The Story behind the Story is a blog post series where I share the behind the scenes info for each story I’ve had published.
Last time, I talked about my story Summer in Exile, published in the September 2011 issue of Eclectic Flash. Well, I am fortunate enough to also have another story in the issue—Elegy, my first published speculative story, which is also available online.
Elegy explores the use of implants – think wireless devices linked to your brain – in a religious context. Implants are something that both my speculative fiction WIPs deal with in some way, but I never looked at them through a religious lens. Then on one March 2010 evening, my prompt-based writing group chose to do a writing exercise on religion, and I thought aha! here’s my chance.
I then took my draft, polished it up, and shared it with my now-defunct writing group at the time. Every one liked it, but they wanted more. I’ve talked before about how my writing friends sometimes think my short stories are really novels in disguise, and feedback suggested Elegy was the same.
Later that summer, a different writing friend was visiting me and I was lamenting how people kept telling me to expand this story and how I didn’t want to. He told me, “You are the author. It’s your story. You know best.”
In subsequent months, I tried expanding the story, but nothing seemed to work. I remembered my friend’s advice and focused all my energy on revising that original scene that got me excited about the story in the first place and made it shine.
I started submitting the story in Spring of 2011. On May 3rd 2011, I sent the piece off to Eclectic Flash, and it was accepted the same day as Summer in Exile.
First Draft – 326 words
Final Draft – 878 words
Days from Idea to Acceptance – 420
Rejections – 2 form
Know what advice to accept and what to reject – This kind of thing can only come with time and experience, but remember that not all feedback you get on a story will necessarily help make it stronger.
Remember that YOU are the author of your work – Sometimes determining the size or focus of a story is as simple as deciding what story you want to write, and then concentrating on every aspect of craft to get it there. Simple, yes, but not always in practice.
No revising or redrafting is ever wasted work – I wrote a couple thousand words trying to expand Elegy, and then threw those scenes out when I decided they weren’t working and that the heart of the story I wanted to tell was in that initial draft. But I wouldn’t have come to that realization if I hadn’t taken the time to try to expand the story in the first place.