Weeks of Writing: 4/25/22 to 5/15/22

Well, I am more than a little behind here, so let’s catch up. Three weeks of writerly doings all at once.

Words to Write By

Today’s quote is from author James Lee Burke

“Every rejection is an incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.”

— James Lee Burke

Well, since I’m on a rejection streak (19 and counting), I figure a quote about rejections is appropriate. I think you have to look at rejections as accomplishments to some degree. Yeah, they’re not exactly a good time, but they show you’re working, that you’ve got the guts to send your work out there to be judged, and that, hopefully, you are willing to learn and improve. That last bit is what I think James Lee Burke is getting at. Every rejection is an opportunity to grow as a writer, even if it’s a tiny, incremental amount. I learn something with every no and not for us. Sometimes, it’s what’s wrong with a story or my work in general, and sometimes it’s don’t send this market that kind of story or even don’t send this market anything. Each rejection teaches me something, even when I’m not really in the mood to learn. 🙂

Short Story Submissions

Although April was a strong submission month, I have not been very active in May.

  • Submissions Sent: 3
  • Rejections: 3
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 2
  • Shortlist/Hold: 0
  • Withdrawn: 0
  • Pending: 11
  • 2022 Total Subs: 38

Only three submissions in the last three weeks and three rejections to boot. That’s not great, nor is my current streak of nineteen straight rejections. I have a number of stories that need to go out, so I expect to send three or four this week. Hopefully some of those will come back with a much-needed acceptance. The rejections have been particularly disappointing of late because I thought the stories where good matches for the markets, but I missed the mark. It can be hard to keep going after so many rejections in a row, but you have to keep writing, keep submitting, and know that acceptances will come. I did have two stories published recently and the reaction to those was very good. 

The Novel – Hell’s Aquarium

I may have been a little lax with my short story submissions, but I keep on trucking with this novel. I added over 12,000 words to the manuscript and broke the 50,000-word mark, which I think is about halfway. I’m writing this novel slower than usual, at about 1,000 words a day, because there’s a lot of research that needs to go into it. I’m stopping a lot to look things up, check my notes, and check my outlines. I’ve come to terms with that, and, hey, I’m still looking at a complete first draft sometime in early August. That’s totally fine. I think this novel is the best idea, concept, and characters I’ve yet created, so if I need to take it slower so I don’t fuck it up (much), then that’s what I’m gonna do.

Publications

Two publications in the last three weeks, both of which you can read for free on line. The first is a piece of crime flash called “Left is Right” published at Shotgun Honey. The other is a dark sci-fi take called “Fertilizer” in Radon Journal’s inaugural issue. Click the images below to read the stories.

“Left is Right”
Radon_journal_cover_Bell_shadow_small_center_issue_top.png
“Fertilizer”

Goals

Keep working on Hell’s Aquarium and send more submissions.


Those were my weeks. How were yours?

Submission Statement: April 2022

Not gonna lie, April was a tough month. Read all the gory details below. 🙂

April 2022 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 9
  • Rejections: 10
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Further Consideration/Shortlist: 0

Any month where the number of rejections eclipses the number of submissions is probably gonna be a bad month. Add to that exactly zero acceptances or publications, and, well, I’ll just stand by my opening statement. If I search for a silver lining, I guess it’s that I sent 9 submissions, giving me 36 for the year and a pace of 108 for 2022. So there’s that. Still, it was a tough and disappointing month. I really thought a couple of those rejections had a good shot at being acceptances, but it was not to be.

Rejections

Ten rejections in April.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 10
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 0
  • Personal Rejections: 0

Yep, ten form rejection. If I squint, I might be able to call a couple of the rejections upper-tier, but that would be disingenuous because I’m not certain the publishers in question actually send upper-tier rejections (many publishers don’t). The ten rejections in April bump my current rejections streak to fifteen. Not my longest by a long shot, but, you know, fifteen is enough. I also had a couple of multi-rejection days in April that made the rejections sting a bit more.

Okay, I’ve complained about my pile of rejections enough. The truth is, as always, rejections are just a reality of writing and submitting. If you do both long enough, you’re all but guaranteed to run into these little (or large) streaks of no’s and not for us’s. That said, if you’re a long-time short story submitter as I am, you know these streaks come to an end, and an acceptance is right around the corner. You just have to be patient, keep writing, and keep submitting. So that’s what I’ll do. 🙂


That was April. How was your month?

