A Week of Writing: 5/11/20 to 5/17/20

Another week of writing in the books. Here’s how it all went down.

Words to Write By

Today’s quote comes from Douglas Adams.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

– Douglas Adams

Last week, I stopped writing the first draft of Hell to Play and instead revised my outline. Douglas Adams’ quote kind of sums up why. I realized, as I was writing the first draft, and especially after I ended act one, that the novel I was writing was NOT the novel in my outline. I knew there was a subplot I needed to add, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. As a dedicated plotter, I sat down and figured out how the new story would go. I think (and hope) I have ended up where I needed to be.

The Novel

Well, I didn’t add a single word to the manuscript for Hell to Play last week. What I did do, however, was completely revise acts two and three of my outline. Revise might be understating. I rewrote the outline completely, adding in an entirely new subplot I think strengthens the conflict in the novel and provides key insight into the background and motivations of the principle characters. If we are keeping count of words, that two-thirds of an outline amounted to just over 6,000 words, so, you know, I was pretty busy. 🙂

Short Story Submissions

Pretty good week on the submission front.

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

Three submissions is solid, and that’s really the pace I’d like to set every week. I’m up to 38 for the year, and I’ll need another 6 or 7 before the end of May to stay on track for 100 subs. The rejections were from a writing contest, and I’d hoped one of the entries would place. I got close with one of them, but no dice. The acceptance is a good one (I mean, they’re all good), and I managed to place a story with the Flame Tree Fiction Newsletter. That’s my third sale to Flame Tree, and I’m very pleased to have a piece appear in their newsletter. The story will be posted on their website at some point, and I’ll be sure to point you in that direction when it’s free to read.

Microfiction

Normally I would post some of the microfiction I wrote as part of vss365. Thing is, I didn’t write any. 🙂 I’ll get back on the beam this week, though. In the meantime, here are three microfiction pieces I place with 50-Word Stories over the past year or so.

“Treed” –  3/7/19

“His True Name” – 4/24/19

“Dead Bugs” – 4/15/19

Goals

With a revised outline, I aim to start adding words to the manuscript for Hell to Play this week. I’m trying not to focus so much on how quickly I’m writing the first draft, which is tough for me, but I think it will result in a better book. As always, I need to get those story submission out. Shooting for three more submissions by the end of the week.


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 5/4/20 to 5/10/20

A day late on this past week of writing, but here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

Today’s quote comes from Kurt Vonnegut.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

I have stepped off the cliff and now I’m furiously flapping my arms hoping those wings will sprout. There are a few feathers here and there, but we have not yet achieved flight. I’ve stalled a bit on the first draft of Hell to Play, and a desperate sense of falling has set in. The stall is for a very good reason–making the book better–but that feeling of plummeting to my doom remains. Like always, I’ll write through it, but Kurt Vonnegut’s quote resonates right about now.

The (New) Novel

I worked on Hell to Play last week, but I hesitate to call it progress. I wrote 5,200 words for a total of 28,500 on the manuscript. What happened this week is I realized I have a strong first act (which I’ve already completed), a strong third act, but my second act, which I’ve just begun is, well, weak as shit. All is not lost, though. While I was floundering and grappling with what to do, THE SOLUTION became clear. That should be good news because my second act is more or less saved, the book improved, and so on. The problem is, I’m a dedicated plotter, so I can’t just write the new angle in. I have to go back and revise my outline and make sure everything fits before I start writing again. This kind of thing generally awakens the ol ‘ impostor syndrome, which equates stopping writing (for any reason) with failure. That’s nonsense, of course. I’m still working on the book, and the outline is a crucial part of writing for me. So, this week, I’m going to grit my teeth, rework my outline, so when I do start writing again (probably by the end of the week), I’ll be able to push forward with more confidence.

Short Story Submissions

Two subs for the week and not much else.

