A New Rejection Record

I’ve written a couple of posts on my various rejections records, lists of dubious achievements in number, speed, and type of rejections. Because I send out so many submissions, it should come as no surprise that a lot of these records don’t stand for long. Today, I’d like to share a new rejection record with you and tell you why this particular record is a source of motivation rather than a source of frustration.

The record I recently broke (multiple times) was for most rejections from a single publisher. My old record was nine (9). Before I get to the new record, there are some honorable mentions I’d like to discuss.

  • Honorable Mention #1 – Rejections 8; Acceptances 1
  • Honorable Mention #2 – Rejections 10; Acceptances 1

As you can see, after a healthy number of rejections (even a short-lived record-setter) I finally broke through with these publishers. One is a pro market and the other is semi-pro. The reason I mention these two is to encourage folks not to give up on a market just because they’ve been rejected a bunch. Sometimes you have to keep trying until you find the right story. I managed to do that with these two markets, and it’s a highlight of my year.

Now, on to the record.

My new record for most rejections by a single publisher is . . . SIXTEEN (16).

I know, some of you are  thinking, goddamn, take a hint! I might think that too, but let me tell you why I keep trying.

First, this is a professional market with a very low acceptance rate. As with most top-tier markets, they’re tough to crack even with a good story. I know that kind of sounds like an excuse, but I’ve seen editors from similar markets publicly state they turn away quality stories all the time for a myriad of (good) reasons. (Another reason you shouldn’t give up on a market or story, but more on that below).

Second, my rejections from this publisher are getting “better.” Earlier in the year, after a bunch of standard form rejections, I received a second-round rejection (sort an upper-tier rejection), and my last rejection was a short-list rejection, which means I was at least within spitting distance of publication. I’d call that progress.

With these factors in mind, I’ll continue to submit to this market because I have a better idea of the type of story they want, and my chances at publication are better than they’ve ever been (still not great, but better). Again, I’m telling you this because rejections don’t necessarily mean you should give up on a market (or a story, for that matter). If you’re working on and refining your craft (and your submission targeting), then keep trying, keep submitting, and you might find the right story to crack that tough market.

If you’d like to see my other rejections records, check out these posts.

I’v broken a few more records this year, so look for an updated list of my rejectomantic achievements in 2019.


Got a rejection record you’d like to share? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 12/3/18 to 12/9/18

Another weekly update on my writing woes and wins.

Words to Write By

This week it’s another does of wisdom from Elmore Leonard.

All the information you need can be given in dialogue.

― Elmore Leonard

I like this quote because it’s how I generally write. I use a lot of dialog, and it’s my favorite way of conveying the story and plot going on around the characters. Generally, I avoid long passages of exposition, but that’s not to say all exposition is bad. This is more of a stylistic preference. Of course, if your dialog is thinly disguised exposition, that’s not gonna work either. The characters need to sound natural and authentic when they’re talking to each other, and I think if it’s done right, you can deliver a lot of info to the reader without them even knowing what you’re up to.

The Novel

This week, I’m returning to Late Risers. I’ve addressed most of the big problems (I hope), and this next revision pass will largely be cleanup. I’ll work on fixing the little inconsistencies in the story as well as sharpening up the writing. Then I’m gonna give the manuscript to my agent, cross my fingers and toes, and hope for the best.

Short Stories

Not exactly a banner week for submissions, but I did manage to get one new story written and submitted.

  • Submissions Sent: 1
  • Rejections: 0
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 1

One submissions puts me at 115 for the year. I’ve really slowed down this last month, but I’d like to hit 120 submissions before the new year. The shortlist letter I received is from a publisher that’s new to me, and it’s for one of my longer short stories. That’s be a nice one to end the year on if it comes through.

The Blog

Just one blog post last week. As with submissions, my blogging output has suffered a bit in the last month.

12/4/18: Submissions Statement: November 2018

My monthly report card for submissions, acceptances, and publications.

Goals

I’m back to work on Late Risers and pushing to squeak out a few more submissions.

