I was cleaning out some old file boxes yesterday when I ran across the submission card for "The Bank Robber" which is in the new issue of Needle. Believe it or not I wrote the original draft back in May of 2000. Over the next two years I submitted that story to six different markets, and after collecting six rejections I finally put it in a drawer and tried to forget about it.
But it wouldn't let go of me. Year after year, I'd put that story out and rewrite and rework it from different angles but I never felt confident enough to submit it anywhere. Then last year I was looking for a project to work on and pulled that story back out of the drawer. I'd always written the story from the point of view of a twelve year old boy and this time out I wondered what would happen if I wrote it from that boy's point of view as an adult. So I wrote this:
"'I made love to a bank robber once.'
Silence cracked around the massive dining room table. Mouths dropped open, food fell into laps, and a long stemmed crystal goblet spilled blood red wine across my wife's expensive lace tablecloth.
I suppose my own face mirrored their surprise. Why had I blurted out such a private moment of my life, especially to this self-centered group of assholes? Shock value? Something to stem the flow of their narcissistic conversation? Partly, but mostly it was to scare up that trapped look on Sally Mandeville’s face."
Suddenly I had two stories and what a blast I had weaving the two of them together. The ending came as a total surprise to my blood thirty mind but it was a perfect fit for the story I'd written. And boy, was I scared. It was one of the longest short stories I'd ever written coming in at a whopping 8300 words and where the hell do you submit a story that long. I stuck the story back in a drawer and started searching for markets.
After about a month I contacted Steve Weedle and asked when Needle submissions were going to open again and would he possibly be interested in an 8300 word story. His reply - "Not if it's great, which I assume it is." Well, shit, no pressure there. I thought it was great, of course, but would he? When the submission door opened I took a deep breath and sent "The Bank Robber" back out into the world.
Fourteen years and my story is finally published. It's also taught me a great lesson. If you believe in a story, keep working on it until you find the right voice to make it sing, even if it takes years.