Good, but Not Good Enough

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is talent. Specifically, writing talent (obvs). A lot of this comes down to my specific version of impostor syndrome, which says, “Yeah, you’re good, but you’re not good enough.” Impostor syndrome is a real asshole, huh? Still this belief that I have talent, just not enough of it persists. So when I find myself pondering this awful conundrum, there are two quotes by Stephen King I like to think about. To me, they handily sum up the “good” and the “good enough”.

Quote 1: “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” – Stephen King

King’s formula for talent is pretty simple. If someone is willing to pay you for something you wrote, you probably have talent. I’ll add on to this and say, if multiple someones are willing to pay you to write things, you probably have enough talent to piece together something resembling a career in writing. This covers the good part. People who get paid to write, even a little, are probably good at it. (Of course, money is not the only measure of talent, but it’s an easy one to identify.) Still, having talent is not what I worry about. The second quote covers that.

Quote Two: “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” – Stephen King

There it is. The good enough part. When I say good enough, what I mean is good enough to land that dream agent, publish my novels, be recognized as a writer of note. You know, the big dreams, and, dare I say it, the improbable ones. I think what King is saying here is that talent is the baseline, the starting point for most of us. It’s not what makes us successful (whatever your definition of success might be). No, what we need to do is focus on that second part. The hard work part. Why? Because it’s the only part of the process we control. You can’t control whether an agent or publisher is gonna like your story or book or whatever. You can’t control if readers are going to love your work, hate it, or simply ignore it. What you can control is putting words on the page, making those word the best you can possibly make them, and then putting those words in front of as many agents, and editors, and readers as possible as many times as it takes. If you do that, and you have that little bit of talent, I like your chances.

Okay, let’s get to work. 🙂

Weeks of Writing: 4/11/22 to 4/24/22

Two more weeks of writing. Let’s dive in.

Words to Write By

Today’s quote is from author Allegra Goodman.

“Know your literary tradition, savor it, steal from it, but when you sit down to write, forget about worshiping greatness and fetishizing masterpieces.” 

—Allegra Goodman

Great quote, and one I’ve somehow missed all these years. I think a lot of us start out trying to sound like our favorite authors. I know I did. Those are the literary traditions I think Allegra Goodman is talking about. You read your favorite works and authors, and think, well, this is how a successful author should sound. Then, what happens is a subtle shift, you start to draw inspiration from those authors, those literary traditions, and weave them into your own voice. Sure, I take a little Stephen King here, and but of Elmore Leonard there, and maybe a touch of Robin Hobb over there, but again, how and what they write is inspirational, and I’ve long since stopped trying to sound exactly like them. (God, I hope). So, I no longer worship. I no longer fetishize. I do, however savor and maybe borrow just a little, and I think that’s okay as long as I sound like me and not like them. 🙂

Short Story Submissions

I was pretty active over the last couple of weeks.

  • Submissions Sent: 6
  • Rejections: 7
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist/Hold: 0
  • Withdrawn: 0
  • Pending: 12
  • 2022 Total Subs: 36

Six submissions over the last couple of weeks, which gives me 36 for the year. That’s exactly on pace for my goal of 100. I just sent another this morning, so I’ll end up with nine for April at a minimum. Not bad. That said, April has seen A LOT of rejections. I’m on a streak of 15 in a row, and last week I has two multi-rejections days. These little slumps happen from time to time, but, I’ll admit, I thought at least one of the rejections I received in the past week was going to be an acceptance. That’ll teach me to get my hopes up. 🙂 Anyway, the only thing you can do in these situations is keep writing and keep submitting. Those acceptances are around the corner.

The Novel – Hell’s Aquarium

About four years ago, I had a great idea for a novel. I started writing it, got about 35,000 words in, and then got spooked about all the research I needed to do. I moved on to write two other novels in the next four years, and while I enjoyed writing those books, I have yearned to return to Hell’s Aquarium. Last week, I did that, and I produced over 5,000 new words in the manuscript. I detailed how I’m going about reclaiming a novel I haven’t worked on in four years in this post. Anyway, I’m taking baby steps back into this book, writing at about half the speed I usually do on a first draft (1,000 words per day as opposed to 2,000). I’m sure I’ll pick up the pace eventually, but this is enough for now, and I feel pretty good about where the book is going.

