Weeks of Writing: 2/25/19 to 3/17/19

Well, as you can see, I fell a bit behind with these weekly updates, so I’m just gonna go ahead and get caught up all at once. 🙂

Words to Write By

The quote this week comes from science-fiction and fantasy novelist Fred Saberhagen

“I had immediate success in the sense that I sold something right off the bat. I thought it was going to be a piece of cake and it really wasn’t. I have drawers full of—or I did have—drawers full of rejection slips.”

–Fred Saberhagen

I think this an interesting quote about rejection because it highlights something important. Success does not (necessarily) put an end to rejection. Sure, it might change form, but rejection is still probably a part of a writer’s life despite all the accolades they may acquire. I’ve fallen prey to this misconception myself (on a vastly smaller scale than Fred Saberhagen, of course). When I made my first pro sale, I thought, “Okay, I’ve passed that hurdle. Things are gonna get easier now.” Well, four years and a couple hundred rejections later, I’m still waiting for it to get easier. I don’t mean to be a downer here, and things have gotten easier in the sense that I have more understanding of the process, the industry, and what to expect from it. I treasure my successes, try to revel in them, and most of all, let them serve as a buffer between me and the (still) inevitable rejections to come.

The Novel

Well, I’m back on the revision wagon for my novel Late Risers. Like I mentioned in a previous update, I’m trying to be a lot more organized and surgical with my revisions this time, and I’m taking pains to incorporate my agent’s feedback in the smartest and most efficient way. Currently, I’m reading through the book, summarizing each chapter in a spreadsheet, and making note of where I need to make the big changes (which is primarily adding material). Essentially, I have a flow chart that will help me decide where the changes and new material need to go AND how they will affect later chapters. Although there’s more preparation with this method, I think it’ll make the actual revision easier and more effective.

Short Stories

I’ve been a bit more active with short stories lately.

  • Submissions Sent: 7
  • Rejections: 3
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 2
  • Shortlist: 0

This looks more impressive than it is since it covers three weeks instead of just one. Still, I’m up to 23 submissions for the year, which is a little off my pace for a goal of 100. I need to send 4 more in March to catch up, essentially, and I don’t think that’ll be an issue. The acceptance is a fun one in that it’s my first microfiction submission and acceptance.

The Blog

Six blog posts over the last few weeks, but I’ll just highlight the important ones.

3/6/19: 300 Rejections or THIS. IS. NOT FOR US!

In this post I discuss reaching the milestone of 300 rejections and what it means to me.

3/8/19: Charting the Rejection Progression

This post deals with looking at the types of rejections you’re receiving from a publisher and if they indicate any progress toward an acceptance.

3/14/19: The Rejectomantic Arts: Reading the Wait

Is there any merit to using rejectomancy on other parts of the submissions process? This posts seeks to answer that question.

Goals

It’s pretty much all revisions, all the time here, but I’d like to get a few more short stories out as well. I’d really love it if I could turn the revised novel over to my agent by mid-April, and I think that’s doable.

Very Short Stories

As I mentioned in my last update, I’ve been writing microfiction on Twitter under the #vss365 hashtag. I started on February 23rd, and I haven’t missed a day. It’s been a blast, and one of those little Twitter scribbles became my first microfiction submission and acceptance. Below are three of my favorites I’ve written in the past weeks and the ones that seemed to resonate with folks the most (based on Twitter impressions, likes, and retweets). If you’d like to read the microfiction in real time, just follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

March 2nd – Prompt: Listen

I don’t watch Lucky work. It creeps me out. My job is talking, his is making people receptive to talking. He comes out of the garage, wiping blood from his knuckles, that weird satisfied look on his face.

“You’re up.”

“Can he still talk?”

Lucky shrugs. “He can listen.”

March 4th – Prompt: Improvise

The apocalypse taught me to improvise, to use brains and instincts I never knew I had. Every tin can is a way to collect rain water, every rusted-out old car potential shelter, and every person I meet . . .

Well, let’s just say I can “improvise” the taste of chicken.

March 16th – Prompt: Question

When death came for me, I refused to go. So it asked me a question. “When should I return?” Like a fool, I said never. That was a long, long time ago, and now I spend the endless stretch of years asking my own question. “Where is death?” I’ve yet to get an answer.

