Does everyone else have a drawer stuffed with short story manuscripts?
I have. These are stories which over the years I’ve sent out to competitions in spasmodic bursts of energy and confidence. When they didn’t win a prize – to be fair this wasn’t actually surprising! – back they went into the drawer.
Sometimes they were pulled out again a few months later. A fresh eye might iron out a few ungraceful sentences, get rid of those sneaky verbal tics, change the opening sentence. Now it’s got a new coating of paint surely it’s in with a chance!
But no. The judges in another competition still didn’t like it. This time it’s harder to understand. WHAT IS WRONG with this story? Another tweaking? Maybe, but possibly it hasn’t got the essential bones. No amount of face lifting is going to disguise that.
Yet there is the occasional story in that pile which you are especially proud of. It’s your favourite and you know you can’t make it any better by fiddling around with it in the hope of pleasing someone else. Is this when you need to have faith in your own judgment?
Across the River , which won a Writers’ Forum magazine competition and is published in the October issue, is one I first wrote a dozen years ago and has had only tiny changes made to it since then, for it was written with a rare feeling of rightness and is sharp with memories of childhood and the Beaulieu river.
Yet this story failed to impress the judges of several competitions though it was once shortlisted; nor did it appeal to Woman’s Weekly magazine. It’s not until this year that my belief in it was vindicated. Thank you Writers’ Forum magazine and Lorraine Mace their short story judge.
I’m also especially pleased at the way the story has been illustrated with an evocative photo of a boy rowing a dinghy, wearing one of those bulky life jackets that I remember so well. Thanks are due to the magazine’s editor for this perfect choice …
Altogether it’s been worth the twelve years of waiting. Perhaps we should all have another look through that bottom drawer …