The Rejectonomicon

The second volume of THE REJECTONOMICON, my Q&A column over at Dark Matter Magazine, went up last month. You can read it by clicking the banner below. The third volume is coming in May, and I’ve already got some great questions, but as usual, I want MORE!

Here’s how to send writing and rejection questions to me.

  1. Email your question to questions@rejectomancy.com.
  2. Put REJECTONOMICON in the subject line of the email.
  3. Write your question in the body of the email. Try to keep it brief.
  4. Please let me know if you’d like your first name published along with your question or if you’d like to remain anonymous.
  5. Please restrict your questions to the subjects of writing, submissions, and rejections. Those are pretty broad categories, though, and I’d be happy to field questions about my past career as a Tabletop RPG game designer/editor and media tie-in writer.

Got it? Then send me those questions!

Goals

Keep working on Hell’s Aquarium, send more submissions, and finish up a short story or two.


Those were my weeks. How were yours?

Three Steps for Novel Reclamation

So, recently, I returned to a novel I abandoned about four years ago. It’s tentatively titled Hell’s Aquarium, and I wrote 35,000 words, essentially the first act, got spooked by the research I needed to do, and moved on to other projects. I’ve since written two other novels, but I’ve longed to return to Hell’s Aquarium. Well, now I have finally summoned the courage to do what needs to be done, and I’ve started writing the book again. It really think it’s the best idea I have for a novel, and I’m excited to see where it goes. Anyway, in this post I thought I’d talk about the steps I’ve taken to return to a novel I’ve barely looked at for four years. I figure I’m not the only one with a half-written manuscript crying out to be completed by its wayward creator. 🙂

Step One – Thank God for Prep: As a dedicated plotter, I wrote a complete and thorough outline for Hell’s Aquarium, which is proving invaluable. Even more helpful is something I’ve only ever done with this particular novel. It has a large cast of characters, so I way back when I was planning out this book, I made a spreadsheet listing every one of them. The info includes character names, descriptions, motivations, and their professions (important in this novel). I have returned again and again to that spreadsheet, and it has been a real life-saver. Now, I know not everyone prepares for a novel in the same way, but I would encourage folks to make some kind of notes on the book you’re writing just in case you end up in a situation like this.

Step Two – Read What You Have: The very first thing I did when I decided to return to Hell’s Aquarium was to carefully read what I’d already written. I approached my first read-through less like a writer and more like a reader (as much as that’s possible), really trying to absorb the tone of the book and the voice of the main character. My second read-through was one-hundred percent writer-oriented, and I made more notes about individual characters and plot points that would help me down the line. These read-throughs really helped me get reacquainted with the book, and were vitally important.

Step Three – Baby Steps: I began writing the book again this week. Normally I write 2,000 words a day minimum when I’m writing a first draft. For this first week, and likely the second, I’m cutting that down to a 1,000. It feels more manageable, and because of the research I need to do, I don’t get overwhelmed. I plan to get back to my 2,000 words a day benchmark soon, but for now, easy does it is the way to go. I’d recommend this approach to anyone getting back to a novel they’ve not worked on for some time, but, of course, every write is different, and diving into the deep end, might be more beneficial to some. Just not me. 🙂


So those are my three basic steps for reclaiming a novel you’ve set aside for some time. As I mentioned above, every writer is different, and what I have here may not work for everyone. It’s worked well for me, though, and I believe I’m on my way to finishing this book, which is pretty damn exciting because I think this one has real potential.

If you have tips on novel reclamation projects, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Weeks of Writing: 3/28/22 to 4/10/22

Another catch-up post, so here’s a few weeks of writing in one go.

Words to Write By

Today, I don’t have a quote, but more a comment about a type of quote I was unable to find. I searched for quite a while for a quote from any well-known author about taking the occasional break, and I couldn’t find one (if you know of one, let me know). I think that says a lot about how we authors approach writing. There’s this feeling that you must be writing every minute of every day or you’re failing. Or, worse, that if you take a break, even for a few days to let the creative batteries recharge, or. shit, just to deal with life, you’ve somehow done something wrong. Maybe it’s just me, but as I said, I think my inability to easily find  a quite about taking a break says a lot. I’m not talking about writer’s block or anything here. Just that sometimes, just maybe, it’s okay to take a week away from your work, that it’s not a moral or professional failing, and, in fact, might be the best thing for your productivity than simply grinding it out day after day after day.