Publications

Two publications over the last few weeks. The first was a microfiction piece called “Treed” with 50-Word Stories. The second was a flash horror piece called “Far Shores and Ancient Graves” with NewMyths. You can read both by following the links below.

“Treed”

Published by 50-Word Stories (free to read)

“Far Shores and Ancient Graves”

Published by NewMyths (free to read)


How was your writing week(s)? Tell me about it in the comments.

Submission Statement: February 2019

And there goes February. Let’s have a look and see how I did.

February 2019 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 7
  • Rejections: 7
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 1
  • Submission Status Queries: 2

Seven submissions is, well, not good enough. If I want to hit my goal of 100 submissions for the year, I need to step it up in March. I’m at 16 total for the year, an average of 8 per month, and I need to bump that up to an average of 9. So I’m gonna shoot for a dozen subs this month to get back on track.

You’ll notice I sent two submission status queries this month. I don’t generally have to do that, but occasionally the need arises. Don’t be afraid to send these when your submission starts getting long in the tooth, but be sure to check the publisher’s guidelines. Many will tell you when and when NOT to send a query. If you’re polite and follow the guidelines, the publisher won’t be offended. In fact, sometimes they’ll respond with an apology and a promise to read your work right away. (That happened with one I sent this month). If your curious about what a submission status query should look like, here’s the template I use:

Dear Editors,

I would like to inquire about the status of my submission [story title] submitted to [publisher name] on [month, day, year]. Thank you. 

Best,

Aeryn Rudel

That’s it. Short, sweet, to the point. Just the facts, basically.

Rejections

Seven rejections for February.

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

Not a particularly impressive group of rejections, and nothing really worth sharing.

Acceptances

Got another reprint acceptance from Mystery Tribune for my story “Father of Terror.” This one was originally published by The Molotov Cocktail and took second place in their Flash Icon contest a couple of years ago. The version Mystery Tribune published is just a tad different, but it’s essentially the same story. You can check it out under publications.

Publications

One publication this month, the aforementioned “Father of Terror.” Free to read online.

“The Father of Terror”

Published by Mystery Tribune (free to read)


And that was my February. Tell me about yours.

A Week of Writing: 2/18/19 to 2/24/19

Another week in the trenches, and other week of submissions, rejections, and miscellaneous literary endeavors.

Words to Write By

This week’s quotes comes from, uh, *checks notes* Wayne Gretzky?

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

– Wayne Gretzky

This is a quote from the greatest hockey player to put on skates (I know that, and I’m not even a hockey fan), but, damn, does it apply to just about everything, including writing. I send out a lot of submissions–one-hundred and twenty last year–and those are, well, shots I’m taking. They don’t all score, of course, but each time I send a submission I have a chance of acceptance. If I don’t submit, I have zero chance. The writing and submission gig can be a tough one. Rejections are as common as weeds, and some of them have thorns. They WILL get you down, and that’s okay, but you still gotta take those shots. Just ask Wayne Gretzky. His career shooting percentage was 17.6%, so even he missed a few, and, hey, they still call him The Great One.

The Novel

My next revisions of Late Risers is on hold while I finish a novella for Privateer Press. I wrote 8,000 words of it last week, and I’ll bust out another 8,000 to 10,000 this week.

Short Stories

It doesn’t get much slower than this, folks.

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

Yep, no submissions and a single rejection last week. I’m not exactly setting the world on fire in February. I did send a submission yesterday, and I’ll send a few more in the next day or so. That’ll put me up to 10 for the month, which keeps me on pace for 100 submissions for the year.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

2/20/19: A Week of Writing: 2/11/18 to 2/17/18

The usual weekly writing update.

2/22/19: The Rejection Archives: Rejection #84 (Personal)

Another entry into my Rejection Archives series. This one covers a personal rejection with excellent feedback.

Goals

I’ll finish up the first draft of my novella for Privateer Press this week, and then I’d like to get some short story submission out.

Very Short Stories

So, I’ve started writing microfiction on a daily basis on Twitter under the prompted hashtag #vss365. It’s a great exercise trying to fit a story into 280 characters and a hell of a lot of fun. I’m gonna start rounding up the weekly crop of scribbles on these updates. If you want to get these tiny tales in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

February 23rd – Prompt: Lame

They call me a leg breaker, but that ain’t right. Bones hurt, but soft tissue remembers. A guy hears that meaty pop when I shred his ACL, and he knows he’s gonna hobble like a lame horse forever. If that don’t remind him what he’s done wrong, he’s always got another leg.

