A Week of Writing: 8/13/18 to 8/19/18

Finally managed to squeak one of these things out on a Monday. Here’s my writing week that was.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from one of my favorite speculative authors, C. J. Cherryh.

It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.

– C. J. Cherryh

When I finished the first draft of my novel Late Risers (currently with my critique partners), some friends and family were surprised by my rather subdued celebration of that milestone. I think C. J. Cherryh’s quote speaks to that a bit. You see, the first draft is the easy part for me (well, less difficult), and maybe it’s not all garbage, but significant portions of it are destined for the revision dumpster. The hard part, the crucial part, the absolutely gotta-nail-it part is the second piece of her quote, “edit brilliantly.” That’s the process I’ve started, and that’s the process that will determine whether I end up with a salable novel or something destined for the trunk.

The Novel

Late Risers is still with my critique partners, and I eagerly await their notes. One of them is a good friend who lives nearby, and he’s been giving me tidbits of feedback as he goes through the book. Based on what he’s told me, I’m happy with the things that are working, and I’m not surprised by the the things that aren’t. So far, so good, but I know there’s going to be a lot of work to do once I get the manuscript back and start going through the notes.

Short Stories

I write a lot of flash fiction, but I really struggle to complete those stories in under 1,000 words. Last week, I submitted a story to a market that capped stories at 800 words, so I cut one of my flash pieces down to size. It was a good exercise in keeping only what you absolutely need, and I honestly think the story is better after losing 200 words.

Got a few more submission out last week.

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

No rejections last week, but I have a number of stories pushing that 60-day mark, so I expect a response pretty soon. The two submissions last week put my at 81 for the year. My pace has definitely slowed in the second half of the year, but I only need 19 more submissions to hit my goal of 100.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

8/14/18: A Week of Writing: 8/6/18 to 8/12/18

The usual weekly writing update.

8/17/18: The Rejection Reversal with Michael Bracken

The prolific and talented Michael Bracken shared a rare type of publisher response he recently received and let me blog about it.

Goals

I’d like to pick up the pace on my short story submissions this week, so I’ll focus on that. I’ll also continue to read through the 35,000 words I have of another novel and continue to tinker with its outline.

Submission Spotlight

This week I’d like to call your attention to a newer market that publishes flash fiction (and just a bit longer) and pays a professional rate of .08/word. The market is Factor Four Magazine, and the speculative genres they’re interested in are: “. . . science fiction, fantasy, supernatural, super hero, or any combination of these . . .” Definitely give them a look if you have a story that fits. Guidelines in the link below.

Factor Four Magazine Guidelines

 


That was my week. How was yours?

The Rejection Reversal with Michael Bracken

The accomplished and prolific Michael Bracken reached out to me recently to share a type of publisher response he’d never received before. If Michael Bracken, award-winning author of over 1,200 short stories and several novels, has never seen it, it’s probably pretty unique, right? Anyway, Michael gave me permission to blog about this rare occurrence, so let’s take a look at the letter he received.

Dear Michael,

Re: [story title]

We reluctantly rejected your story because we couldn’t find a place for it; however we liked it very much indeed, and have now created a place for this story in [our next issue], if it’s still available. Please let us know if that suits you.

Sincerely,

[editor’s name]

[publication name]

Michael said he received a rejection from this publisher about six weeks before he received the letter above, which is essentially an acceptance. Pretty cool, huh? Kind of a rejection reversal. If you follow my blog, you’ve heard me go on and on about how editors reject good stories for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the story or the writing. This is a sterling example. Michael’s story was originally rejected not because the editors didn’t like it, not because it wasn’t a good story, but simply because it wasn’t a good fit for the issue they were putting together. That story obviously resonated with the editors, so they made room for it in their next issue, reached out to Michael, and he’ll add this one to his impressive list of short story publications.

I’m not gonna hold my breath that any of my recent rejections will suddenly turn into acceptances, but it’s inspiring to know these things happen, and that good stories do eventually find a home–sometimes with the same markets that rejected them! 🙂


Michael Bracken is the author of several books and more than 1,200 short stories. Learn more at www.CrimeFictionWriter.com and follow his blog at CrimeFictionWriter.blogspot.com.

A Week of Writing: 8/6/18 to 8/12/18

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

Words to Write By

I’ve been reading a fair amount of Elmore Leonard, a writer whose style I really enjoy. Today’s quote is another of his pearls of wisdom.

“Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.”

― Elmore Leonard

This is another one of Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing (it’s #3). I agree with it, and I try not to use anything but “said” in dialogue if I can help it. In fact, lately, I’ve been using fewer dialogue tags of any kind, as I often find I just don’t need them. Of course, there are folks who disagree with this rule, and I get that. Elmore Leonard wrote in a pretty specific style, and since I’m typically going for something in the same ballpark with my own stuff (though I would never actually compare my work to the great Elmore Leonard’s), his rules, including this one, work for me and help me tighten my writing.

Leonard also says the following about dialogue tags, and I think this is the real heart of the rule.

“The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied.”