Anyway, like I said, if my Google skills have failed me, and you do know of a good quote about taking a break, please share it in the comments. 

Short Story Submissions

A little slow in submission land these last couple of weeks.

  • Submissions Sent: 3
  • Rejections: 4
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist/Hold: 0
  • Withdrawn: 0
  • Pending: 13
  • 2022 Total Subs: 30

I’ve only sent three submission over the last couple of weeks, giving me thirty for the year. Two of those three subs went out in April, and I’ll need to pick up the pace if I want to hit my numbers for the month. I need roughly nine submissions per month to stay on pace, so that means seven more over the next few weeks. Doable, but I need to finish some new pieces to really have a good shot at it. I received four rejections over the last fortnight, all form, all standard, and all pretty boring, so I won’t be sharing them with you (I guarantee some of you have seen them before). And that’s it, honestly. Nothing to report on the novel front, mostly because I’ve been taking a bit of a mental health break over the last few weeks from big, long-form projects.

The Rejectonomicon

The second volume of THE REJECTONOMICON, my Q&A column over at Dark Matter Magazine, went up last month. You can read it by clicking the banner below. The third volume is coming in May, and I’ve already got some great questions, but as usual, I want MORE! 

Here’s how to send writing and rejection questions to me.

  1. Email your question to questions@rejectomancy.com.
  2. Put REJECTONOMICON in the subject line of the email.
  3. Write your question in the body of the email. Try to keep it brief.
  4. Please let me know if you’d like your first name published along with your question or if you’d like to remain anonymous.
  5. Please restrict your questions to the subjects of writing, submissions, and rejections. Those are pretty broad categories, though, and I’d be happy to field questions about my past career as a Tabletop RPG game designer/editor and media tie-in writer.

Got it? Then send me those questions!

Goals

Keeping it simple this week, Finish short stories and send them out.


Those were my weeks. How were yours?

Rejection: It’s Not Personal

If you’re a writer who submits fiction on the regular, you’ve undoubtedly had someone tell you rejections aren’t personal. Hell, that person might have even been me! For the most part this is true, and in this post we’re going to discuss why it might feel personal, even when it’s probably not. Okay, let’s dive in.

Feels Personal but Probably Isn’t

First, let’s look at why a rejection might feel like you’re being singled out, then we’ll discuss the reasons why that likely isn’t the case.

1) Speed of the Rejection: This one tops the list because let me tell you, when you fire off a submission and get a rejection the same day or even the same hour, it can feel pretty personal. The feeling that the editor has not given your story due attention can really sting, but is that what happened? Probably not. There are definitely markets that have ultra-fast response times. This comes down to the market a) having a enough slush readers/editors to get to and through submissions quickly and b) those slush-readers/editors knowing exactly what they’re looking for in a story. They can sometimes tell by the first few paragraphs if a story is going to work for them. If it doesn’t, they don’t waste more of their time and yours and send the rejection notice. Personally, I love markets that respond this fast. If I’m gonna get a rejection, I’d rather not wait six months for it. This way, I can get that story out there again right away.

Now, of course, a super-fast rejection sure feels like the editor might hate your writing, but that’s almost certainly not the case. What it comes down to is fit (a word you’re going to hear a lot in this post). Certain stories are a better fit for certain markets and certain markets are very quick at identifying them. Here’s the good news. I’ve gone on to sell stories to markets that same-day rejected me (and one that rejected me in ten minutes flat). You will too.

2) Number of Rejections: Maybe even more demoralizing than getting a same-day rejection is when you get that tenth, twentieth, or even thirtieth rejection in a row from the same publisher. Talk about feeling like its personal. But again, we must ask ourselves, is it really? Does the editor think you’re a terrible writer? Again, my answer is probably not. As I’ve said many times on this blog getting a story accepted is about putting the right story in front of the right editor at the right time. If you miss even one of those, you get a rejection. Miss one of those a lot with the same publisher, and you get a lot of rejections from that publisher. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard editors on Twitter talk about having to reject a story they actually like because it wasn’t the right fit at that moment or for that issue.

