Writing Madly to a Deadline, and then NOT submitting

I recently jumped into the running for another anthology, which means writing to a tight deadline.  I tripped up my schedule for a few weeks, finalizing my novel for the Amazon Break Through Novel Contest, and was two-weeks behind schedule. I DID finish in time (barely), but now I sit here the day before the deadline, with a completed manuscript in my hands, second guessing myself.

Do I think it’s not good enough?  No.  The opposite.  It’s tight. It’s precise….

And if you could have seen the look on my son’s face after reading it— Dang.  I haven’t seen him this excited about something since finishing the Hunger Games (Not that mine is even remotely like the Hunger Games)

So what’s the problem?  Submit the dern thing!

Here’s my problem… It’s too long.  I did not make the word count.  I contacted the publisher, and they said they would consider it at the higher word count, but it definitely would have to be cut down by 1500 words for publication in the anthology (If it were chosen)

I searched for those 1500 words, and found a possible 500 to cut, but editing out those 500 would have affected the “mood” of the story.  And if another 1000 words were cut after that, the whole story would seem rushed.

If my son had said “Meh, it’s okay.  I’ve read better.” (Which he has done to me in the past) I would have sliced and diced the 1500 words out of the story and sent it in.

But he didn’t say that.  He asked for more.  My kid the voracious reader said:  “It was really great.  I’ve never read anything like that before.  When will you write another one?”

I thought about what those forced changes would do, and decided to take the creative high road.  I am passing on the anthology, and am now embarking on a search for a publisher of Young Adult Paranormal Short/Novellas.

Ugh!  I hate passing up an opportunity, but I think this particular story needs to find a more suitable home than the confines of an anthology.

I am all for editing… all stories need to be edited, but I don’t want to “cut” just for the sake of “cutting”.  I’d rather have words cut because they don’t belong there… not because there is a stipulation on word count.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this?

If not, do you think you’d submit anyway, or search for a new home?



31 responses to “Writing Madly to a Deadline, and then NOT submitting

  1. You’re asking the wrong person! lol Short stories are not usually my forte. I have a hard time keeping my stories within limits.

    It does sound as though your story needs the longer format, so I say go for it! Create the best story you can, whether it’s novella size or longer, and don’t worry about this particular contest. There will be others. 🙂

  2. Pingback: My Weekly Update – Good Week | Sydney Aaliyah

  3. That’s a tough one. Maybe it’s best to hold it for the right placement if cutting words will hurt the story.

  4. For what it’s worth Jenn, I think you did the right thing. 🙂

  5. it sounds like the story is better at the longer length so I’d be inclined to leave it as it is and find another home.

  6. I think I would follow my instincts just as you did. Now that you’re a published author, your query letters will carry even more weight, and you’re more likely to find the right home for this story. I don’t think you should second-guess yourself.

  7. Keep it and turn it into something your son can’t wait to get his hands on. There will be other opportunities for you to use it.

  8. Stick to the brief – and cut the adjectives! Short and sharp is often better than long and windy…

  9. Search for a new home!

  10. Hmm, I’d submit anyway and see what happens.

  11. I feel for you. In my own little way I know how hard it is to cut out parts of a piece I really like. You, however, are certainly prolific enough to get another one done.

  12. I ran into this issue a few months ago. I had to cut down my Fantasy novelette for a contest, knowing full well it was better as is. In the meantime, there was another opportunity to submit it elsewhere at the present word count.

    I just produced two versions and submitted it to both parties. Neither had a “no simultaneous submissions” rule. Life’s too short.

    In going through it again, however, I’m pretty sure it’s going to make a much better full length novel than a short. I just don’t have that much time to devote to it at present. 😦

  13. Interesting problem! I think you did the right thing by not submitting and giving the story an opportunity where it would be more comfortable.
    I actually did find myself in a similar situation but for a competition rather than publication. It was the same diary-based story I’m currently featuring on Sunday snippets critiques. I started that about 10 years ago now and maybe about 5 years ago when it was about 30-40k words long and very incomplete, I found a novella comp with a max word count of 20k. I started hacking away at a copy of this story, altering the plot to simplify it, pruning a tree down to a bush. It was an interesting exercise that resulted in a different story but it was ultimately a waste of time because it didn’t get a place. No surprise, really.

  14. I would submit it and see what happens. You might be too close to it right now to see the forest for the trees. A little time will give you some breathing room. If they accept it and suggest edits at some point down the road, a fresh look may help you find places where you can cut–or their editor could help you find those places. If you can’t do that, would you be penalized for withdrawing your manuscript and finding a home for it elsewhere?

  15. If it’s the anthology I’m thinking of, I submitted to it, but was rejected. They gave me some useful feedback though. The trouble was I panicked, the deadline said 6 March, unless their quota is filled sooner (or words to that effect), so I was worried they would close it off before the deadline and I sent it before it was really polished enough. I knew that really. They said they liked the premise of my story, but the story hadn’t advanced enough by page 6, and there was too much telling rather than showing, and some of the language was more adult fiction than YA. They were all fair comments. I still like the premise of it too, so I might spend longer on it and see if I can find somewhere else for it. It’s good when you get some constructive feedback rather than just a rejection isn’t it. Hope you find the perfect place for yours, no point compromising if it’s going to ruin it!

  16. New Home… If it’s that good, and you’re getting markedly positive input on something you cleaned up already, then don’t cut it. Word count should be meaningless when it’s only a matter of 3-4 pages of text. New home, definitely!

  17. I’ve read the story and I think it deserves everything you want and more. Go with your gut. You won’t be disappointed.

  18. I’d go with my gut. Maybe write a few more short stories in the same world and submit to a publisher with the idea of the shorts being released once a month and then bundled up with one extra story.

  19. Try someplace new. Cutting deep may be murder and murder is illegal in this country.

  20. New home, no doubt.
    Well done.

  21. Julie Catherine

    Jennifer, I’m with your son – if he was excited about it, and he (or kids like him) are the target reader’s group, listen to their voices and go with it … who knows, YOU might end up doing a series or your own short story collection from it! Awesome! 🙂

  22. Yes, I’ve found myself there. Not in anything that would have paid, but in short story prompts at terribleminds.com
    And what I’ve learned, is that some terrific stories, need those few extra words. And the story is more important than the word count.
    Good for you!
    louise3anne twitter

  23. I think this is one of those situations where you just have to follow your gut, so I think I’d do exactly what you’re doing. Especially given that response from your son. Kids are very honest. 🙂

    By the way, I just my name on your blogroll. Thank you!

  24. Mmmm – difficult dilemma. I don’t have the answer but in the past I have cut words to suit editorial requirements. But you sound like you know what you’re doing so go for it!