One of the most nerve-wracking things about writing is the submission process.
You have to understand, publishing is one of the most time-consuming processes out there. It takes weeks, usually months, before an acquisitions team makes a final decision (and if you’re accepted, and even more agonizing wait for your baby to become real). I’ve had this short story out for submission since August.
August, y’all. I tried to push it out of my mind as much as possible, but sometimes it just snuck up on me and drove me insane.
Today, the rejection popped up in my inbox.
It was almost enough to make me laugh.
It was good, they liked it. But it was “too angsty” to fit in with the other pieces they were going to use.
I accept that.
Imagine a seal with a plate balancing on a stick on its nose, one on each flipper, and one on its tail. That’s pretty much what it’s like to pull an anthology together. There’s a delicate balance and just one tiny thing can screw everything up and cause plates to end up in pieces on the floor. In anthologies, good stories get rejected all the time, because they will break that balancing act. All the authors involved benefit from rejecting the oddball story, no matter how freakin’ amazing it is.
The rejection feedback, however, is what made this one humorous to me.
One, it’s actually a situation the acquisitions editor does not like but I gave it a redeemable factor. That’s a win. Even with the big fat no attached to it. (I take my wins where I can get them.)
I love making people rethink things when they read my stuff. Virtue of Death takes everything you know about angels and throws it out the window, right down to their wings. Remember Edna from The Incredibles? “NO CAPES!” Well, I was like that with my angels’ wings. “NO FEATHERS!”
Two, I was asked to resubmit it as a full-length novel.
Excuse me for a minute.
Okay, there, I feel better.
Here’s what’s funny. I pilfered these characters and one or two scenes from a novel to write this short story. (One I wrote, not someone else’s. Stop thinking I’m a plagiarizer.)
I wrote this novel in 2014. It. Was. Horrible. It was a head-hopping mess with a plot that was a tad more than ridiculous. No, really.
No, you can’t read it to determine this for yourself. Just take my word for it.
I was bound and determined to make this novel die a death in the shadows of shame in a folder on my hard drive. Still, there was one scene in this novel that I absolutely adored and I vowed that, whereas the rest of the file was ridiculous, those 2,000 words were going to be used again. Somewhere. Somehow.
When the call came out for this short story, those words fit the bill perfectly. I lifted that scene, a couple characters, the title, and got to work.
The plot is different in the short. Even the characters ended up quite different than originally imagined.
The one similarity was that the novel was rejected, as was the short.
I’ll expand it as requested, with these new, much more fleshed-out characters and without the head-hopping. Just when I was bound and determined to leave that piece in the pile of stuff of “God, I wish I hadn’t written that,” it will be resurrected and find new life after all. All thanks to a rejection.
It’s the circle of life. (Cue Elton John.)
Novel—short story—(future) novel.
I don’t know when I’ll get around to getting it done, but it will happen.
To all aspiring authors (even even established ones), you can take two lessons away from this. One, maybe things aren’t quite as bad as you think. We are our own worst critics. Two, just because something is rejected and winds up trunked, doesn’t mean it’s meant to be trunked forever.