A couple weeks ago I received a personalized rejection for a short story I thought was my best work. After the form letter beginning, the editor said:
We loved this story’s heart, but the first half felt too slow to us, with too much time spent setting up the backstory and politics.
That sentence is the best critique I possibly could have received. I immediately knew what he meant and accepted it as truth.
That short story begins like it’s a novel, revealing the setting slowly by watching the main character going about her job, giving background information where I felt it was needed. In a novel that works and is expected. In a 4,000 word short story, not so much. It creates a drawn out beginning, a rushed plot, and in my case at least, a struggle to find an ending. It is crystal clear to me now.
I haven’t acted on the feedback, well at least not with that story. I’m wondering if it should become the basis of the first chapter for a book instead. I have used the insight elsewhere.
When I first wrote my pastoral space cowboy story, I loved that the main character’s gender was never revealed and was unimportant. It was also my venture into writing in first person AND present tense. That was a lot of firsts all in one piece. On rereading it, I still see and love those elements. Now though I can also see that it reads like a choppy first draft – even after I did tons of work on it for submission last year.
Well, I have faith in the story’s heart, and I think it will be a great fit for a science fiction anthology whose closing date is June 30th. Now the decision is whether to start anew or rework what I have. Either way, so long as I keep on it, I bet I can find the diamond in my hunk of carbon. At least I have that editor’s advice to keep me on the right path.
Wish me luck.