Acts of War: Stormbreak

I sent in the final draft of the first part of my project for Privateer Press. It’s called Acts of War: Stormbreak and it will complete the story I started in the novels Flashpoint and Aftershock. We’re telling the story in this third installment in a unique way, and here’s more about that from Privateer:

Beginning with the upcoming Winter Rampage event kicking off in January 2019, the ongoing contest for control of Llael will continue—and the shape of the Iron Kingdoms to come will be decided by you, the players. Connecting the Winter Rampage, the spring narrative league, and culminating at a final climactic event at Lock & Load 2019, the Stormbreak storyline continues the Acts of War series penned by Aeryn Rudel (Flashpoint, Aftershock) and will conclude the saga of the liberation of Llael. Written in four parts, the Stormbreak fiction will be published online for free, setting the scene for each of the Organized Play events that it covers. Key factors reported by the players of each event will not only influence the next event but the storyline itself, as Rudel reactively writes each of the segments following the Organized Play events to illustrate the changing world and the shifting storyline based on player feedback. Ultimately, Llael’s destiny will be revealed, and the player-driven outcomes of events will decide the fate of key characters featured in the storyline, including whether or not they survive the final battle and what form, if any, they may take in future battles of WARMACHINE and HORDES. We’ll also see in the introduction of a new technology that will change the shape of warfare in the Iron Kingdoms, forever. (If you’ve read Watery Graves by Chris Jackson or “The Devil’s in the Details” by Miles Holmes, begin speculation…now!)

Full details here. Keep an eye on the blog for more information about Stormbreak.


That was my week. How was yours?

Submission Statement: November 2018

November is in the books, so let’s see how I did with submissions for the month.

November 2018 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 8
  • Rejections: 5
  • Acceptances: 3
  • Publications: 1

Eight submissions for November. Not too bad. That puts me at 115 submissions for the year. The rejections and acceptances put me at 94 and 19 respectively. Yes, if you’ve seen any of my recent Tweets about rejections, my numbers were off. I miscounted the number of rejections I had. Thought I was closer to one hundred. There’s a chance I won’t even hit 100 rejections for the year now, which, oddly, kind of bums me out.

Rejections

Just five rejections for October.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 3
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 2
  • Personal Rejections: 0

Nothing too exciting here. Three standards and a couple of upper-tier rejections.

Spotlight Rejection

The spotlight rejection for November comes from one of my favorite markets, one that is now back in action after a long hiatus.

Dear Aeryn, 

Thank you for submitting [story title]. We appreciate your interest in [publisher]. 

Unfortunately, it is not quite right for us. Best of luck placing it elsewhere. 

This is a very standard form rejection, so there’s not much to talk about here. I’m just thrilled I can send submissions to these folks again.

Acceptances

Three acceptances is a good number, and all were special in their own way. The first was for a story I really like that has gotten close a number of times, but has never found a home, until now. It ended up with a newer publisher, but one that pays a pro rate. The second acceptance is for a story that was actually accepted earlier in the year, and then the publisher closed before it was published. It was nice to find that one a spot again. Finally, the third story is a reprint that will gain new life with a new publisher (one of my favorites).

Publications

One publication in November, which is free to read online.

“The Last Scar”

Published by Trembling With Fear (free to read)


And that was my November. Tell me about yours.

My Three-Part Flash Fiction Formula

I write a lot of flash fiction, and I’ve been lucky enough to publish a fair amount of it. What follows is my basic formula for writing stories under 1,000 words. It is not, of course, the only way to write flash fiction or even the best way to write flash fiction. It’s just my way. Okay, with that disclaimer up, let’s dive in.

Before I get to my formula, let’s establish a few things that flash fiction needs no matter how you go about writing it. It needs to have a plot and it needs to be a complete story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. My formula doesn’t ensure these things will happen (trust me), but when I follow my self-imposed rules, I find they’re a little easier to pull off.

Here are the three guidelines I generally follow when I write flash.

  1. Start near the end. What I mean is begin your story as close to the inciting action or event as you can. With 1,000 words or less, you simply don’t have the space for a lot of setup, you gotta get to the meat right away. I notice in a lot of my flash, at least the ones I’ve managed to publish, the inciting event, whatever it is, generally happens in the first few paragraphs, leaving me a lot of space to resolve the conflict I’ve set up.
  2. Keep your character count low. I like a lot of dialog in my stories, and in flash that means I have to watch how many characters are taking up my precious word count with all that talking. As such, I often don’t have more than two characters in my flash fiction (speaking characters, anyway). That way, they can have lots of dialog, which is how I generally prefer to tell a story, and I don’t eat up too much space with it. Having only a few characters also lets me spend some time developing them, again, usually through dialog. Of course, you can have more than two characters in a flash story, and I’ve managed to pull that off a few times, but I probably would still limit speaking parts to two or three.
  3. Limited locations. Same idea as keeping the cast of characters small. I tend to limit the locations of my flash fiction to one or maybe two spots. That way, I don’t have to worry about transitions from one place to another, and I don’t need to spend a lot of time describing new locations. If you read any of my flash, you’ll probably notice a lot of it takes place in a single spot, usually somewhere small and cozy like a bar, a bedroom, a house, a church, and so on.