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

Well, two subs is better than last week’s one sub, right? No other activity, though I expect to hear back on at least four of the eight stories I have pending this week. I’m sitting at thirty-five submissions total, which is an average of seven per month. I need to get that average up to nine to stay on track for 100 subs for the year. That means ten more submissions in the next few weeks. 🙂

Microfiction

Here are two of the better microfiction pieces from my #vss365 work last week. As always, if you want to read my microfiction in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

May 5th, 2020

The planet was thickly forested but dry save for #rainwater. Eventually we drank, ignoring the tiny wriggling things in each swallow. One by one we grew and took root. Now the few who remain wander still groves, mad with thirst, trying not to hear the voices on the wind. 

May 9th, 2020

“Damn, Sal,” Lucky said. “You shot him #nine fucking times.”

“Um, I thought he had a vest.” Sal said.

“But you shot him in the balls. Twice.”

“I thought he had a VEST, Lucky.”

“Uh huh. Guess he shouldn’ta called you a bad shot on Twitter.”

Sal smirked. “Guess not.”

Goals

This week, the big goal is to revise the outline for Hell to Play, which equates to roughly twenty short chapter outlines. The other goal is to send more submissions, as always. I smell rejections on the wind, so I should have plenty of stories to submit. 🙂


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 4/27/20 to 5/3/20

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

Words to Write By

Today’s quote comes from Andy Warhol.

Don’t think about making art, just get it done.

–Andy Warhol

It’s rare you find a quote that perfectly encapsulates your writing process, but this single sentence from Andy Warhol pretty much describes how I go about my first drafts. I just want to get the story on the page and not worry about making it perfect. Sure, I do occasionally go back and fill in plot holes or fix continuity errors while I’m writing the first draft, but I save most of the refining for the revision(s) after the first draft is done. The primary reason I do this is I find it overwhelming to try and make the story perfect (or at least better) while I’m writing it. It just spikes my anxiety and self-doubt to a degree that kills my productivity, so I don’t do it, and that helps me get from first word to last more-or-less painlessly.

The (New) Novel

More good progress on Hell to Play last week. I wrote just over 8,700 words for a total of 23,000 and change for the manuscript. I’m not hitting my 10,000 words a week like I usually do, but I’ve kind of made peace with that. There are just so many outside distractions right now–and one BIG one–that I’m happy to be making any decent progress at all. Maybe I’ll work back up to 10,000 a week, but at this point I’m looking at having a first draft in twelve weeks. I can absolutely live with that.

Short Story Submissions

Kind of a pathetic week for submissions.

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

Exciting, huh? One submission. I haven’t even gotten a rejection in weeks. The one submission last week gives me 33 for the year, which means I need to pick up the pace in May if I want to hit 100 subs by the end of the year.

Microfiction

I missed a few days again last week, but I think what I did write came out pretty good. Here are the two best in my humble opinion. As always, if you want to read my microfiction in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

April 28th, 2020

Dying’s not so bad, but the #resurrection is a real shit sandwich. Each time I croak and return to life, there’s a new group of mortals convinced I’m the second coming. Sorry, folks, no messiah here. I’m just an accident-prone revenant, and this is my, uh, 94th(?) coming.

May 2nd, 2020

The ancient #ragpicker scavenged only the choicest bits. Castoff shreds that still held some magic, some life. He worked his finds into a shape dear to him but nearly forgotten. The final scrap was his tatterdemalion soul, and when he breathed his last, the child awoke.

Goals

Same as usual. Keep plugging away at the novel and get more submission out the door.


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 4/20/20 to 4/26/20

Happy Monday, everybody. One more week of writing in the books, and here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

Today’s quote comes from New York Times Best Selling author Cheryl Strayed.

“Writing is always full of self-doubt, but the first book [Torch] is really full of self-doubt, and it was much more of a struggle to keep the faith. By the time I wrote Wild, I was familiar with that feeling of doubt and self-loathing, so I just thought, ‘Okay, this is how it feels to write a book.’”

