Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rewriting (my) old stories

Doing this October Madness thing (which apparently is a sports term? Stupid college sports taking terms. Whatever) I've had to delve into my backlog of existing material and read it over to see what was worth sending out. What adjustments had to be made, what could be added, what could be cut. I haven't yet finished any of my tail-end stories, or the ones which were just a sentence and a title, but I did some serious work on stories I wrote in college when I was very full of myself.

The funny thing about those stories: they aren't actually terrible. There are dreadfully pretentious parts, as one might expect. There's some stilted language, and I know some of that is a symptom of all the antique novels I've read. And I waste words. Oh, my first drafts do waste words something terrible. Turrible. And some of them are pretty cringeworthy in places, but then by the time I reach the end? Well, frequently I see some pretty good bones which can still be worked with.

A prime example: one story I wrote about a writer (yeah, whatever) before I knew about things like how agents worked. When I opened it up to revisit, the file was about 22 pages long (I forget the word count). I read it, going "ugh" and also "well, that's still pretty good". But how do I bring it all up to standard?

I start with a cut and paste: I put everything into a new document, and preserve the old one for posterity. Or in case I decide I've made a dreadful mistake. Whichever. The original words are still accessible. Then I start my liberal usage of the "delete" button. I do an overall CTRL-F to find the word "that" and get rid of it, or replace it, or just leave it there. Sometimes it's okay where it is. Then I cut the nonsense. The stuff that's overwritten and/or redundant. The stuff that's unclear. I swap sentences around, paragraphs. Sometimes I lop off the front of a story because I started it too soon. Sometimes I realize some characters were just set dressings, and I either flesh them out or cut them too. Does it serve the main character to be male or female? Gay or straight? Does it matter at all? And then, going through, are the pronouns all correct? Is the tense all correct?

Then I read the story and see what I've got left. That story about a writer? It's 11 pages now, double spaced. The male main character is now female. I smoothed over the ignorant publishing stuff and put in some better-informed details (I hope). I wrote it before cell phones and flash drives were ubiquitous, and before ipads and other tablets existed, so those were fun little adjustments.

Will it sell? Maybe not right away. It's going out on October 23 or so, so we'll see.

A note about my submissions: when I get a rejection, I put that story right back on my list, to another magazine. So, I might not end up with 31 complete pieces, but I will make submissions to 31 different magazines, anyway. Perhaps not my original declared intent, but this is supposed to be fun and motivating and all that stuff, so I'm trying to make it reachable rather than discouraging.

And for the updates: Because I jumped the gun today (because once it's formatted I might as well send it, right?) and because of Janet Reid's flash contest, I'm up to 17 submissions so far this month. On the 11, I sent a story to Clarkesworld, which has already received its rejection (they're quick!) On the 12, I sent a story to Goldfish Grimm's Spicy Fiction Sushi, which has also already received its rejection. My final three submissions as of this posting went to Black Denim Lit, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and to Shades of Terror. It's kind of funny, it's harder for me to find places to send my non-genre stories than my genre stories. I've also knocked some places off my list because they charge a reading fee, or because they accept only snail mail submissions.


  1. Reworking old stuff is actually a great idea.

    1. Thanks! I figured since they hadn't been published anyway (and some had been sent out), there was obviously room for improvement.