This post is the first in a new, irregular series where I talk about the path to publication for each story I’ve had accepted.
Thanks to the response I got from my post Pen Names and Other Problems, I’ve decided to go ahead and share my writing credits. I haven’t officially linked my name to this blog, but baby steps. We’ll see how it goes.
My story Summer in Exile was published in the September 2011 issue of Eclectic Flash, which is now available online.
I first drafted the piece at my prompt-focused writing group way back in late November 2009. The particular prompt had each of us select a phrase from a book that we would then later incorporate into our story. The phrases were as follows:
- A. S. Byatt’s Little Black Book – “whistled oddly in her petrifying larynx”
- Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima – “his big horse eyes looked up at me nervously”
- Margaret Atwood’s Dancing Girls and Other Stories – “what the bloody hell was he doing on top of that sixty foot tree”
- Mary Doria Russell’s Children of God – “Sometimes if he kept still people would go away.”
- Wallace Stegner’s Collected Short Stories – “Shame made him turn over and lie face down”
I was pretty happy with how my story came out and decided to tinker with it a bit before sharing it with my now-defunct crit group. The other members were positive about the piece, and their only suggestion was to try to incorporate some backstory to make the character more real. But after a few attempts, I felt I was changing the heart of the story too much, reverted back to the original version, then went ahead and submitted it to a few markets starting in Fall 2010.
One market was kind enough to offer me some personalized feedback and again pointed out the issue of character. By now, some time had passed and I reworked the piece again, trying to flesh out the main protagonist. I shared the story at a local open mic night, tinkered some more, and finally found a good balance between character and story.
On May 3rd 2011, I sent the piece off to Eclectic Flash, and it was accepted.
1st Draft: 441 words
Final Draft: 692 words
Days from Idea to Acceptance: 520
Rejections: 4 form, 1 personal
Get other people’s eyes on your stuff – My critique group at the time was able to pinpoint what I needed to do to take my story to the next level, even though I was unable to execute their suggestions to my satisfaction.
Stories take time to get right – I am convinced the iterative process of revising, submitting, revising, submitting is what led me to the version of the story that was published. This means waiting for each market to get back to you before submitting it somewhere else. I was/am too new a writer to think I’ll get my story right the first time, so trial and error was a great way for me to learn and grow my craft.
Don’t expect overnight success – 520 days. Enough said.
Intrepid readers will note that I have another story in the September 2011 issue of Eclectic Flash, but I’ll talk about that piece in another post.
In the meantime, happy writing!