—Cheryl Strayed

I’m hip-deep in the first draft of a new novel, and, oh man, the doubt and self-loathing are strong right now. Every word feels forced, every chapter worse than the last, every character poorly realized, all of that. I did not, however, let that keep me from writing because as Cheryl Strayed says “This is how it feels to write a book.” Well, this how it feels for me to write a book, and, well, if I want to write books I can’t let that self-doubt stop me. Thing is, that’s only how it feels in the moment. When I step away from the work and read it the next day, it’s not so bad. Hell, sometimes it’s even good. So, yeah, it can be a struggle sometimes, but once I learned to accept that some suffering is just part of the gig, it got easier to write my way through it.

The (New) Novel

Had a pretty good week with Hell to Play, even though I didn’t quite hit my goal of 10,000 words. I managed 8,600 on the draft, giving me a total close to 15,000 words. I’m satisfied with that. Last week I also started a new process where I review everything I wrote for the week over the weekend. That worked out well, and I caught some continuity errors and a few other things that might have given me trouble down the line and would have been more of a pain in the ass to fix in a completed draft. At my current pace I’ll have a 90,000-word draft in about ten weeks. I have a feeling it’ll be more like eight weeks as I find my footing and the writing comes easier. Still, three months for a first draft is plenty fast, and I’d be happy with that.

Short Story Submissions

A quiet week on the ol’ submissions front.

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

I sent out two submissions last week, which gives me thirty-two for the year. I need to send another two subs this month to stay on pace for one-hundred subs for the year. That shouldn’t be a problem. I have one story that just needs to be proofed and submitted and another that’s close to it. No rejections last week, or really anything. Some of that has to do with my pending submission count getting a little low coupled with some publishers that take a while to respond. I expect I’ll be back on the rejection train this week or next.

Microfiction

I missed a lot of days last week with #vss365 microfiction, but here’s the best of the few I did write. As always, if you want to read my microfiction in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

April 25th, 2020

“Hey, Mister, put on your new #mittens.”

“Aw, Mom. My old ones are fine.”

“No, the new ones.”

“They’re too tight.”

“They’re better. Two layers of Kevlar and steel plate over the fingers.”

“Fine. Happy? ”

“Now what do I always say?”

“I know, zombies eat you fingers first.”

Goals

Keep knocking out the words on the first draft of Hell to Play and send out at least two more submissions. Those are both manageable goals, and I hope to report 10,000 words next week and increased submission activity.


That was my week. How was yours?

Weeks of Writing: 2/17/20 to 3/8/2020

Playing catch up and hitting you with multiple weeks here. I was on vacation for most of this period, then I caught a bad cold (while on vacation, no less), but I did manage to do a bit of writing and submitting and whatnot. Here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

Got another one from the font of writerly wisdom that is Elmore Leonard.

“I don’t believe in writer’s block or waiting for inspiration. If you’re a writer, you sit down and write.”

―Elmore Leonard

Writer’s block is one of those subjects that pops up a lot in writerly circles. Does writer’s block exist? I can’t say for certain because I don’t live in the brains of other writers. I can say I mostly agree with Mr. Leonard, and that writer’s block is often a luxury you don’t have when you’re under deadline. The closest I get to writer’s block is simply fear of failing, which translated to fear of starting. When that happens, especially when I’m writing with a deadline, I do what Mr. Leonard says. I sit down and I write. That first half an hour or so can be absolute torture. Everything feels wrong and terrible, but, after a while, it starts to click, and the rest of that day’s writing often goes pretty well. Yeah, sometimes I have to go back and tweak that first five hundred words I stumbled through, but that’s a small price to pay for hitting my writing goal for the day.

The (New) Novel

Well, a week-plus of vacation and then a nasty cold definitely torpedoed my productivity on the novel. That said, I still have a completed outline and I met with one of my critique partners to smooth out some of the rough spots. I’ll start writing in earnest this week, shooting for the usual 2,000 words per day.

