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?

A Week of Writing: 1/27/20 to 2/2/20

Well, I got the lead out last week and managed to make progress in a number of areas. Here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from novelist E. L. Doctorow.

Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.

-E. L. Doctorow

I think there’s something quite valuable in this quote by E. L. Doctorow. What I take from it is a warning against a very specific and subtle form of procrastination: overplanning. You can fall down a rabbit hole of research and outlining that while valuable (and I say this as a strict outliner) must give way at some point to, you know, actually writing the book. For me outlining is a crucial step that reveals much of the story before I start plodding away at the first draft, but I can get caught up in a kind of tinkering that’s probably best done in the draft. In other words, it’s easy to tell myself I need to keep preparing rather than committing myself to the terrifying task of writing.

The (New) Novel

Finished off the second act in the outline last week, and I’ll compete the third act and the outline this week. I have a plot issues to work out in the transition from act two to three, and that’s why I’m not finished outlining yet. I think I know how to resolved it, though, and I’ll see how that resolution looks on the page in the next couple of days.

Short Stories

Finally got motivation in the ol’ short story department and sent out some submissions.

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

Four submissions is a solid week, and I ended up with nine for January, which is on pace for one-hundred subs for the year. I have so far sent one submission in February, but there a couple of flash contests this month that’ll push that total up. I also have a brand new story making the rounds and collecting rejections, and that’ll swell my February submission total as well. Only one rejection last week, but I’ve got a bunch pending that are past the standard response time for the publisher, so I expect a deluge of responses soon.

Microfiction

Here’s another batch of #vss365 microfiction. I struggled with a few of the prompts, and, well, this ain’t my best work. Still, it’s a good exercise, and that’s really the point.

January 27th, 2020

“What is this one, Sam? Nine?”

The old hitman sipped his scotch. “You wound me, Rico. This is our tenth.”

“Apologies.” Rico lifted his martini. “To another year of trying to kill each other.”

Sam clinked his longtime foe’s glass with his own. “Happy #adversary, Rico.”

January 28th, 2020

After each one I tell myself I’m in control and not the thing that lives in my head. I clean up the blood, destroy the evidence, cover my tracks. Then I dig a hole, and with each shovelful of dirt over yet another body I repeat my mantra. I #could stop if I wanted to.

January 29th, 2020

“How big you think Tony the Giant is?” Sal asked.

Lucky rubbed his chin. “Well, you’re large, I’m huge, and, you know Cossack Carl?”

“Yeah.”

“I’d say he’s gigantic.”

“Tony’s bigger than all of us,” Sal said.

Lucky nodded. “I’d put him at #tremendous at least.”

January 30th, 2020

My parents only wanted one child, but they had twins. Ever the pragmatic scientist, my father put my brother in a nutrient vat and let him grow. On my 18th birthday we were introduced. Dad said, “He’s an insurance policy. You never know when you’ll need an #extra part.” 

January 31st, 2020

When Max was born he had #rosy cheeks, chubby little legs, and a mouthful of shark-like teeth. He’s six now, and I tell him he’s a good boy. I also ignore the missing pets in the neighborhood or how he watches the other kids play, clacking his teeth together and drooling.

February 1st, 2020

“You remember the #script?” Sal asked.

Lucky snorted. “Yeah, it’s one line.”

“So say it like we practiced. It’s a branding thing.”

“I got it. No sweat.”

#

Lucky kicked open the door and pointed his pistol. “Mr. Ranello, I’m kill to here you!”

“Goddamnit, Lucky.”

February 2nd, 2020

Max Sims killed five people with a claw hammer. Through the one-way glass he looks normal, like a man in full possession of his #sanity. I know the type. When I sit down to question him, he’ll pick at the blood beneath his fingernails and act like I’m the one who’s crazy.

Goals

Once again, I aim to finish the outline for the new novel and send more submissions out. I’m shooting for three submissions at a minimum, and I think that’s doable.


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 1/13/20 to 1/19/20

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

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from novelist Hallie Ephron.