So, that’s my basic formula, and, again, it is not the end-all-be-all of writing flash fiction. It does work for me, though, and I’ve been fairly successful with it. I’ve also found if I follow two of the rules above, I sometimes have room to ignore one. For example, if I start near the end, and I have only two characters, then I can probably fit in a couple of locations. Or, if I keep my character count low and I limit my locations, then I might be able to start a little further from the end and get in a bit more backstory and setup.

To further illustrate my little formula, here are some flash fiction pieces I’ve recently published where you can see those three guidelines in effect (more or less).

This one is pretty much the poster child for my flash fiction formula. It ticks all the boxes. One small location (a bar), few characters (two), starts pretty much at the end.

So, this is one my stories with more than two characters. I think I have three speaking parts in this one, and a whole town full of people are present. That said, I do start near the end, and I restrict my location to one spot (a church). This is an example of where I follow two guidelines so I have more room to mess around with the third.

Another three for three here. Just two characters? Check. One location? Check. Start near the end? Check(ish). This one has a tad bit more setup than usual for my flash, but following my other two rules allowed me a little more space for it.

This is an example of flash stripped right down to the frame. It definitely follows my three guidelines in that it has one character, one location, and it’s, uh, the end of pretty much everything. Of course, you don’t have to go to this extreme to write good flash, but sometimes a story only needs a bare-bones treatment to work.


So that’s how I write flash fiction. How do you do it? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 11/19/18 to 11/25/18

Hey, all, here’s another week of writerly workings.

Words to Write By

This week I return, once again, to the hallowed wisdom of Stephen King.

“Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”

― Stephen King

I love this quote because it exposes the often brutal truth of the writing experience. Well, for me anyway. Yeah, sure, there are times when I feel like stardust and sunshine are flowing from my fingertips onto the page, but that’s pretty rare to be honest. On the other hand, the shoveling shit thing? The writing when I don’t feel like it? That I am very familiar with. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m not great at judging my own work, especially when I’m churning out the first draft. That feeling of the unknown, of god, I hope this isn’t total garbage, can really color my emotions when I’m creating. Despite those emotions, I have to do what Stephen King says. I have to go on, and I usually do. Invariably, when I go back and read what I’ve written the next day, it’s never as bad as I feared. Hell, sometimes it’s even pretty good.

The Novel

I finished the first draft of my project for Privateer Press and sent it off. This week, I’ll dive back in to revisions on Late Risers while I wait for notes from Privateer. I’d like to finish revisions of the novel by the end of the year. I think that’s doable.

Short Stories

Like last week, I was pressing to finish my project for Privateer Press. Add to that the Thanksgiving holiday, and, well, I didn’t get much done with submissions. Despite that, it was a pretty good week.

  • Submissions Sent: 1
  • Rejections: 0
  • Acceptances: 2
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

So, the one submission and pair of acceptances put me at 113 submissions for the year and 18 acceptances (I’ve since received a 19th). I’m still at 97 rejections for the year, but I have 10 submissions pending, so I should break that 100 mark in the next week or two.

The Blog

Again, sadly, just one blog post last week. I’m back on track, though, so count on at least two this week.

11/20/18: A Week of Writing: 11/12/18 to 11/18/18

The usual weekly update on submissions, rejections, acceptances, and other writerly things.

Goals

It’s back to work on the novel and maybe finish up a new short story or two.

Submission Spotlight

This week I’d like to call your attention to the latest flash fiction contest from The Molotov Cocktail. This one is called Phantom Flash, and here’s a bit about what they’re looking for:

Time to get weird. The Phantom Flash contest focuses on the strange and surreal, on the otherworldly and unsettling, on the things that just don’t have any rational explanation. Let your minds wander to the darkest corners of your imagination, where the fluidity of dreams pours over concrete realities. The parameters for this contest are as boundless as the cosmos.

Final deadline on this one is 1/31/19. Full submission details in the link below.

Phantom Flash Guidelines


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 11/12/18 to 11/18/18

Late again and missing a week, but I’m back on track with another weekly writing update.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from comedian, actor, producer, and writer Carol Leifer.

