Okay, so here's the first 13 lines of my short SF story:
"...I wake with the pain in my head, exactly where I knew it would be. I don’t remember ever being free from it. How many times had I lived this moment? A hundred? A thousand? With the pain came a memory of a number.
Four thousand nine hundred and ninety nine.
I take out a piece of paper and a pencil stub from my jacket pocket and write the number 5000. I stare at it and remember it for next time. Today is number five thousand. I have been living this day for over thirteen and a half years."
The story is finished (3600 words) and I've sent it to a few magazines with no joy. I still like it though and want to understand why it's not floating the editor's boat. The premise is simple enough; a soldier is caught in a time-loop of his own making, living a brutal day of trench warfare over and over again, and searching for a way to get out.
Well-written, but I agree that the unique hook doesn't come through in the first 13 lines. I think what's interesting about this story is being stuck in a time of violence - after reading your description, I wonder if the pain in the protagonist's head is from a bullet wound as opposed to the headache that I initially imagined. Setting seems to be key here, but it's not coming through so far.
Also, I wonder if the 5000th day is significant somehow - will this trigger some event that allows him to escape or is he going to try something more drastic than normal to get out of the loop? So far, aside from the number, I don't get the sense that this day is different than all other days, which is often what pulls me into a story.
I'd be happy to read the whole thing if you're looking for more feedback than that...
In the first sentence, I think you probably need to establish this has happened before, over and over. 4999 should not be the number, unless 5000 is significant.
A lot of people prefer not to read present tense stories. Maybe editors, too. Perhaps, when/if you change it to 3rd person in the past tense, you will discover things you didn't see before. Then you can change it back if you want.
I agree with the Groundhog Day reference someone else mentioned. What makes this story different? You should make that clear right away.
I'll agree with the above comments. In particular, the introduction is done in a way that telescopes it as an idea story, rather than a character, action or millieu story. This means that the idea is judged on its uniqueness more strongly than other stories, and therefore must be unique to attract the editor.
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