Night Walk Wednesday: Time Waits for One Man

Welcome to another installment of Night Walk Wednesday, where I’ll talk about the submission journey of a story from my flash fiction anthology Night Walk & Other Dark PathsThis week’s story is “Time Waits for One Man.”

How it Started

This is yet another story crafted in an hour during a flash-fiction writing exercise. I remember the prompt for this one too. It was a shattered clock. That got me thinking about stopped clocks, and then stopped time, and then immortality. The story that eventually came out of all that was “Time Waits for One Man.” I write a lot of stories with biblical themes or characters, and this is one of those. Note, these aren’t really religious stories, just ones that use a Biblical character or tale with a speculative twist.

What’s It About?

“Time Waits for One Man” is another of my patented two-people-talking stories. I love dialogue, and that’s all this story is. The setup is simple. A freelance journalist is interviewing a man who somehow survived an accident that should have killed him. In fact, he survived it without a scratch. He tells her he survived because of who he is or more importantly what he is. She’s incredulous, but as his tale unfolds, she begins to believe.

How’d It Do?

I sold this story in its first submission to Factor Four Magazine, a pro flash market that had rejected me seven times previously. I was thrilled at that acceptance and publication, and the only rain cloud on this sunny situation is that Factor Four shut down not too long after. That’s just a sad reality of publishing, and when I look back at my submissions over the years, it’s rather alarming just how many of the markets I’ve submitted to have closed their doors.

The Numbers

  • First Submission: 8/23/18
  • Final Submissions: 1/29/20
  • Accepted On: 8/26/18
  • Total Submissions: 3
  • Total Rejections: 2
  • Shortlists: 0
  • Personal Rejections: 1

Though “Time Waits for One Man” sold on its first submission, I sent it out as soon as I had the rights back. One of those reprint submissions was to Msyterion, a market that deals with Christian-themed speculative stories. I thought the story might have a pretty good shot there. It was ultimately rejected, but I did get a nice personal note from the editor and an invitation to submit more work.


If you enjoyed the submission journey of “Time Waits for One Man”, check out its 39 siblings in Night Walk & Other Dark Paths, which you can order in print and eBook by clicking the cover below.

Submission Statement: April 2021

April is a wrap. Here’s how I did.

April 2021 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 6
  • Rejections: 8
  • Acceptances: 2
  • Publications: 3
  • Further Consideration: 0

I would have liked to have sent a few more submissions in April, but six ain’t too bad, and I ended the month with 32 subs for the year. I need to pick up the pace a bit in May if I want to stay on track for 100 subs, but I’ve already sent 4 this month, so I’m off to a good start. What I did get a lot of in April was rejections. I had a bunch of submissions that had been under consideration for a while, and the editors pretty much all made their decisions at the same time. The good news is that I broke my long rejections streak and finally got on the board for 2021 with a couple of acceptances, one of which was also published in April.

Rejections

Eight rejections this month.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 6
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 2
  • Personal Rejections: 0

Nothing out of the ordinary here. All my rejections were of the form variety. One of them was more disappointing than the others, however, simply because I thought the story was a pretty good fit for the market. The editor though otherwise. That’s just how it goes in submission land. In fact, when I’m actually hopeful of an acceptance, I almost never get one. Weird how that works. 🙂

Publications

Three publications in April: a short story, an article, and an entire flash fiction anthology. Links to each below.

1) My first April publication was a flash piece I sold to Wyldblood Press titled “News from Home.”

“News from Home”

2) My Rejectomancy column over at Dark Matter Magazine is still going, and last month’s subject was the dreaded withdrawal letter.

An Honorable Retreat: The Withdrawal Letter

3) Finally, my flash fiction collection Night Walk & Other Dark Paths was published last month. It’s available in print and eBook through the link below.


And that was my month. How was yours?

Rejection Letter Rundown: The Reprint Rejection

Been a while since I talked about the specific types of rejections a writer might receive, but here’s one that falls into kind of a unique category: the reprint rejection. It’s unique because it’s a story you know at least one editor/publisher liked enough to publish, so you might have more confidence when you send it out. Past success, however, does not guarantee future success, and the reprint rejection is yet another reminder of this writerly reality.

Here are some examples of reprint rejection from my own collection.