“As a writer, the worst thing you can do is work in an environment of fear of rejection.”

—Carol Leifer

I think it’s important for a writer to envision every story they send out getting accepted and published, and, at the same time, accepting there’s likely going to be a rejection or two (or ten) along the way. Carol Leifer’s quote resonates with me because while you have to expect rejections, you can’t let the prospect of getting rejected keep you from writing and submitting your work or submitting your work to the best and toughest markets. You have to keep writing, keep submitting, and come to an understanding that rejection is just a part of the process. It helps you get better, it helps you find the best markets for your work, and it helps you develop that thick skin every creative person needs. In my opinion, that’s nothing to fear.

The Novel

Revisions on my novel Late Risers is on hold for a bit while I work on a project for Privateer Press. Last week, I wrote 10,000 words on that project. I’d like to tell you more about it, and I will soon, but for now I’ll just say it’s nice to step back into a familiar story. 🙂

Short Stories

With the new project for Privateer Press and a few other things, I didn’t get a lot done submission-wise last week.

  • Submissions Sent: 1
  • Rejections: 1
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 1
  • Shortlist: 0

With this tiny bit of activity, I’m at 112 submission and 97 rejections for the year. It would be nice to end the year with 100 rejections and 20 acceptances (currently at 17).

The Blog

Just one blog posts last week.

11/16/18: Submissions: No Accounting for Taste

In this post, I take a look at how editorial taste can influence rejections and acceptances.

Goals

I’m going to finish up my current project with Privateer Press this week, do that Thanksgiving thing, and then get back to work on the novel.

Story Spotlight

My flash fiction story “The Last Scar” was published by Trembling with Fear last week, and you can read it for free by clicking the link below.

“The Last Scar”


That was my week. How was yours?

Submissions: No Accounting for Taste

The old saying goes one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. That’s applicable to a wide variety of creative endeavors, and writing is no exception. What I mean is that when you send out submissions, whether or not you get published is due to a number of factors. The two biggest are write a good story and make sure that story is appropriate for the market. Another important one, I think, is editorial preference. Even if you nail the first two elements (good story and good for the market), the person reading your story has to, you know, like it, and that is a pretty subjective thing. Let me see if I can illustrate the point with some of my own submissions.

The chart below includes eight stories and five markets – two pro markets, two semi-pro markets, and one token market. I send a lot of stories to these five publishers and they all generally publish the same type of material, namely speculative fiction that includes, fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. I also end up sending the same story to these markets after one or more of them rejects it. Take a look.

Pro 1 Pro 2 Semi-Pro  1 Semi-Pro 2 Token 1
Story 1 Accepted Rejected
Story 2 Rejected Rejected Accepted Rejected
Story 3 Accepted Rejected Rejected
Story 4 Rejected Accepted
Story 5 Accepted Rejected Rejected
Story 6 Accepted Rejected
Story 7 Accepted Rejected
Story 8 Rejected Accepted

I’m not using the names of the stories or the names of the markets because I don’t want to give the impression that any of these publishers are wrong for rejecting my stories or right for accepting them. This is just a sampling of my submissions to illustrate my point that editorial preference (which is neither right nor wrong) plays a role in getting published.

If editorial preference plays a significant role, how do you improve your chances of acceptance? Well, that’s where submission targeting comes in. For starters, you should read sample stories from the magazine, which’ll give you a good idea of the content the editors like. That said, I find once I start getting responses from editors in the form of rejections or acceptances, I can really drill down on their preferences (especially if they’re kind enough to give me some feedback).

Sometimes you hit the mark right off the bat. For example, pro market 1 and semi-pro market 2 accepted the first stories I sent them, and that helped me narrow down what to send them next. The result? I’ve been accepted by both markets a number of times. On the other side of that coin are pro market 2 and semi-pro market 1. I had seven and ten stories rejected by those markets respectively before I broke through. The stories they accepted had a very specific style and that told me A LOT about what I should be sending these publishers.

The take away here, for me at least, is there’s no exact formula, no foolproof plan to getting a story accepted. You have to commit to perfecting your style and craft, be diligent with your research, and, yes, accept a fair amount of trial and error. In addition, don’t give up on a market just because they’ve rejected you a bunch. It might be that you simply haven’t sent them the right story yet.


Thoughts on editorial preference? Tell me about them in the comments.