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.

8 thoughts on “Letting it chill”

  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.


  2. 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.


  3. 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.


  4. 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…


  5. 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.


  6. 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.


  7. 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!


  8. 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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