Thank you again for your interest in [publisher] and for allowing us to review your story submission. Unfortunately, the story does not meet our editorial needs at this time. 
We sincerely hope your story finds a home soon, and that you’ll consider submitting more work in the future.
Can you detect any difference in this reprint rejection from a standard form rejection for an original story? Let’s look at another one.

Thank you for submitting [story] to [market]. It’s an interesting story, but it didn’t quite come together for us and we’ve decided to pass on it.

We appreciate your interest in our [market]; thanks again for giving us the chance to look at your story.

I’d call this a higher-tier rejection, but, again, it’s no different than the same rejection for an original story from this publisher.

So, as you can see, reprint rejections, are, well, just rejections that don’t call any special attention to the fact the submission was a reprint. (I can think of one publisher that does, but they’re the outlier.) What can that tell us as writers, though? Primarily, I think it reinforces a couple of unwavering truths about submissions and publishing.

  1. It’s still all about right submission, right editor, right time. You managed to hit the winning combination once with the story, but you have to repeat the process all over again to sell it as a reprint.
  2. Good stories still get rejected. You can be somewhat confident your reprint story is pretty decent. If someone was willing to pay you and published the thing, it’s not unreasonable to think it’s a “good story.” But, remember, editors pass on good stories all the time for a variety of reasons, and reprints submissions are not exempt from this rule.

But the big questions is are reprints harder or easier to sell? I’ve covered this topic before, but, in my experience, I think they are slightly easier to sell. A quick look at Duotrope says I’ve sent 44 reprint submissions. Out of those submissions, I received 11 acceptances. That’s a 25% acceptance rate, which is higher than my standard acceptance rate, which is somewhere between 15% and 20%.


Thoughts on the reprint rejection? What’s your experience with them? Tell me about it in the comments.

Night Walk Wednesday: The Night, Forever, and Us

Welcome to Night Walk Wednesday, where I talk about the submission journey of a story from my flash fiction anthology Night Walk & Other Dark PathsThis week’s story is “The Night, Forever, and Us.”

How it Started

For once, this story did NOT start out in a one-hour flash fiction writing exercise. This is one of the few times, at least with flash, where I just had an idea I wanted to explore out of the blue, and then, you know, did that. I jammed out a first draft pretty quick, and then turned it over to some folks in my writing group for a critique. After some light revision and a bit of polish, it was ready for submission.

What’s It About?

I write a lot of stories about vampires. It’s like a condition; I just can’t stop. In my defense, I do try to come at the befanged bloodsuckers from as fresh an angle as I can, and for the most part I think I pull it off. I mean, I’ve sold a bunch of vampire stories, right? Anyway, with “The Night, Forever, and Us”, I wanted a quiet piece, something with a lot of emotion that presented vampirism not as a monstrous curse but as salvation and hope. Yeah, I know that’s not exactly unique, but it let me explore the space in a way I generally don’t, and the story has a very different tone than most of my vampire stories.

How’d It Do?

I sold this one quick, but, for me, in a surprising way. Once I finished the story, I sent it off to two of my usual suspects and received quick rejections. Then, honestly, I sort of lost interest, moved on to other things, and the story sat for a while. Six months passed and a new horror flash fiction market opened called Love Letters to Poe. They wanted gothic horror, though, and if you know anything about my work, then you know this is not a sub-genre with which I am well acquainted. Still, Love Letters to Poe looked like a really cool market (and they are), so I racked my brain and searched my hard drive for a story that might fit. I came across “The Night, Forever, and Us,” and I thought, hey, this might work. I mean, Dracula is one of the gold standards for gothic horror, and my story ticked a few of those boxes. Well, I sent it in, and about a week later, I had an acceptance. Maybe I should write more gothic stuff. 🙂

The Numbers

  • First Submission: 8/13/19
  • Final Submissions: 6/29/20
  • Accepted On: 7/5/20
  • Total Submissions: 3
  • Total Rejections: 2
  • Shortlists: 0
  • Personal Rejections: 1

Three submissions is about average for me with a flash fiction piece. I generally sell them much, much quicker than I do short stories, where I average about eight submissions.


If you enjoyed the submission journey of “The Night, Forever, and Us”, consider checking out 39 other frightful flashes in Night Walk & Other Dark Paths, which you can get in print and eBook by clicking the cover below.

A Week of Writing: 4/19/21 to 4/25/21

Another week of writing in the books. Here’s how I did.

