Tuesday, July 24, 2007

When to Pull the Plug

Retreat never sets well with me. Perhaps others are more realistic with their works, but I find it difficult to reevaluate a short story and deem it as unfit for further submissions. I keep thinking, “Perhaps this story will do better with the next market. I just need to give it another chance.”

My main argument for an annual reevaluation of stories is to promote the highest level of quality in submissions. If you’ve read and applied my entry on getting organized, then time isn’t much of a factor with submissions. Also, if you’re targeting markets that allow electronic submissions, then money isn’t much of a factor either. But what kinds of stories are you pushing forward with your name attached to them? If these are stories written three years ago, they will not show your current skill level (assuming you are improving). You want editors to read your writing at its best, not at its former best.

I’ve often fallen into the trap of saying, “Look! I have X stories in submissions.” Is that really an impressive statement? Regardless of what X is, it isn’t the same as saying, “I sold X stories this year.” I would rather have only two stories in submission if I knew that they were both of great quality than have a mixed batch of twelve stories. After a while, it just becomes a distraction, no matter how much you’ve planned out your submissions ahead of time.

I know it’s hard to put a story in a drawer knowing it won’t come out again, but that story did advance your skill level by some measure. It was a valuable use of your time, and the next story will be that much better. Learn from whatever mistakes you made with the old story, and move on.


James Enge said...

I agree that sometimes you have to put a story aside and walk away. But I figure it's not necessarily forever. Years later one may come back to it with a fresh viewpoint. (So I tell myself whenever I walk away.)

Matthew Wuertz said...

That's actually a really good point. I've tried unsuccessfully to revive a couple of stories before, but I think it is possible. For anything I've written so far, I think I could only do it if I kept the "idea" of a story and rewrote it from scratch.