Whenever a submission call crosses my path, I usually end up with multiple story ideas. This is a good thing, because while some of these ideas work out and get developed into fully-written short stories, others aren’t so lucky.
For Chillers From the Rock, I was about ¾ of the way through a story about a writer selling their soul to the devil, when I realized that I didn’t like it very much and abandoned it. Shortly after that, I had the ideas for The Taste of Copper, based on a story my grandmother told me about living in a remote town in Northern Newfoundland, and The Deal, which came about because I was trying to think of scary concepts and came up with ‘trees’ (so spoooooky!).
My first idea for Flights From the Rock fizzled out after 1.5 pages. I put a lot of work into those pages, but I just wasn’t getting the story I wanted. Even after spending months thinking about it, it wasn’t clear enough. So, I decided to give up and concentrate on a different story.
There are a lot of unfinished stories on my hard-drive. And I mean, A LOT.
It’s not a bad thing, though. Giving up on stories that weren’t working freed me to work on stories that were. They say that madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and with some of these stories I was basically beating my head against a brick wall, hoping that it would magically turn into straw.
But even though those stories didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean that they’ll never work out. Sometimes all you need to make an idea work is time. Heck, I figured out a major fix for that unfinished Flights story a mere 30 minutes ago.
There are many stories I’ve managed to finish and submit that didn’t get accepted, but even those I won’t give up on. Feedback on a rejected Alice in Wonderland-inspired story made me re-think it and realize how it could be less obvious. Getting a rejection on a multiple-universe-theory story made me wonder what I could do to give it more ‘oomph’ and make the message clearer. Another submission was rejected by a publisher, but ended up getting accepted into Hal-Con’s reading series, and is inspiring me to write a novella based on the main character.
Sometimes it boils down to: Right story, wrong time.
And if I ever need a reminder of that, I’ll think about the short story Twenty-One. It stared out as a submission for Bluenose Paradox that I never sent in because I wasn’t quite sure what it was saying. I didn’t know why I was telling it or what emotions I wanted it to convey. So, I shelved it in favour of something else. However, the next year or so, when I saw that Engen was looking for submissions for Sci-Fi on the Rock, I immediately thought of that story. I re-worked it, this time with a clearer idea in mind, and sent it in. Not only was it accepted, but it ended up paving the way for bigger and better things*.
Finally: right story, right time.
*One of which is my new novel, The Fifth Queen – coming soon! Pre-orders on sale now!