Short Story Submissions

Despite the downtime, I did manage to get some submissions out and even collect a couple of acceptances.

  • Submissions Sent: 9
  • Rejections: 5
  • Acceptances: 2
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

I ended February with 10 submissions and 1 acceptance. Not bad. So far, I have 2 submissions in March and 2 acceptances. That’s a ratio I can live with. I’m still on pace for my 100 subs for the year, but I need to get my ass in gear for March and submit more work. The good news is that I’ve completed two new stories and I’m almost done with a third.

Spotlight Acceptance

One of the acceptances I received last week is a new one for me. It was an acceptance rolled up into a rejection. I guess you could call it a, uh, rejectance. Anyway, I had submitted a story to a publisher for an anthology. They rejected the story for one anthology but liked it enough to offer to buy it in ANOTHER anthology they’re publishing. That’s pretty cool. Disappointment and triumph in the space of a paragraph. 🙂

I’ll likely cover the rejectance in a post of it’s own when I can talk more freely about this particular acceptance.

Microfiction

I wrote a fair amount of microfiction over the last three weeks, but I’ll just give you the highlights. As always, if you want to read my microfiction in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

February 19th, 2020

The android awoke and asked, “What is my #purpose?” The scientists gathered around it replied, “You were made to protect humanity.” “From all threats?” “Of course.” After the android killed the scientists it launched a self-destruct sequence and fulfilled its purpose.

February 20th, 2020

We told the men and women who fought the invaders they were #soldiers. They were a good way to test the alien capabilities before we attacked with more valuable combat androids. The humans that survived we thanked for their service, wiped their minds, and sent back out.

February 23rd, 2020

It was important to maintain the #royal line, and some inbreeding became necessity, but millenia of genetic purity had consequences. The mewling lump of flesh and shriveled limbs that currently sits on the galactic throne can hardly appreciate his trillions of subjects.

February 25th, 2020

The #spirits in our house used to scare me, but Mama says they’re just people who got lost after they died. They don’t mean us no harm. All except the bad one that lives in the attic. She told us to stay out of there because that one was never a person, but it wants to be.

February 27th, 2020

“Pick a final ,” Death said.

“But I’m an atheist,” Dave replied. “I didn’t expect to be in this situation.”

“You gotta choose. Them’s the rules.”

“Fine. Send me to the place you think has the best music.”

“Uh, you okay with flames and death metal, dude?

Goals

Well, back from vacation and fully recovered from the plague, I’m ready to get back to work in earnest. Goal number one is to bang out some words on the novel, and then, as always, write and submit short stories.


That’s what I’ve been up to writing-wise for the past three weeks. How about you?

A Week of Writing: 2/10/20 to 2/16/20

Another week of writerly wins and woes. Let’s have a look.

Words to Write By

Got two quotes for you today that essentially say the same thing. The first is by Stephen King.

“In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.”

―Stephen King

The quote above dovetails nicely with this one from Elmore Leonard..

“I try to leave out the parts readers skip.”

―Elmore Leonard

King and Leonard are two big influences on how (and to some degree what) I write. I agree with King that one of my priorities, especially as a genre writer, is to keep the story moving. For me pacing has always been key to my enjoyment of a book. Leonard essentially says the same thing, just, you know, more succinctly because he’s Elmore Leonard. Now, both of these authors are shooting for a certain style (as am I), and in Leonard’s case that style is very spare. That isn’t the only way to write nor is it the best way to write, but I think the point these two authors are making is a good one. Keep the plot moving, keep your characters doing things, and let your reader feel the momentum building all the way to the end.

The (New) Novel

Well, I meant to start writing last week, but I sent my outline to one of my first readers to see if he might spot some things I could fix before I started writing. I’m glad I did that because my second act was, well, floundering would be one way to put it. He came up with a great way to inject urgency and conflict into that act that’ll keep the plot moving and give me some excellent character moments. He also spotted a few other things that’ll make my life easier if I deal with them now.

