I recently submitted a story to a book publisher for possible inclusion in an anthology. My story wasn’t accepted, but I thought I would outline the experience here, and what I learnt from it.
The anthology is being themed on a specific prompt, which is -
What if tomorrow didn’t happen?
What if today never ended?
What if you were 18, about to start your life and everything you’d ever hoped to be, to do, to experience …
could never be yours?
If you sat in a chair, that’s where you’d be …
If you were driving down the road, that’s where you’d be …
If you were in surgery
or jumping off a cliff
or flying …
that’s where you’d be … forever.
In this YA anthology, give us the twist, surprise us with the most amazing answer to restart time.
The required word count was 5,000 – 10,000 words.
My story was called ‘Crunch Time’ and this is the pitch/blurb I wrote for it to accompany the submission:
When a slippage in space causes the universe’s expansion to increase at frightening speeds, 18 year old space enthusiast Melissa knows that she doesn’t have long to save the world.
A distant point in space suddenly becomes the focus for the world’s biggest telescopes. There, the acceleration has surpassed the speed of light, causing time to travel backwards. The effects are rippling down towards earth. There are reports of strange ghostly sightings, and when news of the space slippage is leaked, there is mass panic around the world.
When the backward traveling time meets the forward traveling time, everything, and everyone, could be frozen in a single moment in time for ever. The authorities are claiming that early leaked reports were a malicious hoax, but why then have they blocked data access to the world’s telescopes? And how do they explain the ghostly sightings which Melissa believes are reflections of people’s future selves? Melissa has four days, and a crazy idea that might just work. With the help of boyfriend Corbin, and physics teacher Mr Golding, she puts her plan into action. But will she persuade the right people to help her before it’s too late?
And this is the reply I received from the publisher after they had read the story:
Thank you for your submission of Crunch Time. Because of the large number of submissions we receive, we must be very particular in which stories we select. While we will not be pursuing the story for publication, here are notes received from our submissions editor:
- While the premise interested me, by page 6, the story just hadn’t progressed enough and the writing is both in an older-than-teen voice as well as shows a newness to the craft in some things such as stilted dialog, heavy telling instead of showing and heavy backstory early on. These are at a level which don’t meet our quality standards. I’m disappointed to not be able to accept this one.
We are, of course, just one opinion and others may and will disagree with our assessment. No matter what, we do wish you success with your publishing ventures.
It was really great to get some actual feedback rather than just a rejection. And I do think their comments are fair. I knew it wasn’t written well enough, but I think I secretly hoped that the story would be enough to carry it through, with the knowledge that it could be refined through the editing process. Of course I realise that’s a very naive thought (what was I thinking?!). I did get three people to read and critique it before submission, and they gave very helpful feedback which I took on board, and made changes, but I knew that really I hadn’t done enough.
The main problem was that I rushed it. Where the publisher put out the call for submissions to the anthology, they stated a deadline and then added ‘unless filled prior to the close’. Usually I do my best work close to deadline, but I panicked about them possibly closing it for submissions before the deadline and so submitted it before it was ready.
It seems obvious now, but on reflection, I could have contacted the publisher when it was getting closer to the deadline to tell them that I was working on a story for submission, and ask them whether it looked likely they would close it off before the deadline. It’s a fair enough question that I’m sure they wouldn’t have objected to.
I honestly wasn’t overly disappointed at getting a rejection. Often I intend to submit my writing to various places and then don’t get around to it, so I was really pleased with myself that I had actually done it, and it was good to get some feedback from them so that I can learn what to do differently another time.
The anthology will have six stories in it, and I’m really looking forward to reading it to see what other people have done with the prompt. I don’t think it was an easy prompt at all, but I’m sure I’ll be pleasantly surprised at the range of interpretations of it when the book is published.
Have you ever submitted your writing anywhere, knowing that it wasn’t really ready?