Writing Redemption

As the editor of FiftyWordStories.com, I receive a lot of different submissions from a lot of different people. I publish some of them and turn down others, for a wide variety of reasons. Every time I turn down a story, I try to share my reasons for the rejection in a helpful and encouraging way.

Writing these “rejection letters” sometimes turns into an opportunity to share something that I think more writers should be aware of, or think about. Today I had one of those opportunities, and I wanted to share my response here.

I hope this response will be useful and encouraging to you, whether you’re a writer/author or not.


I wrote this email in response to a story submission that was fairly dark and hopeless…

Hi [author],

Thanks for sending this in. I hope it isn’t too closely reflective of your personal experiences…

With “dark” stories, I always go back to something one of my high school teachers told me. I showed him a dark story I’d written, based on a nightmare I’d had. He asked me where the story’s “redemption” was.

It didn’t have one.

I think this story is in a similar place. Life can be dark sometimes, and writing, as a reflection of life, can certainly go to those dark places, too. But as authors and artists, I think it’s important that we find a way to make those dark spots count for something. There should be meaning, hope, growth, or redemption of some sort in the dark things that we write, some kind of encouragement or a call to action, or even a cry for help.

This story is simply a descent into hopelessness, without any of those redemptive elements I just described. I’d like to encourage you to move beyond the darkness of a story like this and find a way to bring out a positive of some kind. Maybe that means finding something to hope in or hope for. Maybe it means calling people to come and do something to make a change or challenge the darkness. Or maybe the only thing you can do is turn it into a cry for help. (For an example of this, see Psalm 88.)

So thanks again for submitting. I won’t be using this story on the site, but I hope sending this in has allowed you to express what you needed to express, and I hope you’re able to find some redemption through your writing in the future.

Tim Sevenhuysen

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