Letting it chill

This FallI’ve been working on a longer piece the last few weeks for a Halloween-like submission, and while I’ve finished the story, I’ve regrettably decided not to submit it. The story hasn’t had time to cool.

This pains me because the story is already a year old. It began last summer for another market, similar Halloween theme, as a 2K horror about scarecrows, but I missed that deadline and went over the word count anyways, finishing the rough draft at 3.5K. I wasn’t disappointed, thinking I’d just let it cool for a while, you know, like a year.

Once I dug into it this year though, the story line went through a good shift and ended up at 5.5K. Seems to be a repeating pattern. I wanted to make this deadline, so I busted my butt and managed to finish a decent polish on the story, now at 6.5K (still within the 4k-9K guidelines). However after changing that much of the structure, and adding a few more thousand words to it, I feel it needs to cool more before submitting. For a piece that size, I like to have at least a few weeks if not a month or two.

Even though the story is clean, might have a good chance of getting accepted, it’s just not finished yet – and that’s the tough part. When do you draw the line on completion? Many writers recommend never submitting anything you aren’t 110% satisfied with. It’s a bummer to have to wait another year for this story to see publication, but I owe it to my readers and myself as a writer. I can’t rush into a deadline and skip a cooling period, so the story will have to wait another year.  That’s the problem with theme-specific works. Fortunately, I’ve plenty more to work on, like Zombie Elves Take Manhattan.

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8 thoughts on “Letting it chill

  1. Ooooh… Zombie elves…

    Nothing wrong with letting it cool. I’m in the middle of edits on a novel I let cool for four years. It’s much better now than it was, but it’s not ready yet either. 110% seems like a good percentage of rightness to shoot for.

    Can’t wait to read it, though.

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    1. Letting the story/book cool is one of the keys to editing, a definite no-skip step, and novels just take that much longer to chill. Good luck with it, Milo!

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  2. My stories have a way of expanding too. I wrote two stories last fall that are really just the first chapters of novels. I didn’t know that when I started writing them.

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    1. Isn’t that weird how they unfold into something different. Did you put the stories on hold or did you continue writing with the flow and finish a rough draft? I’m always afraid that if I let an unfinished story chill too long, I’ll go back to it without the same enthusiasm as before. Best of luck with them.

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  3. It’s a tricky balance. Who was it said a work of art is never completed, only left? Yes, it’s important to leave a story aside for a time, but sometimes I like to just bash through to the end and get it done. That said, my hard drive has many uncompleted stories on it. Occasionally I pick one up and finish it…

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    1. I do try to push myself through and get the story done, at least a good draft or two, but sometimes the ones that turn out longer than expected need more chilling. There in comes the tricky balance! Thanks, Simon.

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  4. This is my writerly super-power. I’ve always had the sense of when a story’s baked, as I call it. I just keep refining and refining, and then *pow* I get a feeling that it’s as good as it’s going to get. For me, there’s not a cooling off period. Those loaves go out fresh from the oven.

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    1. Deborah, I wonder if this is something you have in common with prolific writers – the no cooling period – because your output is amazing. I wish I could do that. I need to let my stories chill so I can get out of my own head and see it with fresh eyes, but like you, I also get a feeling when a story is done. Sometimes after rejections, especially informative ones, I might change a few things here and there, but when I feel a story is done, there is kind of a pow, there’s no changing it, no matter the response/feedback.

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