With the holidays over, I’ve received a slew of rejections for stories that have been out on submission for months. It’s given me a great opportunity to analyze where I can improve, and of course, whatever revelations I have for myself I also share here, and hopefully you’ll find it useful too!
Most personal feedback results that I receive from lit mags within the past year praise my prose, pacing, and sentence-level skills. These are learned writing skills that I’ve been honing for the past few years, so it’s nice to see validation that I’ve definitely made progress. But I’ve seen a trend in personal rejections. They praise my writing, but reject the submission because the story didn’t touch them or the ending wasn’t satisfying. I know that some feel the story is good too, but it still didn’t make the cut because they were looking for something specific or the vibe just didn’t match the theme of that month’s magazine.
When it comes to short stories, I think my creativity is just fine, as is my character building, but it needs to be targeted and more focused. I tend to just sit down and write a story, which can make it meandering and overflowing with more “story” than there needs to be. I need to adjust my gears and try approaching this from a different angle. For the next few stories that I’ll write, I’ll try writing a mini-outline, or having an end already in mind and see how it goes. I’m hoping that approaching a story with a plan, I’ll finally tick all the boxes necessary to create an amazing story that’ll make the cut.
Whether you’re submitting to literature magazines, or struggling with a manuscript and agents, keep this lesson in mind. You absolutely need to build your prose skill and sentence-level prowess, but you’ll also need to learn how to best target your story. Do you make a battle-plan before sitting down to write? Do you think there are ways you could make your story more targeted? Give it a try, and let me know how it goes. It might just be your best story yet!