Today, when I really ought to be writing something new, I find that my thoughts are dragged back to a piece that I submitted back in October. It was for a magazine and I am thinking about it again because, although I sent it off for consideration, I am not happy with it.

The trouble, unfortunately, was that the piece needed to be submitted by a deadline – as most do – and I found myself too concerned with hitting that target. My worry is that this rush to the finish line came at the expense of refining and polishing the story to an acceptable standard. Strangely, although this was the longest short story I have submitted, at 6,000 words, it is also the one that I found hardest to cram in under the word limit. This story needs a bit more room to breathe. I worry that, in order to get the word count down, I have sacrificed some important things: like decent character progression, believable plot development. You know, nothing important.

So I fully expect to see a rejection letter (or email – does anyone actually send them by letter?) for this story, and my thoughts are now turning to what I should do with it then. I clearly won’t send it out again in its current state, but where do I go from here? At 6,000 words, it is already quite long and making it longer will only reduce the number of outlets for it. Also, I wonder whether people will be prepared to sit down and commit to a story of 8,000 or 9,000 words as a “short story” without some sort of hook to get them started.

But it does need to be longer. I have already stripped out a lot of things and it now moves from A to B to C with swift abandon. It should probably have a few more stops along the way, to help you make the jump from here to there without it feeling as though each lurch forward is solely for the author’s convenience.

Or could it go another way? Can I rework it to a leaner, meaner story? To do so I will need to start again, taking the bones of the story and trying it a different way around. If I’m honest, I’m not sure I have the enthusiasm for that approach, but if that is what the story demands then maybe that is what I need to do.

For now I sit and wait for the response from the magazine. Until they have said “no thank you” then I am going to leave it alone. But I do think it is interesting that this story keeps bubbling up in my brain; clearly there is something there that I want to write and perhaps a little more time and a fresh look at it may give me some clues as to where I take it next.

And there was me, thinking this writing lark might be easy…

When things aren’t quite working out
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