Seeing stories in stories

Today I am celebrating. A story has been accepted for publication. These past two years, I have been attempting to move as much of my backlog of writing from dusty digital folders into the fresher, much more fun Published folder and this story is a part of this project. To get this task done hasn’t been merely a matter of bothering (submitting to) as many journals as possible. Although finding journals that suit and submitting to them is part of the gig.

The much larger part of the painstaking task, is to take a critical look at my pieces (stories, flashes, poems), then freshen up the expression or grammar, rename them, or cut them into various lengths to suit differing word counts, or convert poems into prose poems, or vice versa. With some stories like Wilderness, published by Schuylkill Valley Journal Online, it’s more surgical. I take shorter bits that might be ok, but aren’t working in longer stories and rewrite them as stand alone fictions. Regarding my story accepted today, I hadn’t submitted it very often, because it’s a bit odd, so it wasn’t a matter of editors hating it so much as finding the right place. What I did do was remove my story’s framing device, which was half the length of the entire work, involved multiple characters, and dated the story somewhat. What removing the frame did was showcase the oddness as the heart of the narrative. This heart, left to its own devices, was suddenly more compelling. On it’s own, this smaller story’s unique qualities became its reason for being, its strength, while the story’s shorter length became an attractive attribute. Et voila! Accepted.

Analysing my stories reveals I have to cut them up.

I still have both versions of this story. The frame was well enough written (if I may say so) and now, it’s free for me to use for something else. Just as the original story I took Wilderness from remains its own thing, and is much tighter and less confusing for the removal of the one bit it didn’t need.

Writers are told to kill our darlings: but these days I don’t worry too much about it, as my darlings tend to live richer second lives.

The 2021 writing update:

Pending: 63
Rejections: 72
Acceptances: 6

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