I don't mean giving up on writing, but when should we give up on a particular story?
Like most short story writers I've submitted to competitions and magazines and like many of us, have received more rejections than acceptances. I've resubmitted several pieces elsewhere and have sometimes received more welcome news, with a placement or even a prize. This has often come on the story's 3rd or 4th outing. Some were resubmitted after a few tweaks, a couple went exactly as they were.
But what about those stories which (I almost said 'who') have been rejected or relegated to the non-long-list pile several times. Obviously one can re-read, examine for flaws and re-write, but when any form of success seems light-years away, what then?
We all know success isn't just about having a good, well-written story, it's also about finding the right magazine or competition. It's also about a bit, or probably quite a lot, of luck. Magazines might be a little more predictable as they give guidelines for submissions, but competitions are a trickier beast.
We are frequently advised to read previous winning stories and if these are readily available online are well worth checking out. Sometimes, though, it means purchasing an anthology, some of which come with fairly hefty price tags. There's a limit to how many we can buy but I guess if we are focusing on specific competitions, this would be money well spent. But although the long-listers and short-listers may be the same readers, many annual competitions have a different judge each year so unless we can find previous winners selected by this judge we may still be in the dark as to what hits their prize winning criteria.
I've done my fair share of research. I read the winning stories and often think 'Wow, a worthy winner.' but I also find that many competitions select writing that I find quite bleak. I note that most of my winning or listed stories, especially flash fiction, have been my starker examples and that's not my favourite writing style. It's not that I want to write only cosy little stories, indeed, a couple of the lighter stories I've submitted to women's magazine have been considered too downbeat, and one happy-ending story which featured a main character who was physically disabled was deemed 'not suitable.'
So, where to go from here? To search out new competitions? To rewrite the rejected stories? To keep submitting as they are? Or quietly put them to bed? I've done all four.
What do you do in face of rejections?