I don’t like leaving potential cash sitting on the table. Why have money sitting someplace where it’s not invested, or at least earning some sort of minuscule interest in a savings account?
I feel the same way about short stories. If a short story has an ending, it’s no good to anyone hidden away on my computer. It needs to be sitting in some editor’s slush pile, where it at least has the potential to earn something.
This, I think, is why I sometimes submit stories to publications way too soon. I get a little antsy about a story and just want to send it off before taking the proper amount of time to let it sit and work on another revision or two. Ideally I’d get a couple of critiques on Scribophile before working on a final revision.
Instead, I take the approach of, “Well, it’s done, I’ll ship it off and see what happens.” This is just a terrible strategy for getting published and, in the long run, will hurt your chances more than help them.
I have a handful of stories that continue to pile up rejection letters. Two of my favorites are in that list, but they’re exceptions because I’ve been trying pro-paying journals only for them. I wouldn’t say that they are not ready; I’d just say I’m more selective about where I send them.
A couple of others, however, continue to receive rejections because I shouldn’t be sending them out yet in the first place. One story, in particular, I know exactly what’s wrong with it and what I need to do to fix it. I even had a rejection letter confirm that for me.
But what did I do? I took the lazy route and said, “Eh, I’ll send it someplace else, and if it doesn’t get accepted, I’ll fix it next time.”
Lazy, lazy, lazy. And embarrassingly amateurish.
So I’m taking a new pledge. The title of this post is “When to pull a story out of the slush pile” and I’ll tell you exactly when that time is:
It’s the moment you realize that something in the story isn’t perfect.
Take it out of the slush pile. Fix it. And then get it back out there and get it published.
What about you? What are some of your bad writing habits? Do you ever take the lazy route and put off fixing a problem in a story? Leave a comment and let us know!