― Elmore Leonard

I believe dialogue tags are a little like adverbs. We sometimes overuse them (especially the more descriptive ones) because we don’t trust the reader to get what we’re saying without them. In other words, as Leonard says above, we’re “sticking our noses in” when we don’t need to.

The Novel

The novel is still with my critique partners. Well, the first wave of them, anyway, and I expect it’ll be a couple more weeks before I get anything back. Early feedback is positive, and so far the issues brought to my attention seem pretty easy to address. That’s not to say there won’t be larger issues, because of course there will, and I’m prepared to put in the work to set them right.

Last week, I also started going through the 35,000 words that I’ve written for the next novel. I like what I have so far, and I’m currently tinkering with the outline. I’m not quite ready to dive into full-on draft mode yet, but soon.

Short Stories

I heavily revised a short story last week, and I think it’s one of my best. It had been through my critique partners a few months ago, and there were a lot of notes. So I finally got my shit together and dove in, cut away a good 1,000 words, and ended up with something tighter, leaner, and I hope a whole lot better than what I started with. I subbed the story to Uncanny Magazine which recently opened to submissions.

Got a few submission out last week, including the aforementioned story to Uncanny.

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

One of the rejections was for a shortlisted story from a pro market. That particular story has now been shortlisted by three pro markets, so it’s come close, but no cigar yet. I sent it out yesterday again.

The two submissions last week put my at 79 for the year (I’m actually at 80 total with the submission yesterday).

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

8/6/18: A Week of Writing: 7/30/18 to 8/5/18

The usual weekly writing update.

8/10/18: Good Stories Get Rejected Too

This post is about dealing with the rejection blues with a positive attitude and some hard data.

Goals

This week I’m going to continue to assess what I have with my next novel while I wait for feedback on Late Risers. There’s also a couple of markets open to submissions that I want to sub to, and I need to revise at least one story for that purpose.

Submission Spotlight

As I mentioned above, I subbed a story to Uncanny Magazine. They’re an SFWA-qualifying market with pro rates (0.8/word) and very well respected in the industry. They haven’t said exactly how long they’ll be open to fiction submissions, so if you have something that fits, get it in. Link to the submission guidelines below:

Uncanny Magazine Submission Guidelines

 


That was my week. How was yours?

Good Stories Get Rejected Too

Rejections are tough, and getting bummed out is a perfectly reasonable reaction to being told your story isn’t going to be published, but it’s important to have a little perspective on rejections. This is the very core of rejectomancy, understanding that a rejection probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. It probably doesn’t mean you wrote a bad story or that your writing is terrible or any of the other catastrophic scenarios we writers like to read into a simple “not for us” form rejection.

But, hey, I’ve said this a dozen times on the blog, and since writers are supposed to show and not tell, let me show you something.

Last month two very cool pro markets opened their doors to submissions for a short time: Cemetery Dance magazine and Diabolical Plots. In addition to opening their submission doors to thousands of hopeful writers, these two markets did something awesome. They gave us a look at the actual submission stats. So let’s take a look at those numbers and see what we can see.

Cemetery Dance

  • Stories submitted: 1,750
  • Number of slots: 20 or 25

Diabolical Plots

  • Stories submitted: 1,288
  • Number of slots: 24

Now it might be easy to take a look at these numbers and despair. I mean, we’re looking at a sub two percent chance of acceptance for each market, but I would urge you to come at this from a different angle. With so many submissions and so few publication slots, the editors are going to turn away a lot of quality work. They have to because they can only publish two dozen or so stories out of the hundreds submitted. A rejection from one of these markets probably means you wrote a story that isn’t quite to the editor’s taste or is similar to one they’ve already accepted or half a dozen other reasons that have nothing to do with your writing ability. Want further proof and from the horse’s mouth? Check out this recent blog post from Brian James Freeman, one of the editors of Cemetery Dance magazine

All I’m trying to say here is don’t let the numbers or a rejection get you down. I firmly believe good stories eventually get published, especially when they’re written by diligent authors who follow the guidelines and continually work on their craft. Personally, I think a lot of it comes down to putting the right story in front of the right editor at the right time.

So keep writing, keep submitting, and keep going.

Oh, and a big thank you to the editors of Cemetery Dance magazine and Diabolical Plots for making their submissions stats public. I think that information is immensely helpful to writers, and this writer really appreciates the peek behind the curtain.

A Week of Writing: 7/30/18 to 8/5/18

Hey, all, it’s Monday, or, uh, Tuesday. Anyway, here’s the week that was.

Words to Write By

Another quote from Mr. King. This one comes from his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

—Stephen King

There are lots of opinions on adverbs in writerly circles, but let’s see what else Stephen King says on this subject in his book.

“With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.”

This is what I focus on when I look for adverbs in my own work. It’s less the adverb itself and more the adverb leading to weak, unsure sentences. Whenever I find one, I ask myself two questions. 1) Am I using the adverb only because I’m afraid the reader won’t understand what I’m trying to say without it? 2) Is there a more precise verb I could use instead of verb + adverb? The answers to those questions may (and often does) lead to adverb removal and/or a revised sentence.

