the problems (or shifting the concept, in the case of one piece), I might destroy all the good stuff by accident. And I also worry that I just don’t have the talent or intelligence to solve a problem I clearly missed on my own.

I was seriously considering writing back to the editor and saying I couldn’t make the changes he wanted, that it would change the vision I had of my story. And that’s when it hit me. How to expand the story in a way that would flesh out some of the things he was concerned about but stay true to my original concept.

And as I dug in and made the changes, I realized he was right –- there was more to tell, and my story only got stronger. After seeking reassurance from some writing friends, I sent if off a second time. This time I got a firm acceptance, and needless to say I’m thrilled.*

I still shudder when I think I almost withdrew my submission when faced with a rewrite. I could have gotten precious about my “art” and refused to make changes, but I didn’t. And I’m glad because it:

  • Resulted in stronger story
  • Forced me to look at my work in a new way
  • Gave me the confidence that my work and abilities are strong enough to handle bumps like this
  • Gave me a taste of what professional writers deal with regularly
  • Resulted in another publication credit

How can you argue with that? Have any of you faced similar problems? How did you negotiate changes with the editor?

*I have declined to name the anthology since the editors have not yet made the formal announcement as to which authors are included. When they do, I will be sure to share the details. Anyone with a burning desire to know may email me.

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15 thoughts on “My First Rewrite Request

  1. Kerri Cuev says:

    Good luck! I'm going through this now and as my ms is stronger, I'm shaking with the wait. I hope it is good enough. Thanks for this post and *waves* from a YA Campaigner!

  2. Gail Shepherd says:

    Yup, I agree 100 percent. I usually say, just go with what the editor wants and see how the chips fall. If you don't like it once you're done revising, you don't have to send it. And most likely, you'll have learned a lot. Congrats from a fellow campaigner.

  3. Beth says:

    I have had rewrites requested before, and since the editor is the buying customer, he/she has the right to ask for rewrites. As you say, it usually results in a much better story. Besides this, editors appreciate an author with a mind open to rewrites and the skill to do them. It says a lot for your professionalism when you can pull them off to everyone's satisfaction.

  4. Michael Haynes says:

    Another campaigner stopping in to say hello.

    Glad to hear that this worked out so well for you! I'm where Leigh Ann is — a rewrite request would be almost as exciting as an acceptance for me right now.

  5. K. M. Walton says:

    Hi, fellow Campaigner here. Congrats on the revision request.

    Yes, I can relate. While I have never written a short story (that is an art form I haven't tried writing because it intimidates me) I have written novels. The first novel I ever wrote went through an agent-requested “blank page re-write” and that was hard work. I had already revised the ever-loving-crap out of it and knew the story, characters and writing inside and out – so to start the novel over again from a blank page was daunting. But, like you with your revision, I did it.

    See you out there….

  6. Trisha says:

    Well done on writing a story they want, even if you do have some work to do on it yet! I've been a real slacker about getting my short stories out there. I'm planning on it in future though!

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