I’m not writing this week either because I’m going on a long overdue vacation. I will write, but I’ll focus on shorts and blogging and whatnot. Then I’ll begin the first draft after recharging the creative batteries in the sun for a eight days. 🙂

Short Story Submissions

I had another good week of submissions.

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

Three more submissions last week puts my total for February at 6 and my total for the year at 15. That’s a good pace, and I’m on track for my goal for 100 subs for the year. The acceptance was from EllipsisZine for my reprint flash story “Where They Belong.” That’s one of my favorite stories, and I’m glad I’ve rehomed it with the good folks at Ellipsis. No rejections last week, but hoo boy, I’ve already got four this week. I have a feeling that total might climb even higher before the next update.

Microfiction

More #vss365 microfiction, and I really like some of the micros I came up with. I’d say February 13th is one of the better ones I’ve written in a while. As always, if you want to read my microfiction in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

February 10th, 2020

“I have a #request.”

Getty always listened to the last words of the men he killed. “Go ahead.”

His mark held out a single 9mm round. The bullet had a silvery sheen.

“You’ll need this.”

“Why?”

The man glanced out the window where the full moon was rising. “Trust me.”

February 11th, 2020

“He’s a friend of yours, huh?” Sal pointed at the Russian hitman waving them over to the bar.

“Ivan?” Lucky said. “More #ally than friend.”

“We’re here to kill him, Luck.”

“Guess I should demote him from ally to associate then.”

“Might want to add a ‘former’ to that.”

February 12th, 2020

“Dude, put that thing down. It’s awful.”

“Hey, come on, you know the saying. You can’t #judge a book by its cover.”

“I can when the cover is made of human skin with the words TOME OF INESCAPABLE DOOM spelled out in bloody fingernails.”

“Okay, that’s fair.”

February 13th, 2020

The ruins of their #empire dotted the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, great structures of black stone no light would penetrate. We mistook prisons for tombs, believing nothing could survive cold, vast eons. We learned too late what the elder ones knew: darkness does not die.

February 14th, 2020

The catcher chuckled as Summers walked to the plate and took up his stance. In the majors, a 36-year-old #rookie was little more than a joke, an object of pity. He made his own punchline with one swing, and no one pitied the man circling the bases to thundering cheers.

February 15th, 2020

The invaders looked and acted human in all ways but one. They couldn’t smile. They could only turn their lips up in a gruesome #parody of a smile–cold, empty, humorless. Mandatory screenings of comedies for all citizens improved morale and rid us of the alien threat.

February 16th, 2020

“Too many people down there,” Lucky warned.

“No, I can get him,” Sal said.

Lucky put a hand on his partner’s shoulder. “What’s the hitman’s #creed?”

Sal sighed and laid the scoped rifle aside. “You’re right, Luck. No collateral damage.”

“We’ll get him next time.”

Goals

Since I’ll be on vacation for the rest of this week and most of next, I’ll keep the goals light. Write micros, finish a weird western story I’ve been tinkering with, and maybe send a submission or two. The rest of it can wait until I get back. 🙂


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 2/3/20 to 2/9/20

One more week down, and it was a fairly productive one. Let’s take a look.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from novelist Jane Smiley.

“Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It’s perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to NOT exist.”

― Jane Smiley

This week I’ll start writing the first draft of a new novel, and I think the quote above is a great way to look at the process. The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be good. It just has to BE. So my goal now is to take outline and ideas and turn them into a thing that vaguely resembles a novel. I’ll try to keep Jane Smiley’s quote in mind when I’m writing and focus on getting words on the page, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and chapter by chapter. Then, when it’s done, you’ll start seeing quotes about the horror and pain of revision. 🙂

The (New) Novel

The outline is finished, and I’m fairly happy with it. It clocks in at about 8,000 words, covers thirty chapters, and contains background details on five principal characters. This is all subject to change of course, and my outlines are kind of like bad GPS. I know generally where I’m going, but I’m likely to make a few wrong turns here and there before I get to my destination. I’ll likely tinker with the outline a tad more today and tomorrow and then start writing the first draft Wednesday. Then I’ll shoot for about 10,000 words a week until it’s done.