February 23rd – Prompt: Humble

The men who come for me with crosses and holy books are sinners in pride, Daddy says. He hurts them, and I’m always hungry after. I know it’s wrong to waste the Lord’s bounty, and Daddy makes what he calls humble pie. It’s warm and red and just what a growing girl needs.


How was your writing week? Tell me about it in the comments.

The Rejection Archives: Rejection #84 (Personal)

Time to dive back into the Rejectomancy vault and fish out another rejection from my collection of nos and not for us’s. We’re gonna stick with the same theme as last week, and I’ll show you another detailed personal rejection. Here it is:

Rejection Number: 84
Story Sent: 12/20/2015
Rejection Received: 1/31/2016
Rejection Type: Personal Rejection

Thanks for letting us see [Story Title].  I regret to say that it’s just not right for [Publisher].

It’s a solid piece, with some good characters and good tension. Unfortunately, by the end, I’m afraid it just didn’t “grab” me the way it might have.  I’ve been sitting here thinking why not, and it occurs to me that I never really connected with [main character].  Maybe if it had been first-person instead of third-person.  That’s not a request for a rewrite (I don’t make too many of those).  It’s just a thought.

In any event, I’m sorry.  Best of luck with this one in other markets.

Last week I showed you a personal rejection from an editor where I largely rejected the feedback (mostly because I thought it came down to an issue of personal taste). This rejection, however, got me thinking, because the editor highlighted something that does pop up in my work–main characters that are difficult to connect with. The editor’s suggestion of making this a first-person POV instead of third-person turned out to be what the story needed. I made that change, which allowed me to dig deeper into the MC’s thoughts, motivations, and personality. Now, that wouldn’t work for every story, but this one in particular benefited from the closer POV. This is a great example of a helpful rejection, and I’m grateful to this editor for taking the time to point out what they thought needed to change in the story.

I’m still shopping this piece, but I’m confident it’s a better story than it was, and I think it’ll find a home soon.


Thoughts about this rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

If you’d like to read the other posts in this series, check out the links below:

  1. The Rejection Archives: Rejection #1 (Form)
  2. The Rejection Archives: Rejection #7 (Personal)

A Week of Writing: 2/11/19 to 2/17/19

Yikes. How did it get to be Wednesday already. A little late with this update, but here’s my writing week that was.

Words to Write By

This week’s quotes comes from Sylvia Plath.

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”

– Sylvia Plath

I’ve been in a bit of an acceptance drought to start the year, and the rejections have been piling up. Despite my admittedly thick hide, when rejections attack en masse they can wear me down. So, when that happens, and I feel like I’ll never sell a story again, I often read quotes about rejection from famous authors. This one is short and sweet and right on the money. Rejections are nos, certainly, but they’re meaning is greater than that. Like Sylvia Plath says, they say you tried, you put your work out there, and braved the literary minefields. Of course, if you follow this blog, then you know I think a lot of publishing is a numbers game. The more you submit (try), the greater your chances of acceptance, so it helps to think of each rejection as laying down another bit of road that will eventually lead to the next publication.

The Novel

I’ve started the next revision for Late Risers based on the notes from my agent. This time I’m going about things in a much more surgical manner. First off, I created a spread sheet that lists each chapter with a short summary of its content. That way I can treat the book kind of like a puzzle or maybe a delicately balanced Jenga tower. I can move or remove chapters and add in the new ones my agent requested. It’s been very helpful to view the novel this way, and it feels a lot less overwhelming. The first new thing I’ll write is the prologue, mostly because I know exactly what I need to do there, and the action in that bit will inform the rest of the novel. That said, this project is on temporary hold while I write the next piece of Stormbreak for Privateer Press.

Short Stories

This week was much more active than weeks prior.

  • Submissions Sent: 4
  • Rejections: 5
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 1
  • Shortlist: 0

The 4 submissions last week give me 6 for the month and 15 for the year. That puts me a bit off my pace for the 100 submissions I want to hit by the end of the year. I’m not too worried about that, though. I’ll get a few more subs out in the next week to get back on pace. Five rejections this week, and they were a little tougher than usual, mostly because I thought I had a pretty good shot with a couple of them. That’s almost always a mistake, and as hard it can be sometimes, I find it best to treat each submission like an eventual rejection, and then just treat each acceptance like a wonderful surprise.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

2/11/19: A Week of Writing: 2/4/18 to 2/10/18

The usual (if not timely) weekly writing update.

