I’ve been encountering an uncomfortable phenomenon lately. It’s called Why the Hell Did I Submit That (WTHDIST) Syndrome. Basically, WTHDIST is a condition where I pray for a rejection on a submitted story because I’ve figured out that it actually sucks.
I experienced WTHDIST just this morning. I’d been waiting on a response from my story, “The Game,” from Espresso Fiction for a few months. And this morning, the response arrived. I can’t describe for you the feeling of dread I had as I looked at the innocent Thank you for your submission to Espresso Fiction subject line. Usually, this is because I love a story and don’t want to see it rejected. But with “The Game,” it was a definite case of WTHDIST. Frankly, “The Game” is a damned stupid story. I’d be embarrassed to see it get published.
I filed away my rejection on Duotrope Digest’s handy-dandy Response Tracker, but a feeling of dread still hung on me. I wandered over to my remaining list of pending responses. And there, in all it’s hideousness, it was: a 118 day pending response entry for a little ditty titled “Nighttime Daddy.” I’d submitted the story to LitBits in a fit of pique after the story didn’t make the cut in a Writer’s Digest’s Your Story contest. 118 days later, this thing was haunting me like the lamb kebabs from my favorite Afghan restaurant. I found myself praying: please don’t let this thing get accepted. Or wishing it was lost in cyberspace.
The whole thing got me thinking: how do we decide what to submit and what not to submit? I’d like to think I can tell good from bad. But, usually, until I get a rejection, I often believe with naive earnestness that even my homeliest, gap-toothed, drooling babies are exquisite and graceful swans. Clearly, my internal editor has a bad wire.
But I think the real problem comes earlier in the process, long before I seek out a market, write my cover letter and send my darlings on their way. Bad stories are born of bad ideas. And bad ideas should be nipped before they sprout. I should dump duds early rather than waste time finishing and editing it. Then I could spend my time on the good stuff.
Easier said than done. Maybe it’s a matter of experience. Or of refining my literary palate. I wish I knew. Time is precious. I don’t want to waste it. And I don’t want to live with any WTHDIST’s haunting me by, somehow, making it into print.
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