Friday 19th February 2021
I have a short story deadline coming up and I may deliberately miss it.
In recent weeks I’ve collected details of a few open submissions, the idea being that as part of my work for 2021 I should write and submit a few short stories. I had a 2 week window where I could work on these and the submission deadlines matched up.
And to be fair, I ended up writing the first draft of one story and making editing notes on another during the fortnight. It might not be the most productive I’ve ever been with short stories, but I definitely used those 2 weeks to work on a couple.
One of these open submissions seemed to match an older story I had. I thought was very good but still needed a bit of work. The idea was that I would edit this story, make it fit the themes of the anthology better and submit it.
But as I’ve edited that story I’ve realised that whilst it matches one of the themes very, very well, matching the other is going to be a push. What’s weird is that the second theme is one I’m familiar with and often use. I thought it would be easy for me to redraft the story to include it.
And I still think it could be done, BUT my gut tells me it isn’t the right thing to do.
So much of writing is gut reaction. That can be gut reaction that eventually gets proven wrong, or gut reaction that’s right. This is one of the reason why I believe walking away from stories for a while once they are complete is a good idea – at least for me.
I need to come back to those stories as a slightly different person. I need to view that story afresh and have that same gut reaction. That’s my internal barometer as to whether any choice is right or not.
More often than not, coming back to a story, will result in a lot of changes. I think that’s healthy and good. I have some friends who dive back into editing right after writing and I always think “you’re going back into that with the same mindset that wrote it”. Maybe it works for them, but I need that distance so I can come back at it with a different perspective.
And this short story, definitely has a lot that can be changed. It needs a stronger central theme which will come as part of character motivation. I just don’t think that theme is the one that this anthology needs.
That’s OK, there’s still loads of open markets that might suit this story better.
But there’s still part of me that wonders, given how busy this week has been, and how busy this weekend is going to be – am I just convincing myself this to excuse myself for not having it done yet?
I keep reading stories of how writers are struggling during this lockdown, and it’s definitely been a battle for me. I feel my productivity is finally coming together but that’s manifesting itself in moving lots of tasks a tiny bit forward, rather than getting priorities done.
Perhaps I’m being hard on myself. It’s so easy to focus on what’s not yet done, rather than all I’ve accomplished this week already. The important thing – as I’ve told myself continually all day – this story does not match that second theme and trying to shoehorn in what seemed like a simple change at the time, just isn’t going to work on this story.
There are other submissions. Focus on that.
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