2/15/19: The Rejection Archives: Rejection #7

The second entry into my Rejection Archives series. This one covers a detailed personal rejection.

Goals

This week and next I need to bang out the words on the next Privateer Press novella. As usual, I’m shooting for something between 2,000 and 3,000 words per day, and the first draft should go very quick. Looking forward to it, and it’s always a good time taking another trip to the Iron Kingdoms.

Story Spotlight

I did manage to publish a story last week with Mystery Tribune. This is a reprint flash fiction story called “The Father of Terror.” It was originally published by The Molotov Cocktail, where it took second place in their Flash Icon contest. I made some very minor changes to this version of the story, but it’s still 95% the same story Molotov published. You can read “The Father of Terror” by clicking the link below

“The Father of Terror”


How was your writing week? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 2/4/18 to 2/10/18

After a month hiatus on the ol’ writing updates, it’s time to get back on that horse. Here’s how I did last week.

Words to Write By

This week’ quotes comes from Anita Shreve.

“To ward off a feeling of failure, she joked that she could wallpaper her bathroom with rejection slips, which she chose not to see as messages to stop, but rather as tickets to the game.”

– Anita Shreve

I love this quote. Referring to rejections as “tickets to the game” feels so on point to me, because I truly believe they’re part of the dues every writer pays to grow, to get better, and to get published. Basically, you don’t get into the show without spending some time in the minors taking your licks. (Sorry, baseball analogy.) While I don’t think you need to celebrate rejection, taking some solace and strength in what rejections signify, i.e., you’re writing and submitting your work, is a good thing in my book.

The Novel

About a month ago, I sent my novel Late Risers to my agent for his first read. Last week, he got back to me with feedback. He said the novel was interesting and even compelling, but there’s some work to do before he starts subbing it to editors. I won’t go into a ton of detail here, but the highlights are essentially as follows. Punch up the beginning so the book stands apart from others in the same genre. Fix some issues that do not pass the “reasonable man” test. Add more action-oriented scenes that demonstrate certain key plot points. What I’m most happy with about this feedback is that I agree with 99% of it. More than him hating the book, I was afraid he might want changes that would drastically alter what I wanted to say with the novel. That wasn’t the case, and I feel good about where the book needs to go. Better than that, I feel like I know how to get it there.

Short Stories

Slow week, and so far a slow month.

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

I only have two submission for February to date, but one of my favorite markets opens for publication next week and there are some new contests I want to enter. So, I predict I’ll end the month  somewhere between eight and ten submissions.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

2/5/19: The Rejection Archives: Rejection #1

A new feature on the blog where I’ll share a single rejection from my extensive library of no’s and not for us’s.

2/8/19: One-Hour Flash – End of the Line

Another entry into my one-hour flash series, hastily scribbled stories not quite good enough for submission.

Goals

The next revision of Late Risers will have to wait just a bit longer as I have a Privateer Press novella outline I need to work on. I’ll finish the outline soon, though, and get cracking on Late Risers again while the outline is under review.

Submission Spotlight

This week I’d like to call your attention to a short story contest hosted by one of my favorite publishers, The Arcanist. They’ve been a flash fiction publisher for the last couple of years, and this contest marks their first foray into longer fiction. The contest calls for short stories up to 5,000 words with a broad theme of magic. The deadline is 4/1/19. For more details about the contest, prizes, and whatnot, click the link below.

The Arcanist Short Story Contest


How was your writing week? Tell me about it in the comments.

One-Hour Flash – End of the Line

Hey, folks, here’s another bit of flash fiction from my vault of almosts, not quites, and something’s missings. Like a lot of these flash pieces, this one came about in a one-hour flash fiction writing exercise. Sometimes those exercises result in publishable fiction and sometimes they result in, well, something else. This is one of the latter. As usual, this is essentially a first draft.

Here’s “End of the Line.”


End of the Line

Arnold awoke to the rumble and vibration of a moving train. He opened his eyes and found himself face-down on cracked filthy boards that smelled of rot and old blood—sour and coppery. Above him the wind howled, and he rolled over onto his back to see that he was lying in an open-topped rail car. The car was walled with bare boards—newer than those that made up the floor—nailed together to form a kind of fence or pen. It was desperately cold, and he could see the ghostly white shapes of snow-topped trees flash by overhead as the train sped along.

