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When Is It Time to Let Go Of a Story


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The past few months have led me down the road of revisions again. It's not too uncommon for me to continue revising, even after I've begun to submit. Somehow, it eases the sting of rejection to know I'm in an ongoing state of improvement. In fact, I've recently re-revised two short stories of mine and they have been sent out to the world with renewed hope of acceptance. 

At the moment, I'm looking at another short story of mine this hot afternoon in June and recognize that vague feeling that it's "missing something." I read it freshly, only to realize that around page three, I was beginning to skim it. 

It's one of the few short stories I've written that feels purely fiction without any realm of weirdness in it. I was inspired to write it when I was let go of my day job a few years ago. Then I combined that moment with another time I had wished I could have given someone a pair of shoes who had none on their feet. I've often imagined it being published and me, finally, being able to describe the origins of its inspiration. 

Instead, it's been rejected many times (although once was a more positive rejection). I've grown tired of looking at my own stories before but even in those moments, at the bare minimum, I'm intrigued by something in it despite my familiarity. 

This time was different. 

I recalled someone's feedback to me once that the real story didn't start until after my character left the office once she lost her job. At the time, I dismissed it. Instead, I tightened up the story in other parts, certain the core of the story began when my character walked into work, realizing they were laying people off.  

Now, I wonder if that feedback had been right all along. 

As much as I hate to admit it, this may be one of those stories that get the back burner treatment. It's the first time I've recognized that about this story, actually. In fact, I didn't even recognize it until I started writing this blog post. Ever since attempting to polish this piece, I have begun to realize there may be aspects of this story that I need to take out, like the first half. Or I need to leave it behind completely. 

I won't regret writing it, though. I think it was more therapeutic to write it than I realized at first. It likely was part of me processing losing a job I had been at six years. It also maybe even eased guilt that I didn't help a man who didn't have footwear (even though at the time I really didn't have anything to give, but still...) 

What will happen now to it? I'm not sure. I'm not saying there's nothing there, but I need to find what is missing to move forward. Or maybe accept that it served a purpose beyond publication.

Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. When she's not hunting down the right word, she's talking to God, reviewing books on her writing blog, watching movies, hanging out with family, and daydreaming. Her work has been featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not, WOW! Women on Writing, The Voices Project, Sky Island Journal, and Best Colleges. Read her musings at WorldofMyImagination.com.

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