Night Walk

My my flash fiction collection Night Walk & Other Dark Paths released last week, and so it gets top billing for this installment of my weekly writerly report (we’ll return to the usual format next week). You can pick up a copy of the anthology in print or eBook right here, but watch the rad book trailer the folks at The Molotov Cocktail put together for release day. (And if you do pick up a copy, help me out with a review when you have a sec.)

If you want the inside scoop on the stories in the collection, make sure to check out my new feature, Night Walk Wednesday. You can check out past installments below.

Short Story Submissions

With the book release, submissions took a back a seat.

  • Submissions Sent: 0
  • Rejections: 3
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 1
  • Shortlist: 0
  • Pending: 8
  • 2021 Total Subs: 32

Yep, no submissions, but I did get three rejections, two on the same day. With Night Walk out the door, I can focus more on submissions this week. I have two new stories to send out, so that’ll hopefully rescue my April numbers. If I can get to 36 subs by the end of the month, I’ll be in good shape. The rejections were all of the form variety, and two were not unexpected. The third, though, I really thought the story was a good fit for the publication in question, but, alas, it was not to be.

Goals

I still have a bunch of commission work to do, and I’ll continue to make progress on that. As I said above, I’d like to get four more submissions out by the end of the month as well.


That was my week. How was yours?

Night Walk Wednesday: Where They Belong

Welcome to another installment of Night Walk Wednesday, where I’ll talk about the submission journey of a story from my upcoming flash fiction anthology Night Walk & Other Dark PathsThis week’s story is “Where They Belong.”

How it Started

Yep. You guessed it. This story began as part of a one-hour flash fiction writing contest/exercise. As I’ve said, you’re gonna read that a lot in this series, and I implore you to give it a shot in your own writing group. It’s fun, and if you’re anything like me, the prompts and the limited time frame will force you down some interesting literary paths you might not have otherwise taken.

What’s It About?

I clearly remember the prompt for this one. It was a cartoon of a determined-looking little boy standing next to a freshly dug grave. The story came to me pretty quick, and I knew I wanted to tell a zombie story but from a unique perspective. That perspective was the voice of a seven-year-old boy, and I ended up penning a sad, tragic story about a child having to make horrible grown-up decisions.

How’d It Do?

This story is another of my rare one-and-done submissions. I sold it to the now sadly defunct DarkFuse Magazine for my first ever pro sale. I wish all my submissions could be so rewarding. I’ve since gone on to place the story as a reprint, and it did rack up a single rejection between initial and reprint publications.

The real difficulty with this piece wasn’t the submission process. It was the revisions I made to get the narrator’s voice right. My first draft of this story had my protagonist sounding far too young for his age (he came across as more four or five than seven). So I let some of my friends who actually  have kids read the story, and they helped me dial in the voice. It took me more drafts than usual for a flash story, but I think I got it right in the end.

This story is also an example of, yes, you can still sell zombie stories. Vampires, werewolves, serial killers, and hitmen too. I’ve sold bunches of them, often to pro markets. Thing is, you gotta do something different, put a spin on a tired old trope. In this case it was a unique POV, and, well, you see the results.

The Numbers

  • First Submission: 6/20/15
  • Final Submissions: 12/31/19
  • Accepted On: 4/1/16
  • Total Submissions: 3
  • Total Rejections: 1
  • Shortlists: 1
  • Personal Rejections: 0

Now I said I sold “Where They Belong” on it’s first submission, and I did, but it still took ten months. That’s just how it goes with some markets, but DarkFuse was communicative throughout the process, so I generally knew where my story stood. I placed the story again as a reprint a few years ago with Ellipsis Zine. 


If you enjoyed the submission journey of “Where They Belong”, consider checking out its 39 siblings in Night Walk & Other Dark Paths, which you can preorder in print and eBook by clicking the cover below. The book is available for reals tomorrow, so if you must wait one day, I completely understand. 🙂

A Week of Writing: 4/12/21 to 4/18/21

Another week of writing come and gone. Here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from novelist Doris Lessing.

“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.”

—Doris Lessing

If you’re writing a novel and you’re on social media (so, you know, everyone), you’re likely to read dozens of posts about how you absolutely, positively cannot do X or Y when you write a novel. You will then undoubtedly wonder about the successful novels you’ve read that do exactly those things. This is not to say that advice of this nature has no merit, but like Doris Lessing says, I don’t think you should look at these musts and nevers as absolute laws. I do think it’s important to understand why the same things pop up in the never-dos, so if you do use them, you can avoid certain pitfalls. Like writing style advice, I believe it’s also important to understand that some of the nevers and musts in novel writing center around genre conventions. So, for example, something that won’t work in literary fiction might be just fine in epic fantasy.