He had no memory of how he’d gotten here. He had gone to bed last night, safe in his apartment. He remembered closing his eyes, looking up at the ceiling in his room as sleep stole over him. Then he’d awoken here.

He sat up slowly, his limbs heavy and aching in the cold. He vision swam and a spike of exquisite pain lanced through his skull. He moaned and rocked forward onto his knees, trying not to vomit, trying not to pass out.

“Sorry about that, friend.”

The sudden realization he was not alone cut through Arnold’s pain like a white-hot knife. He pushed himself away from the floor and onto his backside and scanned the rail car from end to end. It was little more than a bare box some twenty feet long by ten feet wide. The moon overhead offered some illumination, but thick shadows pooled in every corner—they could be hiding anything.

The shadows farthest from Arnold shifted, and their tenebrous mass took on a man-like shape. It slithered forward, and Arnold caught a glimpse of black cloth and the suggestion of a face, round and pale like the moon above. He couldn’t see much else; the shadows seem to gather protectively around the figure, obscuring all but a vague outline.

“I had to tap you on the head to keep you quiet,” the shadow man said. His voice was barely a whisper, but it reached Arnold’s ears unobstructed by the shrieking wind or the noise from the moving train.

“I don’t—,” Arnold croaked, his mouth was bone dry and his tongue felt like it was made of cotton batting. He tried again. “Where am I?”

“On your way,” the thing in the shadows said. Arnold heard a smile in its voice, or maybe he saw a flash of teeth—long, yellow, and sharp—in the flickering moonlight.

The answer meant nothing to Arnold, but it filled him with such horror he could scarcely breathe. He moved away from the voice, until his back brushed up against the far wall of the rail car. “Why?” he whispered.

Again the shadow man smiled, but this time he saw—with certainty—a pair of eyes, lantern-like above that ghastly grin. “He keeps me very busy,” it said and laughed—the sound sent tiny spiders of terror down Arnold’s back. It was like hearing breaking glass or splintering wood, a fractured, unnatural sound. “He is hungry, always hungry. I bring him the choicest morsels, the most delectable sweets, and that keeps him quiet.”

“I don’t understand,” Arnold moaned. “I was asleep in my apartment. How can I be here?”

“I know you don’t understand,” the shadow man said. “You don’t need to. I came for you because you have certain qualities he will enjoy, certain qualities that will keep him quiescent for a few more weeks and save many from his hunger.”

“Please don’t kill me,” Arnold moaned, terror robbing him of hope and dignity.

“I won’t kill you,” the shadow man said. “Not I. But why should you care? You have nothing; you are loved by nothing. I snatched you from your bed because your life is barely worth living. You are hopeless and pointless, Arnold Graves. He will give you purpose so those who deserve life can keep it a little longer.”

“But I don’t want to die!” Arnold howled. “I don’t—“

The shadows surged forward. A hand shot from the darkness and grasped Arnold by the throat, cutting off his scream with a choked gurgle. The shadow man lifted him bodily from the ground, turned him about, and slammed him into the wall of the rail car. He could see over the top of the barricade, where a black engine belched smoke into the night as it hurdled down rusting tracks through a nameless forest.

“End of the line, Arnold,” the shadow man whispered, his breath cold in Arnold’s ear. “Can you see him where the tracks end?”

Arnold tried to close his eyes, but long fingers reached over the top of his head and pried them open . . . and he saw what was waiting. It rose up from the forest, trees splintering in its wake, blocking out the moon and the stars with its enormity. The wind howled louder, and Arnold heard its voice carried in the screaming torrent. He felt its hunger, felt its mind, immense and alien, reaching out to gather his soul as its vast claws reached out to gather his flesh.

The shadow man released him. Arnold had time for one long, lingering scream before the dark and the cold swallowed him whole.


Okay, so this is another one I actually like, and I think it’s effectively creepy in places. The problem with it is my main character is just kind of blah. He doesn’t have much personality or anything, and he’s really there just so the monsters can do bad shit to him. If I were to expand this story, he’s the first thing I’d focus on, especially the part about his life being pointless and all that. That’s something the reader needs to see, to experience, rather than have a shadow monster mention it off-hand.

Check out the previous installments in the One-Hour Flash series.