Posted in Fiction, Writing

Why You Need to Have Patience with Your Short Stories


A Short Story Publication 4 Years in the Making

Last month I received an e-mail saying my short story “I’ll See You in the Morning” was to be published this spring in an online university magazine called Coe Review. Hooray! What great news! My story was accepted for publication!

It only took four years.

In May of 2015, months before I embarked upon my MFA in Creative Writing, I spent four weeks writing a short story, “I’ll See You in the Morning,” about an elderly man suddenly faced with a life-altering decision about his ailing wife.

I’ve never written a piece of fiction so slowly in my life. I wrote, on average, 250 words a day, seven days a week. I paid attention to the storytelling, yes, but also to language, and to dialogue, and to trying better myself as a writer.

I wanted to write an adult literary story that was serious, that had something to say, that was unlike anything I had ever written before.

After four weeks the first draft came in at about 6000 words, and when I started sending it out to magazines at the end of the summer, it came in at 5300 words. I spent the rest of 2015 sending out the story, which I believed with my whole heart was the best piece of work I’d ever written.

But then, of course, the rejections rolled in.

Twenty rejections or more in the first six months, and then I had the story workshopped in the formal MFA setting in the spring of 2016. Nobody really liked it all that much, including the professor. There wasn’t much enthusiasm for it.

My professor thought the story should go a different direction halfway through, so I totally changed the second half and spent most of 2016 submitting the story in its new version.

In May of 2017, two years since I wrote the first draft, I looked back at the first version of the story, the one I had committed to before my workshop.

I preferred the original version over the new version, actually, so I did another re-write, then sent out the story to more places in the summer of 2017.

In October 2017 I received a promising e-mail.

An editor at a major magazine really enjoyed the story and was thinking about publishing it. Alas, she was retiring soon and would not be able to make the final decision for the issue it was allotted for.

That was okay, I guess. And so I waited. And waited.

Finally, in the summer of 2018, I received word that the new editor at the magazine had taken over, and that she was eager to look at my story soon.

That was okay, too. And so I waited. And waited.

And waited some more.

This past February I finally received word from that new editor that she was passing on the story. She officially passed on it… in February of 2019… almost two years since I submitted the story to the magazine in the first place.

I definitely felt depressed after I received the latest rejection of “I’ll See You in the Morning.”

Since August of 2015, I’ve probably sent it to seventy magazines, maybe more.

So many rejections. So much silence.

I still think this is one of my better short stories, but after I received word about the latest rejection, I decided maybe it was time to retire this one for good. Just focus on my three more recent stories I’ve written in the last eighteen months.

Maybe it was time to give up completely on “I’ll See You in the Morning.”

And yet it’s almost like the universe reminded me, again, to never give up.

Because after nearly four years, my story was officially accepted for publication in March of 2019 and just this week was published online in Coe Review.

You can read the story below…

Listen — just because your story gets lots of rejections, don’t give up on it.

I know what it feels like to be rejected once for your short story, let alone ten times or twenty times.

Or fifty times.

But remember this, always — all it takes is one yes. One editor out there who responds to your story and accepts it for publication.

So don’t give up. If your latest story is rejected a lot, take it out of the drawer occasionally and revise it a couple more times. Maybe cut 500 words or 1,000 words. Add a new scene. Change the ending.

Do what you need to do, do what feels right, then send it out again.

It might take a year, or two years, or four years for it to find a home.

But if you believe in your story, keep at it. You never know when a nice surprise is just around the corner.

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