Short Story Submissions

A little slow in submission land last week

  • Submissions Sent: 1
  • Rejections: 2
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0
  • Pending: 11
  • 2021 Total Subs: 32

Just one submission last week, but it gives me 32 for the year, and that keeps me on pace for 100. The two rejections were of the form variety, so nothing much to report there. I need to get four more submissions out by end of month if I want to stay on pace, and I don’t think that’ll be too hard.

Night Walk

My flash fiction collection Night Walk & Other Dark Paths releases this week on 4/22/21! The anthology is available for preorder in print and digital through Amazon (click the cover below). If you’d like to read the foreword for the anthology from Molotov Cocktail editor Josh Goller, click here. It’s an excellent introduction to the kinds of stories you’ll find in the anthology.

I have a new feature on the blog called Night Walk Wednesday, where I give you all the rejectomancy stats on individual stories from the collection. You can check out past installments below.

Publications

I have a monthly Rejectomancy column over at Dark Matter Magazine where I discuss elements of the writing and submission process. It’s similar to what I do here on the blog, but the column often goes into a bit more depth. Anyway, my latest article went up last week, and it’s all about how and when to send a withdrawal letter. You can read it by clicking the link below.

Read “An Honorable Retreat: The Withdrawal Letter”

Goals

Same as last week: send out more submissions and keep going on my commission work.


That was my week. How was yours?

The Rejection Streak: An Analysis

In the first quarter of 2021 (and a bit before), I endured 23 rejections in a row. One of the longest streaks of not for us’s and we’re gonna pass’s in my career. That streak has since ended, and I have two acceptances so far in April. Now that I have a little distance from the streak and a little success to soften the blow, I though I’d do a postmortem analysis and see what I can see. What I’m going to do is look at the 23 submission that made up the streak and compare them to the 23 submissions just prior to that. Here are those basic numbers.

Subs Duration (Days) Rejections Acceptances Accpt %
Rejection Streak 23 96 23 0 0
Pre-Streak 23 69 17 6 26%

Pretty big difference there, huh? Six acceptances in the 23 submissions prior to the streak and nada during. How does that happen? Well, here are some more numbers that thicken the plot.

Market Crossover Personal & Shortlisted Rejections
Rejection Streak 11 4
Pre-Streak 8 4

So during both the streak and the more successful period before it, I sent submissions to a lot of the same markets. Some of these markets had published me before, and two of them have published me since. I also received the same number of personal or shortlisted rejections. I think this last bit is important as far as what goes into a rejection streak. As I have said many times, publishing a story is about putting the right story in front of the right editor at the right time. I believe that a personal or shortlist rejection often occurs when you have two of those elements but not the third. It’s a matter of timing or even luck. So a shortlist or a personal rejection often could have been an acceptance if not for one of those factors. If you’re unlucky to run into that three or four times, well, you get a rejection streak.

Another interesting number is that three of the acceptances I received pre-streak were actually rejected in that same period. I was able to submit them, get a rejection quickly, and then resubmit them to another market that accepted them. There’s less of that during the streak. For example, the two stories I sold in April were rejected during the streak but were held long long enough that I couldn’t get them out in time to interrupt the rejection pile-up.


Am I just diving into the numbers to make myself feel better? Sure, a little, but I often find the stats tell a reassuring story. For example, if you’ve experienced success in the past, i.e., you’ve sold stories before, a streak of rejections is likely due more to the timing of your submissions rather than their quality. Of course, we can all improve our writing, submission targeting can be further dialed in, and a story that’s racking up rejections might need to be revised or even retired. Despite all that, I think you just need to be patient and keep doing the things that brought you success before. As April has already shown me, there are probably acceptances right around the corner. 🙂

Questions or opinions on my analysis? have you endured a rejection streak recently? Tell me about it in the comments.

Night Walk Wednesday: When the Lights Go On

Welcome to the next installment of Night Walk Wednesday, where I’ll talk about the submission journey of a story from my upcoming flash fiction anthology Night Walk & Other Dark PathsThis week’s story is “When the Lights Go On”.

