From Zero to Hero – Why You should Never Give Up on a Rejected Story.

I’d been struggling to find something to talk about in the last few weeks. My brain has essentially been turning into mush over the past twenty odd days after doing countless hours of overtime and the thought of having to sit down to write something was not particularly appealing.

Naturally, having won the Fated Paradox Contest, I was eager to talk about my latest story, Dressed to Deceive. But trying to find a suitable topic was the one thing that eluded me…

Being a story that is set around the Jack the Ripper murders, I could have talked about the similarities between the history and my story and given that the story itself is steeped with facts that may well be something I actually do in the near future. I could have talked about what I think makes it a readable story or what my process was for writing it, which are again all things I could potentially write about.

But today, I decided to do something a little different and tell you about what happened after I finished writing the story (or at least after I first pitched the story). This for anyone who ever got rejected…

Dressed to Deceive was written with a specific publication in mind. An editor, who I had previously dealt with when writing a Professor Moriarty story, was on the look out for writers to weave some tales about Jack the Ripper for his next anthology. When I heard about this, I leapt on the opportunity – my first ever publication had been a history article about the wider impact of Jack the Ripper and I had been looking for an excuse to reuse the knowledge I had gained from it.

I emailed the editor and, after a bit of back and forthing, I pitched a story that I thought he would find interesting and like me to take further. Barely a few hours later, the editor replied telling me to go for it and I set about writing the story.

The process of writing and editing it took me a few months or so – not my fastest time but, in fairness to myself, I was slightly hampered by a house move in the middle of it. Finally, I got it to the position where I was happy enough to send it in and, for the next few weeks, I watched my email like a hawk, waiting for the response.

I don’t think I need to tell you what the response ended up being.

It was one of those standardised rejection letters that all authors hate getting but understand why it needs to be done. You know the type, the one that basically lists what might have been the problem with your work but, because the same email has been sent out to everyone, there is no indication for which part might apply to you.

I was heart broken.

The editor had been so interested when I pitched the story and yet here it was, about to be consigned to the scrap pile. Was it just badly written? Was it just not as good as the others? Was the storyline similar to one written by a well-known author who had been chosen over me because their name is more familiar?

I think we can all agree that not knowing is most frustrating part of the whole rejection process.

A few months passed.

I moved on to other things. Dressed to Deceive was in the past and, having read over it, I could understand why it didn’t quite make the cut. Time had added perspective and all the little problems that were hidden from me before were now brutally apparent. I had made another couple of edit runs on it, but I still couldn’t bring myself to resubmit it anywhere. There is something about stories that we write for specific publications or anthologies – when they get rejected, we feel some sort of loyalty, despite having little reason to. We are reluctant to send it anywhere else as we’d feel we were somehow betraying the publication we wrote it for despite the fact they rejected the story first…

Silly really…

And then I saw the Fated Paradox competition – a contest to discover new crime writing.

I had a couple of candidates that I could submit, but none of them were finished yet and I wasn’t ready to have them shot at until I was in a position where I was happy with them to start with. But Dressed to Deceive was a finished and, more importantly, was a story that had already been rejected once. The thought began to grow in my mind –

This time I might actually be able to find out what is wrong with it.

So I submitted it and spent the next week working hard to build up awareness of the story and drive people to the hosting site to check it out. I watched as it slowly climbed the popularity ladder. The story needed to be in the top 10% to go through to the final reading and when it finally got there I plugged it even more to make sure it stayed there.

It wasn’t the most popular story, not by a long shot, but it ended up receiving the most highly rated reviews that, in itself, was enough to boost my confidence once again. The announcement that it had won was just the icing on the cake…

So there it is, the story of Dressed to Deceive and how it very nearly ended up filed away in a box file for all eternity.

There is a moral to this story.

One rejection is not the be all and end all.

If something gets knocked down, pick it up again. You’ve put time and effort into creating that story – better still, you’ve given it love and attention. Don’t just give up on it because it has had one knock back because you might just have an award winner on your hands…

Happy writing peeps.

If you fancy checking out Dressed to Deceive, it is available to read online for free here.

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