I think every writer hits this point every once in a while. The point where rejections hurt a little more than they should. All of that positivity you tell yourself like, “Writers get lots of rejections,” and “I just need to keep sending it out,” go on the back burner and you start contemplating a dreaded question: what if I really, truly, suck?
It’s a pity party, I know. I’m completely aware that persistence and practice are the only two ways to be successful in this industry. I know that. But sometimes it’s hard to believe when all you see is rejection after rejection after…
I started writing this post Sunday night. I’d received about six rejections in the past week, on stories I really liked, and was feeling like a big old pile of crap about it. I sent my stories back out because that’s what you do. But I told myself I was said pile of crap and wallowed in some more pity. Because, you know, that’s productive.
But on Monday morning, an acceptance came in. I had to laugh. For all of my crummy mood moments in the prior week, this one acceptance turned it around. I’m a writer, dammit. And no rejection is going to stop me from telling the stories I have to tell.
The moral of the story? Keep writing. Keep submitting. If you give up, that next submission very well could have been an acceptance. And if you give up, you’ll never know.
This is a question I ask myself on a near daily basis. After all, there’s some external metric by which you can measure your story for completeness and determine whether or not its submission ready, right? Right?!?
Sharpen those pencils and just write!
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. at least, it hasn’t been the case for me. In fact, I seem to be utterly clueless as to when a story has received all of the love and attention from revision it requires to be submitted. I either don’t polish enough and leave rough bits and craggy phrases exposed for the world to see or I polish too much and buff the life right out the words. Sigh. It’s a delicate balance that I’ve yet to master.
I wish there was a shortcut. A buzzer that sounds when you’ve revised just enough and edited just enough. An alarm that wails when you’re plugging away at a story that just. doesn’t. work. so you quit wasting your time and move on already would be nice, too.
If I’ve learned one thing from this writing thing it’s that there are no external metrics. Your stories are your stories. They’re finished when you say they’re finished. Besides understanding the fundamentals of grammar and sentence structure and genre tropes, you’re on your own. All you can hope for is that what you consider a completed and well-written story matches up with the views of an editor.
I haven’t really answered the question in the title here, but I guess that’s the point. A story is done when you say it is. Now if only I heeded my own advice.
I’d love to hear your views on this subject. How do you determine when a story is completed? Countless revisions? Several positive critiques? What pushes you to feel comfortable sending that story out into the world?