Using myself as an example again, I have absolutely cracked markets that rejected me ten-plus times. If the past rejections were personal and they didn’t like my writing, that wouldn’t happen, right? I just managed to get that right editor, right story, right time combo correct for once.

3) Feedback: Sometimes a rejection contains actual feedback on why the editor rejected the story. Unlike the first two, this one is kinda personal. In fact, it’s actually called a personal rejection, but it is not a personal attack (big difference there). If an editor takes the time to give you detailed feedback on a story, more often than not, they’ve seen something in the story they like, and they’re trying to help you avoid those first two things I mentioned. You may not agree with the feedback, and that’s fine, but as long as that feedback is honest and constructive, try to view it as someone trying to give you useful and targeted advice and not a harsh condemnation of your writing. It is almost always the former and almost never the latter.

The Ugly Truth – When it is Personal

We’ve discussed the instances when a rejection feels personal, but very likely isn’t. But are there times when an editor sends a rejection to a writer that is, even a little? I think so, and here are some possible reasons.

1) Serial Guidelines Flaunters: The first rule of story submissions is follow the guidelines. if you make a habit of not doing this–using the wrong font, going over or word count limits, sending in genres the market doesn’t publish–it’s possible your rejection might have a little spice on it. The editor probably won’t send you anything but a form rejection, but if you’re a serial guidelines flaunter, they might remember your name, and maybe not read as objectively as usual even if you do follow the guidelines. I should point out that the vast majority of editors will overlook an honest guidelines mistake–it happens to us all–so don’t worry too much about the fact you forgot underline instead of use italics that one time.

2) Responding to Rejections: Don’t do this, and especially don’t do this if your plan is to argue with the editor about why they rejected your story. It’s a very bad look, and one that will get you remembered for all the wrong reasons. Personally, I don’t believe there’s some huge do not publish list floating around among editors. I do, however, believe individual publishers might keep a list of names of particularly obnoxious or abusive writers they’ve had to deal with in the past whose stories might then get rejected without getting read. (And who could blame them?) Don’t be one of those people.

3) They’re Just Not Into You: Look, this is an objective business, and publishers and editors are just like the rest of us. Some writing they enjoy, and other they don’t. If an editor is looking for stylish literary prose and you send them a stripped-down commercial style, well, I don’t like your chances (or mine either). Again, a story has to be a good fit for a publication, and, well, so does the author. The trick is identifying which publishers are not a good fit for you and your style and not wasting their time or yours by sending them work. How do you do this? Reading a couple of issues of a prospective magazine can help. though sometimes you just have to test the waters. A ton of form rejections without any feedback or shortlists is usually an indicator. So, yes, this kind of rejection is personal in the fact that the editor is not into your writing (even if they maybe recognize it’s quality), but it’s not a personal attack. It just means your submission time is better spent elsewhere.

4) The Corner Cases: It’s rare, but sometimes an author will get a rejection that is abusive, not-constructive, and absolutely an unwarranted personal attack. When this happens, it should be shared with other writers (so they can avoid the publisher). Editors who do this have no business in the business. Period.


Look, I’ll be the first to tell you that when one of your precious word babies comes back battered and bruised by multiple rejections, it can be difficult not to go full-on parental protective mode and take it personally. But before you do any of the things that might result in an actual personal rejection, stop, take a breath, and think about the first three points I listed. Your rejection is most likely not about you or your writing. It’s about THAT story not being a good fit for THAT publisher. It’s not a personal attack, it’s an invitation to send your work somewhere else, somewhere that it IS a good fit. So do that. 🙂

Submission Statement: March 2022

March was a pretty good month in submission land. Here’s how it went down.

March 2022 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 11
  • Rejections: 9
  • Acceptances: 2
  • Publications: 2
  • Further Consideration/Shortlist: 0

Like I said, pretty good month. Eleven submissions puts me at 27 (the 28th went out today) for the year, which is right where I want to be in terms of hitting my goal of 100. I landed two acceptances, one pro-paying, and had a couple of stories published. Nine rejections is a fair amount, and there were a couple of heartbreakers in there, but taken against the positives for the month, it’s not too bad.

Rejections

Nine rejections in March.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 5
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 1
  • Personal Rejections: 3

Most of the rejections were simple form rejections, and even the personal no’s weren’t too exciting. The toughest one was a shortlist rejection for a story I’ve been trying to sell for a while now. There was another rejection for an anthology I thought I had an excellent chance of cracking, but it was not to be. Anyway, both stories are out there again under consideration with other publishers.

Publications

I had two flash fiction publication last month, one with The Arcanist and one with Flash Point SF. You can read both by clicking the images/titles below.

Mixed Signals – Flash Point SF
A doll sitting in an open window.
“What You Pay For” – The Arcanist

The Rejectonomicon

The second volume of THE REJECTONOMICON, my Q&A column over at Dark Matter Magazine, went live in March. You can read it by clicking the banner below.

The questions are coming in pretty steadily, but  I always need more. If you’d like to see your question appear in the May volume of THE REJECTONOMICON, then follow the guidelines below.

  1. Email your question to questions@rejectomancy.com.
  2. Put REJECTONOMICON in the subject line of the email.
  3. Write your question in the body of the email. Try to keep it brief.
  4. Please let me know if you’d like your first name published along with your question or if you’d like to remain anonymous.
  5. Please restrict your questions to the subjects of writing, submissions, and rejections. Those are pretty broad categories, though, and I’d be happy to field questions about my past career as a Tabletop RPG game designer/editor and media tie-in writer.

Got it? Then send me those questions!


That was March. How was your month?

A Week of Writing: 3/21/22 to 3/27/22

Another week of writing. Here’s how it went.

Words to Write By

Today’s quote comes from novelist Jodi Picoult.

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

‒ Jodi Picoult.

This is a pretty straightforward quote, and I’m sure I’ve used it before, but it’s another of my favorites. Get the words on the page, even if they’re terrible. Get the words on the page, even if you have zero confidence in them. Get the words on the page, even if you have to rip each one kicking and screaming form your brain. Do that, and I guarantee that when you come and look at those words the next day, they won’t be so bad, and you’ll have something to work on, something to edit and make better.

Short Story Submissions

Solid work in submission land last week.

  • Submissions Sent: 3
  • Rejections: 2
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 1
  • Shortlist/Hold: 0
  • Withdrawn: 0
  • Pending: 14
  • 2022 Total Subs: 27

I sent three submissions last week, which is a good number. The interesting thing is all the submissions were for the same story. I rarely send simultaneous submissions, but this time there just happened to be three appropriate publishers all who allowed sim-subs, so, well, I fired away. The three subs last week gives me 12 for the month and 27 for the year, right on pace for my goal of one-hundred. I might get one or two more out in March, though.

Both rejections were personal, but one was a final-round rejection. I’ll show you that one below.

Dear Aeryn,

[Story Title] made it through to our final round of consideration, but unfortunately it’s not quite the best fit for us in our next two issues, and so we are going to pass on it.  We wish you the best of luck in finding a home for it elsewhere.

Thank you for thinking of us at [publisher] again. We hope you’ll continue to send us more of your stories in the future.

These kinds of rejections are always a mixed bag. One one hand, they’re encouraging because you likely have a publishable story. On the other hand, the sting of disappointment is sharper because, well, you probably have a publishable story. 🙂 Such is the gig. The only thing you can do is what I did–send that story somewhere else.

Publications

I had another publication last week. This time it was with Flash Point SF. You can read the story by clicking the title or image below.

Mixed Signals

A doll sitting in an open window.

The Rejectonomicon

The second volume of THE REJECTONOMICON, my Q&A column over at Dark Matter Magazine, went live recently. You can read it by clicking the banner below.

As always, I need your writing and rejection questions. Here’s how to send them to me.

  1. Email your question to questions@rejectomancy.com.
  2. Put REJECTONOMICON in the subject line of the email.
  3. Write your question in the body of the email. Try to keep it brief.
  4. Please let me know if you’d like your first name published along with your question or if you’d like to remain anonymous.
  5. Please restrict your questions to the subjects of writing, submissions, and rejections. Those are pretty broad categories, though, and I’d be happy to field questions about my past career as a Tabletop RPG game designer/editor and media tie-in writer.

Got it? Then send me those questions!

Goals

Same as last week: more short stories, more submissions, more work on long-form fiction.


 

That was my week. How was yours?

