How to Know When to Give up Submitting a Short Story

You’ve spent weeks perfecting your story.

You’ve fixed every typo, bridged every plot hole, the dialogue sings, and there’s not an unnecessary word in sight.

So you send it out to some magazines and it’s not long before your first rejection letter arrives. And then the next one. And the next one. And the next one.

Before you know it, you’ve got ten rejections under your belt. Then fifteen. Then twenty.

You know that if you want to be an author, you’re going to have to face down rejection. We’ve all heard the stories of famous authors who were rejected countless times before they were accepted.

But at some point, you may need to consider the possibility that your story needs changes.

Back in freshman year of college, I wrote a story called The Sniper that I was very proud of. I started sending it out, but after a dozen rejections, I began to get a little worried.

I looked at the feedback some of the magazines had given me and sought some advice from a successful writer I knew. The result was a slightly different draft that I liked better but which still failed to win over any publishers.

At first, I couldn’t understand why I was having a harder time with this story than I had with my last one until I gave it to my girlfriend, Hannah.

Hannah was a fantastic writer and she was always encouraging and believed in me. I was expecting to hear minor tweaks, and while she liked certain elements, she didn’t like the characters and wasn’t won over. She advised that I put it aside for the time being.

At first this discouraged me, but it helped me realize that it wasn’t the story itself that I loved but the setting, a setting which I was able to incorporate into a new story that avoided some of the problems of the first.

My point is that I could have kept sending off The Sniper forever, but it wasn’t going to get published. Eventually, I had to own up to the fact that the story I’d written wasn’t very good.

Now, sometimes a story like that can be fixed. Other times, its elements can be recycled into something even better. So even when you “give up” on a story, you’re not really giving up.

Ask yourself why you like your story. And always seek advice from other writers you trust to tell you the truth.

Ask them if you need to fight through these rejections or if it’s time to move on to the next project.

Because even if one story is less than stellar, your next might be a masterpiece.

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