That New Story Smell
Posted on March 31, 2020
by Aeryn Rudel
I recently finished a short story, one I really like. After letting my critique partners work it over, I revised the piece, shaved off 500 words, and now I’ll start submitting it. What I want to talk about in this post is the wonderful, exhilarating experience of completing a new story and sending it out on it’s first submission. Let’s dive in.
I like lists. Maybe you’ve noticed. So here are three things I love about finishing a new story.
- The best thing I’ve ever written. This isn’t always true, of course, but often when I finish a new story I feel like I’ve grown as a writer, if only a little. It might just be the bright, shiny allure of NEW THING that makes me feel this way, or in the case of this particular story, it might be I pushed myself, tried something new, and as scary as it was, I did it (and I think it worked). That feeling of accomplishing something new is pretty sweet.
- Limitless potential. A new story has a blank slate. It hasn’t been rejected yet, and, at least for me, it’s the best I can make it without additional objective feedback. You know, the kind that comes from editors in the form of rejections. I almost always start at the top when I submit a new piece. I send it to all those dream, bucket-list publishers, and, yeah, I might even imagine how awesome it would be to place a story there. I don’t spend too long on fantasy island, though. Cracking those top markets is tough, and you have to be pragmatic about these things. Still, a new story lets you dream a little, and that’s a good thing.
- Sweet validation. One thing that makes me feel like a real, honest-to-god writer is finishing something, be it a short story, a novel or, hell, even a blog post. The knowledge that I can get an idea, execute that idea, and produce something that is (hopefully) of publishable quality is a great confidence booster. Never mind the dozen half-finished stories collecting dust on my hard drive, this time I did it. This time I overcame the fear and doubt, pushed through, and made a new thing. I’ll bask in that glow until the first rejections arrives. 🙂
So that’s a bit about how I feel when I complete a new story. How do you feel when you finish a piece? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Numbers 1 and 37, for sure. Since I am new to submitting, I’ve discovered a different sense of completion and satisfaction. I am assuming complete rejection at these first attempts at worldwide recognition, my expectations are not high. After all, as a former children’s librarian and teacher, I’ve easily handled over half a million books. Heck, I brought a measured one ton of children’s books to my new house that is now old. So am I; so are the books. But there are classics and favorites in there, so I am trying to reduce the shelves to a quarter ton for this next move. I digress.
My audience has always been my family and friends, those loved ones who just say they like it, love it, or that one’s a favorite. Even when I ask for help in critiquing from friends and family, I get nothing except the part they liked or how it relates to them. Beta critiques will offer everything you didn’t even think of, kindly, with as many variations and opinions as a political post. Without them, you don’t grow, even if you choose not to go their way. So, my first beta critiquing brought a bonus thirty-two opinions, enough to spend at least a week in rewrites. Score!
My first two acceptances and published works made me excited, because the acceptance is like getting an A on a paper. I had nearly all A’s on all my papers…but teachers didn’t have time to tell me what I was doing correctly to warrant the extra. I have only been excited and proud of exactly two papers and five poems my entire life. My mom had the same experience. She knew when her work was good, and all the other works were just average, even with a top grade.
It turns out that we are our own hardest critics. I share my “okay” work only to communicate, to share or give a piece of me to my friends and family, who are far more important to me than world-at-large recognition, to be pleased with average work that a few others like, because sharing and communicating is the prize.
For a piece to be published means, to me, that the message is good or important enough to be heard by hundreds or thousands of people. That might make a difference in the world. A contribution.
I write for me, for whatever it is in me that needs taking care of or to be satisfied or released or entertained. I don’t care if someone likes it; it’s for me. However, my social responsibilities and purpose is to be a contributor and to make a difference. I did that as a teacher. It’s my time now. But, I will enter rejectomancy for fun, without armor, no gold stars needed. It’s my human job.
Now, to cut 500 words and change this up for a different audience.
Completely agree. Finishing a story is an empowering feeling. It’s almost as good as the feeling you get when you come up with a new story idea! 🙂
I started reading this week’s story from The Arcanist without noticing the byline. After a couple paragraphs, I knew it was you and had to scroll up to confirm. Nicely done.
Oh, that’s really cool. Just curious. What clued you in it was me? You know. beyond two guys talking in a bar about a thing for 900 words and then doing the thing for the last 100. 😉
As soon as I read “living a couple hundred years,” I thought of vampires, which made me think of your writing. My own writing is dialogue heavy, so that doesn’t bother me. I’m also reading The Amber Chronicles. Talk about being dialogue heavy.
Heh, I have been known to write a bit of dialog . . . and, uh, vampires. 🙂