Short Story Submissions

Another solid week of submissions.

  • Submissions Sent: 3
  • Rejections: 3
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

Three submission last week, and that keeps me on pace for my goal of one-hundred subs for the year. I have four submissions total in February, and I’d like to get another five or so by month’s end. That’s very doable, especially since I’ve finished three new stories in the last couple of weeks and I’m on pace to finish two more. More stories always means more submissions. Three rejections last week, all form rejections. That said, I do want to talk about one of them in a Spotlight Rejection this week. Take a look below.

Spotlight Rejection

The following rejection is what I call a no-frills form rejection.

Dear Aeryn Rudel,

Thank you for submitting your story, [story title].

Unfortunately, we are choosing not to use this story.

Please feel free to submit another story that you would like us to consider for publication when we are next open for submissions.

I’m at the point now where I don’t need much from a form rejection. Just a simple no will do, and that’s what this rejection is. This is an efficient and perfectly acceptable way to say “not for us.” It’s a boilerplate copy/paste rejection, which is an unavoidable reality when you submit work to big markets receiving hundreds of submissions every month, and I’m fine with that. It’s easy to move on from a rejection like this because it doesn’t say anything other than they’re not publishing your story.

Microfiction

More #vss365 microfiction. I think I did better last week than the week before, but you be the judge. If you want to read my microfiction in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

February 3rd, 2020

My #fantasies aren’t much these days. I don’t wish for money or fame or anything so grandiose. No, I sit in the park when it’s sunny and listen to the wind in the trees. Then I dream of you beside me, the warmth of your hand in mine, and the quiet pleasure of your company. 

February 4th, 2020

I imagine my anxieties as a bunch of #frantic school children running amok in my head. To calm myself I name each one and imagine them quietly taking a seat at their desks. There’s always one that won’t sit down, though. Impostor syndrome Peter is a stubborn little shit.

February 5th, 2020

The #atlas we found in Grandpa’s study contained maps that corresponded to no place on Earth. All save one. The first was clearly South America, and someone had circled a location deep in the Amazon jungle. Attached to the map was a sticky note that read, “Start here.”

February 6th, 2020

“Why does Susie arrange her presents in a star like that?” Dave asked.

Molly smiled. “Oh, it’s her little Christmas #ritual. She’s been doing that for years.”

Dave sipped his tea. “You know she misspelled SANTA, right?”

“Um, it’s best not to think about that, dear.”

February 7th, 2020

Aoife moved through the party, ignoring longing glances and offered drinks. When she reached Senator McNeil, she offered her hand. “Senator, I’m Aoife Byrne.” He held her fingers for a moment. “#Enchanted to meet you, Miss Byrne.” The leanan sidhe smiled. “Yes, you are.”

February 8th, 2020

“These shoes give you superpowers, huh?” Amy said.

The salesperson nodded. “The wedges make you an acrobat, the stiletto sandals convey expert swordsmanship, and the slingbacks grant super strength.”

“And the #mules?”

“Oh, they’re just comfortable.”

“I’ll take them.” 

February 9th, 2020

I love without lust, eat without gluttony, spurn greed with charity, exercise through sloth, meditate over wrath, and pursue contentedness instead of envy. The problem? I can’t help taking #pride in the enlightened human I’ve become. Six out of seven ain’t bad, I guess.

Goals

This week I want to complete the last-minute tinkering with the outline and start writing the first draft. I also need to keep sending out those submissions and completing stories so I can, uh, send out more submissions. 🙂


That was my week. How was yours?