The prime adverb offenders in my work fall into three main categories:

  1. Useless -ly adverbs like certainly, truly, obviously, simply, and likely (plus a few others). These words rarely add value or nuance to the sentence.
  2. Positional words like back, behind, down, and over. Like the aforementioned -ly adverbs, I often don’t need these either.
  3. Hedging, imprecise words like almost, nearly, around, and often. I do keep some of these because they’re often useful (especially in dialog), but I overuse them.

The Novel

Well, the first read through and revisions are done, and I sent the manuscript off to one of my critique partners. It’s as good as I can get it right now because I’ve gone story blind. I’ve reached that point where I can’t decide what’s good and what’s not, and that’s when it’s time to get eyeballs other than your own on the work. I’m gonna take a break from Late Risers for a bit and focus on short stories and the next novel

Short Stories

I finished one short story last week, which I’ll sub to the The Molotov Cocktail’s FlashBeast contest.

A big fat goose egg for submissions last week.

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

With the push to get the novel finished and ready for my critique partners, I didn’t send any submissions. I did, however, get two shortlist letters from markets I’ve been trying to crack for a long time. I hope to hear good news on one of those soon.

Despite a slow month for submissions, I’m still at 77 for the year. Which means I need another 23 submissions over the next five months to hit my goal of 100. That should be a cinch.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

7/30/18: A Week of Writing: 7/23/18 to 7/29/18

The usual weekly writing update.

8/3/18: “Do Me A Favor” & Other Free Flash Fiction

Last week, I published another story with The Arcanist. This blog post features all the stories I’ve published with that market to date.

Goals

With the novel out to my critique partners, I want to turn my attention to short stories and get more submissions out. I’ve got stories that need quick revisions and then can go out again, so I’ll likely focus on those first. I’d also like to evaluate where I’m at with the next novel I want to write. I started it last year, got about 30,000 words into it, and then set it aside for Late Risers. Time to go back and assess what I’ve got with fresh eyes.

Story Spotlight

As I mentioned above, I published another story with The Arcanist last week. It’s called “Do Me a Favor” and you can check it out by clicking the link or the picture below.

“Do Me a Favor”


That was my week. How was yours?

“Do Me A Favor” & Other Free Flash Fiction

It’s great when you find a publisher who’s willing to publish your work. It’s even better when you find a publisher who’s willing to publish your work more than once. Today marks my fourth story with The Arcanist, an excellent publisher of speculative flash fiction. The story is called “Do Me A Favor,” and it’s a quirky little horror/black humor mashup. You can check out the story below, along with three other stories I’ve published with The Arcanist. 

So, uh, do me a favor and read these stories. 😉

“Do Me a Favor” – Published 8/3/18

“The Food Bank” – Published 4/6/18

“Reunion” – Published 12/1/17 

“Cowtown” – Published 8/4/17


I hope you enjoyed “Do Me a Favor” and maybe a few other stories I published with The Arcanist. If you’re a writer of speculative flash fiction, give The Arcanist a look. They pay pro rates, and they’re just generally great to work with. Submission guidelines right here.

A Week of Writing: 7/23/18 to 7/29/18

Monday has arrived, and it’s time to share my weekly writerly report card.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from Elmore Leonard, whose “10 Rules of Writing” is one of my favorite pieces of writing advice.

“Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

—Elmore Leonard

This quote is the abbreviated version of rule ten in the aforementioned “10 Rules of Writing.” I’m currently trying to figure out which parts of my novel might fall into this category and then remove/rewrite them.  A difficult task, and one I’ll ultimately need my critique partners to help me with, but I think I made some headway this week.

The Novel

Last week was very productive. I didn’t finish my initial revisions, but I’m three-quarters of the way done. I removed a problematic plot point, and I’m in the process of reworking the rest of the novel to match. It’s going pretty well, though I definitely have some plot and character motivation holes to shore up.

Short Stories

Finished revising one story and had just enough time to submit it to an anthology that closed to submissions on July 29th. I’m still working on one more revision I need to get out by the 31st.

Another fairly slow week for submissions.

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

Two submissions this week and only four for the month. Disappointing, but the shorts have to take a backseat to the novel right now. I plan to send out a lot more short stories in August while my critique partners are caving up my manuscript.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

7/9/18: A Week of Writing: 7/16/18 to 7/22/18

The usual weekly writing update.

7/12/18: Iron Kingdoms Fiction – Confirmed Kill

A free Iron Kingdoms story published last year in No Quarter magazine. Privateer Press gave me permission to post this one in its entirety (plus a few others).

Goals

One big goal – finish the initial revision of the novel and get it off to my critique partners. Everything else is secondary.

Story Spotlight

The spotlight story is the piece I mentioned above. As some of you know, I’ve been writing for Privateer Press for a long time, and I’ve published two novels and a whole bunch of shorter works in their Iron Kingdoms setting. Anyway, they’ve given me permission to post some of my old stories on the blog, the first of which you can read by clicking the illustration or link below.

“Confirmed Kill”

 


That was my week. How was yours?