Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Old Acquaintances, New Friends

From the Speakers: LIKE A STONE by Audioslave

So recently I was looking back through stories that I had retired, meaning that I wrote them and thought they were pretty good, so I shopped them out to a few appropriate magazines. These stories were rejected a number of times, with no real improvement in feedback after some moderate revision. Once I couldn't think of any more magazines to try, I stopped bothering with each story and moved on to whatever was hot at the time.

Eventually I forgot about them. They retreated to a place in my mind like old acquaintances do, where you remember being fond of them, once upon a time, but time and distance has separated you. Indeed, the characters themselves, upon revisiting the story, greatly resemble real acquaintances; I reread a retired story and thought, "Oh, yeah I remember you. I remember that quirk you had, that thing you always did, that perspective you had."

Then something strange happened. I discovered something I never knew about one particular story, something that made me want to get to know it again. If it were a real person, I might say, "Wow! All this time we've known each other and I've never known that. We should catch up sometime!"

And that's exactly what happened. In this case, something I had taken for granted in the story suddenly seemed wrong. Specifically, in this story my main character finds himself locked inside a lion's cage, unable to free himself. In the retired version, the cage is empty except for him. But when I reread it, I suddenly thought, "Oh, the lion is actually supposed to be INSIDE the cage with him!" With this new idea in mind, I reworked the story and now it's something completely new to me and, I think, a lot better. An old acquaintance has become a new friend.

Now, we'll see if those magazines will react the same way I did. In general, I never submit the same story to a magazine that's already rejected it, but in this case it's so drastically different that it's more or less new. Just to be safe, maybe I'll change the title. :)

This has happened before, most noticeably with a story called "Tom the Sheller," originally entitled "Shell Me." The newer story was ASTRONOMICALLY better than the original, and it got published in Electric Spec magazine. Here's the link: http://www.electricspec.com/issues/volume-4-issue-2-june-30-2009/tom-the-sheller-by-devin-miller.asp. To this day it is probably my favorite short story I've ever written. I hope you all enjoy it, too!

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