I’m going to keep names generic to protect their privacy, because at the time of this writing, nothing is official. That said, I may have sold my first short story!
Two weeks ago, I received my first “yes”… with strings attached, making it more of a “maybe.”
Because I know I have a lot to learn, art is subjective, and competition is fierce, I try to keep my short story stable nearly constantly out there. I’ve amassed a healthy collection of digital “no’s.” It takes time for responses to roll in – anywhere from a couple of days to a few months, and I see no pattern when it comes to the size of the market and the time it takes them to respond. I’m building up my armor, treating each rejection as an opportunity to learn, if nothing else, to take it in stride.
Dear reader, if you have dreams of your first published piece being welcomed unconditionally with open arms, prepare yourself. That may not be the case.
The editor was interested in the hard-science fiction story, but pointed out a handful of technical problems, along with one confusing part of the narrative.
I rapidly experienced a series of reactions:
- Awesome! Someone likes something I did!
- Oh, but, they don’t like it that much…
- Crap, this story is broken. Despair!
- Well… not that broken. I can make it work if…
- I really want to argue with point number three…
- Arguing is not the professional response.
- Let it go.
- Roll up your sleeves and get to work.
I gave it overnight before responding with a simple “thank you”, and a self-imposed deadline of one week for the revisions. Re-reading my own work, I found that all the suggestions were needful, including the one that my knee-jerk reaction wanted to ignore. I ended up writing a new ending and shuffling some scenes around to (hopefully) make tension increase more linearly. These last changes did not come from the editor. It’s funny what you notice when a second opinion causes you to look at your story with fresh eyes.
It’s interesting what gets attention and what doesn’t. I’m still very much exploring different genres and finding my voice. The story in limbo is my only hard sci-fi short, and while I enjoyed writing it immensely, it is certainly not my favorite. It’s just another reminder that while yes, there is such a thing as bad writing (work on your craft), once you cross over into at least adequate writing, mechanically speaking, you never know what will speak to any given audience. You can improve your odds by researching the market you’re interested in, but who knows when they’ll be interested in a change-up that’s well-written but is a half-step outside their normal sphere.
At the time of this writing, I’m still waiting to hear back about the revisions. I’ll keep the blogosphere updated on that status. Best of luck, reader, with your own works-in progress. Keep submitting. Stay humble and professional. Everyone and everything has room for improvement. As Leonardo da Vinci said: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”