I don’t write a lot of short stories these days. I wish I could, but for many years now my shorter works have mostly been in the comics medium. Short stories are, pound for pound, much more difficult to write than novels or comics, because there are no shortcuts. Character, plot, ideas, setting: in a short story you have a limited amount of space to deliver a piece that is unique and satisfying. You can’t rely on story momentum or artwork. And because it’s short there’s a lot of attention on your prose. Short stories have to be stylish as well as economical.
Selling a short story is incredibly competitive. The top markets accept only a fraction of a percent of submissions. That’s the other cost of writing short stories: you get a lot of rejections.
Last year I sold my story Metempsychosis to SQ Mag. Metempsychosis is, to my mind, the best short story I have in print. Want to know how difficult it was to get the piece published? Here are some numbers:
First draft written June 2009
Final draft completed January 2014
Publication Date: June 2014
Number of drafts: 17
Number of rounds of edits between acceptance and publication: 3
Number of Rejections: 8
That’s right. It took five years and countless hours of editing to get a 6000 word short story ready for publication. In that time I received eight rejections before SQ Mag took the story. While I know that a sale is contingent on a lot of factors besides the quality of the work, I promise you every one of those rejections hurt.
Writing is a bruising business and especially so than when it comes to short stories, so it’s nice to have a win every now and again.
I will blog a bit more about the actual story in weeks to come. In the meantime, though, I’m thinking about writing new short stories to celebrate.