4 questions to ask before you give up on a story

I get it. Rejection is tough. Sometimes you start to wonder, is my story good enough? Is it good at all? Should I just give up and move on to the next thing.

I’ve talked about rejection before. I’ve talked about how sometimes a rejection letter can be the most motivating thing you receive, I’ve talked about perseverance and patience in the face of rejection and I’ve talked about having a systematic approach to submitting you work can help mitigate the pain that comes with rejection.

I’ve also given up on stories. People don’t talk about this much. Probably because it’s nicer to talk about success stories or they think they need to be 100% positive and motivational at all times. But the truth is, for one reason or another, I’ve given up on stories. What it usually boils down to is that I don’t think they’re good enough and I don’t like them enough to make them better.

You may be on the verge of giving up on a story. Before you do, I urge you to ask yourself these 4 questions.

Should You Give Up on Your Short Story Flow Chart copy
‘Should you give up on your short story’ flow chart. Feel free to copy, print, tape your wall and share with your friends.

Have you gotten feedback on your story?

Feedback is essential to getting your story submission ready. If you haven’t gotten feedback from someone other than your mother (hopefully a few someones) you can’t really expect it to be successful.

Sometimes the urge to just get something out there is so overwhelming you skip this step. I’ve been there. It’s ok as long as you don’t let the (likely) rejection that follows to allow you to give up.

Send your story to few writer/reader friends, hire a professional, join a writing group or try and online critique like Critique Circle. But get yourself some feedback!


Have you rewritten/edited your story?

Another crucial step towards that hallowed acceptance letter. Even if your story comes out with the perfect plot, structure and characterisation in the first go (a very rare feat) it’s still going to need a rigorous edit before you send it out to journals, magazines or competitions.

I like to do one edit/rewrite myself before seeking feedback and then another one after getting feedback. This is the bare minimum in my opinion. You’d also be well advised to let your story sit for a while before rereading it. Like a good piece of meat it needs to rest.


How many places have you submitted your story?

If the answer is one I think you know what I’m going to say. It took my story ‘Roots’ 3 years and 13 rejections before it won a competition. It can hurt, but if you really believe in your story just keep sending it places. Once you’ve received a rejection send it to the next place. Eventually it will just feel like admin.

If you’ve sent it to a lot of places with no luck. You may consider re-evaluating the markets your targeting. Is your story more suited to literary journals or genre mags. The same story I mentioned above was only successful once I targeted crime markets.


Is there something special about your story that you just can’t ignore?

To me, this is the most important question. If you don’t believe your story is good, or has something special then the rest doesn’t matter.

If you’re only submitting because you don’t want to waste a story but you don’t actually like the story or have pride in it then maybe it’s time to put it aside.

No writing is wasted but not all writing was meant to be published. Put it away, for now, you might have a brilliant idea later that you can use it for.

If you do believe in your story and you just can’t shake the idea that it’s worth it, keep going. One day it will find it’s home.


Happy writing, dreamers!

2 responses to “4 questions to ask before you give up on a story”

  1. […] [Related post: 4 questions to ask before you give up on a story] […]

  2. […] wrote at least five new short stories that I rushed into submission (and thus rejection) but am now working on them again. I attempted a few novels, and while I did flounder and stop after the first acts I still learnt a […]

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