How it Started

“When the Lights Go On” is another story written during a one-hour flash fiction exercise. It’s also an excellent example of why I do these frantic scribble-fests. They often lead me down unexpected paths and often some of my best work comes out of these high-pressure writing sessions. “When the Lights Go On” is one of those stories where I knew I’d written something pretty good from the outset.

What’s It About?

This story is set in the 1950s in the small town of Arco, Idaho. That city has the unique distinction of being the first in the world lit entirely by nuclear power, an event that took place in 1955. I’m not sure how I ended up there from the prompt, which I believe was a photo of a nuclear power plant, but the premise is ripe for all kinds of sci-fi and horror. The story, like a lot of my flash, has a simple setup. In this case, the folks of my fictional Arco are terrified to turn on the lights, the same lights powered by the nearby nuclear plant. The story is all about why they’re afraid. 🙂

How’d It Do?

This story is a weird one. I knew it was good. I knew it was unique. So I started sending it out with the utmost confidence it would get picked up quickly. Well, that was not to be the case. In fact, this story was rejected a whopping ten times before I sold it. The thing is, it was shortlisted four times by top-flight pro markets, and kept getting feedback like this: A well-done piece of flash, foreshadowing major consequences, letting the reader wonder, until the chilling reveal and a solid final line. 

What you have here is a classic example of good stories don’t always get accepted even when a publisher likes them. Still, notes like the one above encouraged me to keep sending it out, and I eventually sold it to The Arcanist. In fact, it took second place in their Ghost Story contest, and the prize money worked out to over 10 cents per word. Not too shabby.

The Numbers

  • First Submission: 12/6/17
  • Final Submissions: 9/5/18
  • Accepted On: 9/29/18
  • Total Submissions: 12
  • Total Rejections: 11
  • Shortlists: 4
  • Personal Rejections: 4

So it took me ten months to sell “When the Lights Go On”, and it average about one submission (and rejection) per month. I should point out it has received one rejection as a reprint, so it’s ten rejection it’s initial run. Anyway, as I said above, sometimes good stories can take a while to sell. There’s always an element of luck involved. You have to put the story in front of the right editor at the right time. The point is to keep trying, especially when a story is receiving universally positive feedback.


If you enjoyed the submission journey of “When the Lights Go On”, consider checking out its 39 siblings in Night Walk & Other Dark Paths, which you can preorder in print and eBook by clicking the cover below.


Read the other entries in Night Walk Wednesday:

A Week of Writing: 4/5/21 to 4/11/21

Two weeks into April. Here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from Herman Wouk.

“I try to write a certain amount each day, five days a week. A rule sometimes broken is better than no rule.”

~ Herman Wouk

This has long been my approach, and though the amount I write per day can vary, I tend to stick to the five-days-a-week plan. For example, when I’m writing the first draft of a novel, I shoot for 2,000 words a day, which gives me a comfortably-sized book in about three months. For short stories, I like to hit 1,000 words a day, and I end up with a fairly chunky story in about a week. The second part of that quote is also important. Some days, for whatever reason, I can’t write. Then the routine becomes a chance to practice allowing myself some grace. I’ll admit I’m far better at the former than the latter, but I’m working on it. 🙂

Short Story Submissions

Another decent week in submission land.

  • Submissions Sent: 2
  • Rejections: 0
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 1
  • Shortlist: 0
  • Pending: 13
  • 2021 Total Subs: 31

Two more submissions last week, which is the minimum number I need to hit my goal of 100 subs for the year. No rejections or acceptances, but I’ve got pending submissions that should be getting near a decision. I expect more activity this week on that front. Hopefully, some of that activity will result in an acceptance. I did have a story published last week. More details on that below.

Night Walk

Last week, we received printers proofs and finalized the manuscript for Night Walk & Other Dark Paths. The collection is looking great, and I’m excited for release day on 4/22/21. The anthology is available for preorder in print and digital through Amazon. If you’re so inclined, click the cover below.

I have a new feature on the blog called Night Walk Wednesday, where I give you all the rejectomancy stats on individual stories from the collection. You can check out the first three installments below.

Publications

Last week, my sci-fi flash piece “News from Home” was published by Wyldblood Press. This is my first publication with this market, and I hope it may be the first of many. You can read “News from Home” by clicking the link.

Read “News from Home”

Goals

Same as last week: send out more submissions and keep going on my commission work.


That was my week. How was yours?

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