Welcome to the next installment of Night Walk Wednesday, where I’ll talk about the submission journey of a story from my upcoming flash fiction anthology Night Walk & Other Dark Paths. This week’s story is “When the Lights Go On”.
“When the Lights Go On” is another story written during a one-hour flash fiction exercise. It’s also an excellent example of why I do these frantic scribble-fests. They often lead me down unexpected paths and often some of my best work comes out of these high-pressure writing sessions. “When the Lights Go On” is one of those stories where I knew I’d written something pretty good from the outset.
This story is set in the 1950s in the small town of Arco, Idaho. That city has the unique distinction of being the first in the world lit entirely by nuclear power, an event that took place in 1955. I’m not sure how I ended up there from the prompt, which I believe was a photo of a nuclear power plant, but the premise is ripe for all kinds of sci-fi and horror. The story, like a lot of my flash, has a simple setup. In this case, the folks of my fictional Arco are terrified to turn on the lights, the same lights powered by the nearby nuclear plant. The story is all about why they’re afraid. 🙂
This story is a weird one. I knew it was good. I knew it was unique. So I started sending it out with the utmost confidence it would get picked up quickly. Well, that was not to be the case. In fact, this story was rejected a whopping ten times before I sold it. The thing is, it was shortlisted four times by top-flight pro markets, and kept getting feedback like this: A well-done piece of flash, foreshadowing major consequences, letting the reader wonder, until the chilling reveal and a solid final line.
What you have here is a classic example of good stories don’t always get accepted even when a publisher likes them. Still, notes like the one above encouraged me to keep sending it out, and I eventually sold it to The Arcanist. In fact, it took second place in their Ghost Story contest, and the prize money worked out to over 10 cents per word. Not too shabby.
So it took me ten months to sell “When the Lights Go On”, and it average about one submission (and rejection) per month. I should point out it has received one rejection as a reprint, so it’s ten rejection it’s initial run. Anyway, as I said above, sometimes good stories can take a while to sell. There’s always an element of luck involved. You have to put the story in front of the right editor at the right time. The point is to keep trying, especially when a story is receiving universally positive feedback.
If you enjoyed the submission journey of “When the Lights Go On”, consider checking out its 39 siblings in Night Walk & Other Dark Paths, which you can preorder in print and eBook by clicking the cover below.
Read the other entries in Night Walk Wednesday: