A Week of Writing: 5/13/19 to 5/19/19

A day late again, but here’s another writing week that was.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote is another from Stephen King.

“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to makes speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

– Stephen King

This is a great quote, and in my experience it’s definitely true. I always feel like writing is done in a vacuum. You’re sealed away with all your doubts and fears while you create. Yes, you can seek out input from folks you trust after you have a draft finished, but that initial act of creation? That’s all you. Alone. So, yes, having someone who believes in you and your ability, be it a spouse, a good friend, or supportive people in your writing group, can often be the difference between those previously mentioned doubts and fears eating you alive and actually getting something finished. Like Mr. King says, they don’t need to make speeches, just knowing they’re there and rooting for you means an awful lot.

The Novel

The novel is on a temporary back-burner while I complete the next Privateer Press novella I’m contracted to write. I should polish off the first draft this week, though, and then get back to the novel shortly thereafter.

Short Stories

Another slow week for submissions.

  • Submissions Sent: 1
  • Rejections: 5
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

Yeah, not great. Better than the week before, but that’s only because I didn’t send a single submission. Three of the five rejections were personal rejections, and one was a bit of a heart-breaker, but that’s all part of the gig. Rejections hurt sometimes, but you gotta roll with it and never take it personally.

I now have 40 submissions for the year, which is off my pace of 100 for 2019. If I can send 5 more submissions this month, that’ll put me back on track. I’m not gonna make any promises, though. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

5/14/19: A Week of Writing: 5/6/19 to 5/12/19

The usual weekly writing update.

5/17/19: One-Hour Flash – Blood Sport 

Another installment of flash fiction that wasn’t quite up-to-snuff for submission.

Goals

I’ve got a deadline to hit for the Privateer Press novella, so that is my number one goal. In between pounding out the words, I’ll try to send a submission or two, but, that’s probably more wishful thinking than actual priority.


That was my week. How was yours?

One-Hour Flash – Blood Sport

Got another one-hour flash fiction for you folks. Again, this is another story I wrote in an hour based on a visual prompt. Many of these prompted one-hour stories go on to publication, and others, like this one, uh, don’t. So instead of letting the piece collect dust on my hard drive, I’m gonna inflict it on all of you. You’re welcome. 🙂

Here’s “Blood Sport.”


Blood Sport

“Who am I fighting?” Hector said as Manuel worked the kinks out of his shoulders.

He felt Manuel shrug. “You know how these things go. We won’t know until you step into the ring.”

Hector shook his head. Since the UFC had banned him for steroid use, he took whatever fights he could get. Many times these were unsanctioned bouts in the filthy basement of a bar or an abandoned warehouse. They paid okay, and since he’d been a pro; the losers that fought him rarely stood a chance. Still, the promoters of these bouts promised to use UFC rules, but they rarely did, and the fights were little more than blood sport.

“I fucking hate this shit,” Hector said.

“Calm down,” Manuel replied. “You can’t get tense before a fight.”

“I am Hector Villanueva, goddamn it. I was the fucking UFC welterweight champion. Now look at me.”

“Yes, look at you,” Manuel said, and stepped around to stare at the man he’d been training to fight for twenty years. “You are still fighting. You are still making money. This fight will pay you twenty-five thousand dollars. Soon we will have enough to hire the attorneys you need to get back into the UFC.”

Hector drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I know but this feels so low. Beneath me.”

Manuel nodded. “Sometimes we have to dig ourselves out from the bottom to get to the top.”

A knock sounded at the door to the makeshift training room–the employee’s locker room in an old meat-packing warehouse. Manuel went to answer it. He opened the door, and one of the fight promoters stood. He was a weird looking guy: tall, shaved head, with squiggly tattoos on his skull. They might have been writing, but Hector couldn’t tell what language they were.

“Is your man ready,” the promotor said. His voice was low and flat, like a computer. It gave Hector the creeps.

“He’s ready,” Manuel said. “What about yours?”

“Nearly,” the fight promoter said. “I need one more thing before we begin.” The man pulled a short jagged knife from his pocket.

Hector hopped off the training table and slid into a classic Muay Thai stance. “What the fuck, man?”

The man stopped and smiled. “I mean you no harm,” he said. “I only need a drop of blood.”

“Fuck you,” Hector said. “I’m not giving you my blood.”

Manuel came up behind the man, ready to spring to Hector’s defense. Though nearly sixty, Manuel held a black belt in Brazilian jujitsu.

“I know this seems odd,” the man said. “But it is necessary.” He reached into his other pocket and pulled out a roll of hundred dollar bills. A fat roll. “I can offer you another five thousand up front.” He tossed the bills to Manuel.

“On top of what we’re already getting, right?” Manuel said, and looked back at Hector with a what-do-you-think expression on his face.

The man nodded.

“Not my hands,” Hector said. It was hard to turn down another five K. “Cut my arm or leg.”

The man smiled, showing a lot of straight white teeth. “Of course. We need you in top form tonight.”

#

The ring was in the middle of the abandoned meat-packing plant. It was sorry attempt at an octagon with chicken-wire fences and a dingy mat within. There was a small crowd, all dressed in black. Hector’s opponent stood inside the octagon, his face hidden by the hood of a black silk boxing robe.

“Jesus, this is weird,” Hector said to Miguel as the approached the octagon.

“No shit,” Manuel said. “Fuck this dude up and we’re out of here, thirty grand richer.”

Hector made his way to the gate where the fight promoter waited. The man opened the gate and allowed Hector inside, following after him.

Hector went to the other side of octagon, across from his opponent, and begin throwing punches into the air, shifting from foot to foot, anything to get the blood flowing.

His opponent stood still, arms at his side. He looked to be the same height as Hector and of similar build: muscular and lean.

Maybe this asshole will give me a real fight, Hector thought. It would be a first in these unsanctioned bouts where he usually won in the first round with a knockout or submission.

The fight promoter stepped to the center of the octagon and cleared his throat. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “This is what we have gathered for.” A soft murmur of appreciation rose form the small crowd. “A man comes to us to fight his demon.”

What the fuck is this? Hector thought and looked to Manuel standing outside the octagon. His trainer was staring at the fight promotor and listening.

Something was very wrong. “Manuel, what’s going on?”

His trainer smiled sadly. “I’m sorry,” he said. “They paid me a lot more than thirty grand to get you here.”

Movement from across the octagon drew Hector’s attention away from Manuel. His opponent had removed his hood, and Hector’s breath caught in his throat. The man he was fighting could be his identical twin save for the flat black eyes and shark-like teeth crowding his open mouth.

“We give thanks for this vessel,” the fight promoter said. “We honor you with this sacrifice, Abbadon, destroyer of men.” He exited the octagon, and the crowd pressed close, blocking the gate.

Hector’s doppelganger slid into a perfect Muay Thai stance, one with which Hector was intimately familiar.


As with many of these failed flash stories, I like the set-up and the characters, but the story doesn’t really go anywhere. It sets up what could be an interesting conflict but then just fizzles out because we don’t see that conflict resolved. If we were to see Hector fight for his life against the demon, change and grow because of it (even if he doesn’t survive), there might be something to this. As it stands, I think I have a solid premise and setup, but that’s about it. The ending is definitely rushed as I ran out of time and word count.

Want to see more failed flash? Check out the previous installments in the One-Hour Flash series.

A Week of Writing: 5/6/19 to 5/12/19

One more week of writerly endeavors.

Words to Write By

The quote this week comes from Robert Hass.

“It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is having just written.”

– Robert Hass

This one sounds severe; I know. That said, I do feel like this a fair amount of the time. When I’m writing, it’s often an exercise of sheer will to keep writing, keep putting those words on the page no matter how much self-doubt and fear eat away at my resolve. It’s so easy to quit, to say “I’ll write tomorrow or the next day,” than it is to push past your own bullshit and get the work done. Is it hell? Maybe not quite that bad, but it’s often challenging. Now, not writing carries it’s own price. It’s called guilt. If I don’t work on the novel or a short story or whatever for a day or two, that guilt creeps in and can be just as destructive as fear and self-doubt. Finally, the best state of mind is having written, the golden panacea for all writing woes. When I complete a first draft or send that final revision to my editor or agent, that feeling of accomplishment is so grand it makes all the other shit fade into the background for a while. So, yes, this quote is tough, and it may not be that way for all writers, but for many, myself included, it’s can often be the reality.

The Novel

I made excellent progress last week. I finished the last bit of completely new material I needed to add (about three thousand words) and then pieced the first act back together. I was expecting a wild mismatch of tone and style and plot points that would require hours more revision, but, as these things often go, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. In fact, the first act is pretty cohesive and now the pacing is better. I’ll need to do some minor tweaks to match everything up, but it’s not that impossible task I feared. That feeling of starting downhill after a steep climb is definitely there. That feels pretty good.

Short Stories

Big fat goose egg of a submission week.

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

Yep, zero submissions last week. Hell, I didn’t even get a rejection. The only thing of note was a further consideration letter for a story that has really been around the block (to the tune of like fifteen rejections). I’m crossing my fingers it’s found it’s forever home at last.

The Blog

Not only did I send no submissions last week, I barely blogged too.

5/7/19: A Week of Writing: 4/29/19 to 5/5/19

The usual weekly writing update.

Goals

The novel revision is on hold for a bit as I turn my attention to the next Privateer Press novella I’m contracted to write. I’ve already got an approved outline, and I’ll knock out the first draft this week and next. Beyond that, I’ve got some new stories near completion, so it would be great to get those done and get three or four submissions out this week.


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 4/29/19 to 5/5/19

A day late, but here’s another week of writing wins and woes.

Words to Write By

The quote this week comes from Ernest Hemingway.

“Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”

– Ernest Hemingway

I’m featuring this quote not because I think it’s how everyone should write, but because it’s how I tend to approach writing. Hemingway is famous for spare, unadorned prose, and I tend to write in a similar fashion (note, I am not making any kind of qualitative comparison between my own writing and Hemingway’s). I certainly look at my prose as a means to and end rather than anything approaching the end product itself. What does that mean, though? Generally, it means I don’t spend a lot of time describing people, places, and things; I rely heavily on dialog to express plot points and develop characters; and I weed out passive voice, most adverbs, and try not to get too complex with my sentence structure. If I do it right, I end up with lean, fast-paced prose that conveys a story efficiently and is, hopefully, compelling. So, why do I write this way? Simple. It’s a style that tends to highlight things I’m good at, like action and dialog, and downplays things I’m not so good at, like truly stylish prose and expansive descriptions. Once more, this is not the best way to write (there’s no such thing), but it’s how I write. Looking at my prose like architecture, as Hemingway suggests, has helped me do what all authors must–finish stories and novels.

The Novel

I was out for a few days last week for a badly needed vacation, but I did manage to get a fair amount done on the current revision of Late Risers. I’m confident things will speed up once I get out of the first act where the bulk of the heavy revisions are taking place. This week, I’m working on the last bit of completely new material, and my goal is to finish that, integrate it into the manuscript, and get beyond the halfway point in the revision.

Short Stories

Finally, a respectable submission week.

  • Submissions Sent: 4
  • Rejections: 1
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

I got 4 submissions out last week. That’s solid, and it’s a good start to May. That gives me 39 for the year and puts me back on track for 100 for 2019. I’d like to end up somewhere around 10 to 12 submissions for the month.

The Blog

Three blog posts last week.

4/29/19: A Week of Writing: 4/22/19 to 4/28/19

The usual weekly writing update.

5/1/19: Submission Protocol: For the Record

In this post I discuss why it’s important to keep detailed records of all your submissions.

5/3/19: Submission Statement: April 2019

A detailed account of my submission endeavors for the month of April.

Goals

Keep revising the novel and chugging toward that finish line. As usual, I’d like a side dish of short story submissions to go with my revision main course.


That was my week. How was yours?

Submission Statement: April 2019

April is in the books, and here are all my submissions, rejections, and acceptances for the month.

April 2019 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 8
  • Rejections: 6
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 3
  • Submission Withdrawal: 0

That’s a decent month submission-wise. A reasonable amount of rejections against one acceptance and three publications. I give this month a solid B. April’s numbers give me thirty-six submissions for the year. A little off my pace for one-hundred submissions, but I’ve already fired off three subs in May, so I should turn things around this month.

Rejections

Six rejections for April.

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

Nothing really exciting or new in the rejection department this month. All six rejections were form rejections and likely ones you’d recognize. That gives me twenty-six total rejections for the year. I got one-hundred right on the nose last year, and I’m on pace for a paltry seventy-eight this year. I’m okay with that. 🙂

Acceptances

Just one tiny little acceptance this month, a microfiction story called “His True Name” at 50-Word Stories. I’m two for two with microfiction subs so far, and I might send a few more this month to some other markets. That’s six total acceptances for the year. I’d really liked to beat last year’s total of nineteen. I’m more or less on pace for that same number, but hopefully May will be a multi-acceptance month to let me pull ahead.

Publications

Three publications this month, the aforementioned “His True Name” at 50-Word Stories, a flash piece called “Big Problems” at Jersey Devil Press, and a short story titled “Paint-Eater” at The Arcanist. All three are free to read by clicking the links below.

“His True Name”

Published by 50-Word Stories (free to read)

“Big Problems”

Published by Jersey Devil Press (free to read)

“Paint-Eater”

Published by The Arcanist (free to read)


And that was April. Tell me about your month.

Submission Protocol: For the Record

No doubt you’ve seen me post copious amounts of stats and analysis on this blog relating to my submissions, rejections, and acceptances. I’m able to do that because I keep track of every single submission I send and its outcome (plus a bunch of other details). You don’t have to be a stat wonk like me, but you should keep track of all your submissions. Here’s why.

  1. Avoid dumb submission mistakes. Once you get into triple digits with submissions that comprise dozens of stories, it can be pretty easy to forget where you sent each one. So one of the things I do before I send out a story, especially one that’s racked up a fair number of rejections, is to check my database. That way I can make sure I’m not sending it to a publisher that’s already rejected it. Full disclosure: I’ve actually made this mistake a few times. Wanna know why? I didn’t check my fucking database before I hit send. (Let’s call that a cautionary tale.)
  2. Submission analysis & targeting. Look, you don’t have to get all crazy with the data like I do, but having some data at hand can be useful to determine how your submissions are doing overall. You can look for trends and anomalies that might help you dial in your submission targeting. Are you only getting standard form rejections from that one magazine and then going on to sell those stories elsewhere? Yeah? Then maybe that market isn’t a good fit for your work. Are your horror stories landing at a market but they’re consistently rejecting your fantasy stories? Okay, then stop sending them fantasy stories. A submission database that keeps track of not just when and where, but also genre, length, and other details may slightly increase the likelihood of an acceptance.
  3. Big-picture progress. One of my favorite things about a robust database is it really lets me see how I’m doing month to month and year to year. I can see if my acceptance numbers (and rate) are improving, if I’m getting more higher-tier and personal rejections than standard rejections, and all sorts of other info that can be quite encouraging. Having a database can help you take a big-picture view of your work rather than the isolated snapshots that come with each rejection. That’s always a confidence booster for me.

I’ve told you why you should keep a submission database; now let me tell you how. My preferred method is to let someone else do the bulk of the work, which is why I track all my submissions through Duotrope. They keep that database for me, and I can filter by market, by story, by rejection (and type of rejection), and so on. I can also download all this data with the click of a button if I want to manipulate it further. Yes, Duotrope is five bucks a month, but if you submit as often as I do, I think that’s a bargain. The Submission Grinder (which is free) has similar functionality, but since I don’t use that service I can’t give you the exact details.

What if you don’t want to use Duotrope or the Submission Grinder to track your submissions? No problem. It’s super easy to set up an Excel spreadsheet that’ll do the trick. If you’re Excel savvy, you can even get a lot of the same functionality you get at Duotrope with a little work. What should your submission database track? Here are the basics you should include: story title, genre, length, market, date sent, date received, and response. That might look like this.

This is a cobbled-together snapshot of some of my own submissions as an example of how you might track your own (No, I don’t generally rock a 50% acceptance rate; I just grabbed a bunch of old submissions for variety). Pretty simple, right? I can sort and parse this data in a number of ways to get all analytical if I want or just to make sure I don’t send a story to a market that’s already rejected it. If you want a more functionality, consider keeping tracking things like the days between submissions and responses and if the submission is a reprint or a sim-sub. That’s all great data. Whatever your database looks like the real key is to be consistent and diligent with keeping track of your submissions. Record every submissions and every response right away (if possible). Yeah, I know recording rejections kind of sucks, but trust me, it’ll serve you in the long run.


How do you keep track of your submissions? Tell me about it in the comments.