Welcome to another 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 “Where They Belong.”
Yep. You guessed it. This story began as part of a one-hour flash fiction writing contest/exercise. As I’ve said, you’re gonna read that a lot in this series, and I implore you to give it a shot in your own writing group. It’s fun, and if you’re anything like me, the prompts and the limited time frame will force you down some interesting literary paths you might not have otherwise taken.
I clearly remember the prompt for this one. It was a cartoon of a determined-looking little boy standing next to a freshly dug grave. The story came to me pretty quick, and I knew I wanted to tell a zombie story but from a unique perspective. That perspective was the voice of a seven-year-old boy, and I ended up penning a sad, tragic story about a child having to make horrible grown-up decisions.
This story is another of my rare one-and-done submissions. I sold it to the now sadly defunct DarkFuse Magazine for my first ever pro sale. I wish all my submissions could be so rewarding. I’ve since gone on to place the story as a reprint, and it did rack up a single rejection between initial and reprint publications.
The real difficulty with this piece wasn’t the submission process. It was the revisions I made to get the narrator’s voice right. My first draft of this story had my protagonist sounding far too young for his age (he came across as more four or five than seven). So I let some of my friends who actually have kids read the story, and they helped me dial in the voice. It took me more drafts than usual for a flash story, but I think I got it right in the end.
This story is also an example of, yes, you can still sell zombie stories. Vampires, werewolves, serial killers, and hitmen too. I’ve sold bunches of them, often to pro markets. Thing is, you gotta do something different, put a spin on a tired old trope. In this case it was a unique POV, and, well, you see the results.
Now I said I sold “Where They Belong” on it’s first submission, and I did, but it still took ten months. That’s just how it goes with some markets, but DarkFuse was communicative throughout the process, so I generally knew where my story stood. I placed the story again as a reprint a few years ago with Ellipsis Zine.
If you enjoyed the submission journey of “Where They Belong”, 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. The book is available for reals tomorrow, so if you must wait one day, I completely understand. 🙂