I clicked the save button and was finally done. After five revisions and almost a ream of chicken-scratched paper later, I had a story. More than that, really (no need to be coy); I had a pretty good story. An elegantly worded, powerfully themed, engrossingly plotted story if you want complete precision. I dug up my Writer's Market, and soon the story was winging its way to the flagship publication of the genre world. I didn’t necessarily expect the piece to find a home there. That would indicate gross pride on my part. But such an esteemed market would certainly employ a capable slush reader, one skilled at plucking pearls from the mire. At worst, I could count on a letter from the editor (probably written in longhand on his personal stationary) remarking about the excellence of my short and saying that -- alas! -- if only Orson Scott Card, China Miéville and Neil Gaiman hadn’t each begged to serialize a novel over the twelve months, he would’ve had space to run it, try us again next time, we’re definitely interested.
The reality of it was a little less rosy. I received a form rejection in less than a week. In fact, quite a few more form rejections arrived in my mailbox over the coming months. They left me feeling unappreciated and vengeful, and I let the story drift off into the hinterlands of my hard drive, where it dwelt unmolested until about two weeks ago. The closing scene had, for some reason or another, popped unexpectedly into my mind, and it made me wonder if I ought to nip off some extraneous dialogue, tuck in a few of the looser characterizations and give it another go at prime time. I printed it out, read it over.
And did not like it.
No, that’s not quite right: I was embarrassed by it. Things had changed -- time and, with it, my perspective. Away from the fevered rush to completion and the delirious dreams of success that came with it, I could see that the story wasn’t all that good. It felt flabby, ill-executed, amateurish. It didn’t need cosmetic surgery. It needed evisceration. And so I took out my knives and started sharpening.
(Picture: CC 2008 by Tambako the Jaguar)