The Way I Write Part 6: Shorts, Flash, & Media Tie-In

This is the sixth post in a series titled The Way I Write. I’ve been looking at my writing style over the last twenty years largely used the Flesch-Kincaid readability scores to get an idea of what my work looks like in an admittedly nuts-and-bolts fashion. Last time, I focused on long-form fiction. This go-around, I want to look at my published short stories and flash fiction, as well as compare it to the media tie-in work I’ve done for Privateer Press.

So, a few definitions. A flash fiction piece is anything under 1,000 words. For me, that generally means between 800 and 999 words. A short story is, for most markets, anything 2,000 words and up. I rarely go below 3,000 words, and most of my shorts fall between 3,000 and 5,000 words. The sampling of media tie-in fiction I’m using, about twenty stories, ranges from 1,500 to 10,000 words and just about everything in between.

Before we dive into to this post, here are the other posts in this series.


Flash Fiction 

Let’s start with flash fiction. These numbers are derived from published pieces, over fifty of them, so we’ve got a good sampling to work from. This is an average of all the flash pieces.

  • Passive Sentences: 2.5%
  • Flesch Reading Ease: 81.7
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 4.7

Yeah, that looks about right. My work is straight forward, uncluttered, and to the point. I use a lot of dialogue, and the types of characters I tend to write aren’t exactly eloquent or wordy. Let’s look at outliers, though.

“News From Home” – This story has the highest grade level (7.8) and the lowest reading ease (65.2) of any of my flash fiction. Why is that? Well, these posts have taught me that genre can have a  big impact on your readability scores. In this case, the story is science fiction, which tends to deliver denser readability scores. Some of this is due to word length. Science fiction includes, you know, science words. In addition, I find myself getting a little more verbose when I stray into sci-fi.

“Where They Belong” – This horror story sits on the opposite end of the spectrum from “News From Home”. It features the lowest grade level (2.8) and the highest readability score (93.8). This is a case where the readability scores can help you nail down a character’s voice. This story is told from the POV of a six-year-old boy, so the language is simplistic, which is reflected in the readability scores.

Short Stories

Now on to short stories. I’ve published fewer of these than flash fiction, but still enough to give us a good overview and a reliable average score.

  • Passive Sentences: 2.3%
  • Flesch Reading Ease: 81.7
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 4.7

Nope, not a copy/paste error. My short story stats are nearly identical to my flash fiction stats. That says my style doesn’t change with length, and I think that’s a good thing. Like with flash fiction, let’s look at the outliers.

“Caroline” – This is a straight-up horror story and boasts a grade level of 5.4 and a reading ease of 76.5. That’s not exactly James Joyce, but it’s on the higher end for me. The reason, oddly, for this is lack of dialogue. This story is told from a third-person limited POV and is fairly introspective. It also features elements of sci-fi, which might be affecting the scores too.

“The Scars You Keep” – This story is almost one-hundred percent dialogue, which is reflected in the readability scores. It sits at a grade level of 3.1 and a reading ease of 88.5. That’s some simple prose, but it works, I think, because of the isolated nature of the story and the mater-of-fact way in which the two characters speak.

Media Tie-In

Ready to get weird? Let’s take a look at the readability scores of the media tie-in stories I write for Privateer Press. These mostly fall into steam-punk-esque fantasy and space opera sci-fi. Here are those average numbers.

  • Passive Sentences: 5.1%
  • Flesch Reading Ease: 70.9
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 6.4

Quite a difference, huh? Reading ease is a over ten points lower than my flash fiction and short stories and the grade level is almost two points higher. That’s a huge difference. Why is that? Well, genre is one part of it. As I’ve said, fantasy and sci-fi tend to feature slightly denser prose on average. Additionally, since this work is based on tabletop gaming, the stories include game language that can be, well, wordy. I mean, you don’t generally see words like mortitheurigical and necromechanikal on the regular. Long, multisyllabic words affect readability scores. Finally, there’s house style and what readers of media tie-in expect of their fiction. I tend to stray a bit from my own style to conform to theirs, which is wordier. Not in a bad way, just in a different way.


I gotta say, it was interesting to put all these numbers together and see the results. The flash fiction and short stories didn’t surprise me, but I did raise an eyebrow when I saw the media tie-in scores. Just goes to show how malleable a thing like style is and that you can indeed change it when you need to. 🙂

Questions or comments about these numbers? Ask away in the comments.

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