“Outlining is like putting on training wheels. It gives me the courage to write, but we always go off the outline.”

– Hallie Ephron

Since I’m deep into the outlining stage of my novel, I really like this quote from Hallie Ephron. I outline for a number of reasons, and one of them is it lets me dip my toe into the story before I dive into the deep, cold water of the first draft. It’s that training wheels aspect from the quote. Sure, an outline has a ton of other benefits too. It gives me a roadmap to write the story and lets me work out some of the plot and character issues before I get into the thick of a draft. Still, I do find, as Hallie Ephron says, that the outline gives me the courage to write the book and the courage to stray from it when the novel and its characters need to go off script.

The (New) Novel

I’ve mostly outlined the first act of the novel, and I like where it’s headed. I’ve also done some character plotting, using aspects of my own experiences in certain things for the background of the protagonist. My hope there is her backstory and motivations will ring truer to the reader. My outlines are always three acts and thirty chapters, so I’ve still got a bit of work to do. I hope to finish up by early next week with an outline that clock in between 8,000 and 10,000 words.

Short Stories

A sad week for short story submissions, unfortunately, as I didn’t send a single one.

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

I need three more submission this month to stay on pace for one-hundred for the year. One would think I could do that, but we’ll see. The rejection was a simple standard form rejection of no particular note. I might pad my monthly total with a few reprints, as there’s a few anthologies coming that might work for some of the horror stories I’ve sold in the past.

Microfiction

Here’s this week’s batch of #vss365 microfiction. I’ll admit I struggled a bit with the prompt words this week (a failing entirely my own and not the prompter’s), so it’s not my brightest and best bunch of micros. I do like the last one, though. As usual, you can click the link in the date to go to the specific tweet.

January 13th, 2020

“Look at that beautiful #opaline sky.”

“Opaline? It’s gray. It’s always GRAY.”

“Nah, you just have to learn to appreciate the weather here in Seattle.”

“Weather? WEATHER?! Weather changes, dude. This shit hasn’t budged from morbid murder clouds for six fucking months!”

January 14th, 2020

He found the first growth on his palm. Hers bloomed on one pale cheek. They sat in the warm dark apartment, watching their growths multiply and extend #fibrous tendrils that laced together and intertwined. Soon, they were bound together by malignancy, closer than ever.

January 15th, 2020

“Is that a revolver?” Lucky asked.

Sal drew the old single-action from its holster with a #flourish. “Yep, gonna try something new.”

“What? Like a gunfight?”

“Uh huh. I wanna see how fast I am.”

“Sal, it ain’t a good sign when just murdering folks loses its thrill.”

January 16th, 2020

We had shelter, food and water for a lifetime, but as the immediate danger passed and years mounted, we all felt a terrible #yearning. The grim truth inside our concrete savior loomed over everything, and one by one we chose a quick end over decades of pointless survival.

January 17th, 2020

The ancient ruins on the planet’s equator indicated a #riparian culture. The towering idols and strange domed structures hinted at a deeply religious society. Lastly, the mangled remains of the inhabitants spoke of a people plagued by sins we humans could easily recognize.

January 18th, 2020

All contact guys drink. Unless you’re a psychopath, you gotta quiet the demons. But it makes you sloppy, #muddles your thoughts, puts you in situations that’ll get you killed. The truth is you hope for those situations. The drink just gives you the guts to look for them.

January 19th, 2020

I’m not as #articulate as I once was. The bullet they dug out of my skull makes thoughts and words distant cousins at best. I don’t really need to speak, though. As I thumb back the hammer and point my pistol, the man who tried and failed to kill me understands perfectly.

Goals

Outline, outline, outline. Then, in between outlining, finish a short story or two and submit them. It would be great to finish the outline by the end of the week, but I feel like it might take me a tad longer.


That was my week. How was yours?

Weeks of Writing: 9/9/19 to 9/22/19

A couple weeks of writing and whatnot to report.

Words to Write By

One of my favorite authors, Stephen King, recently had a birthday, so today’s quote is one of his.

“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”

― Stephen King

I can certainly relate to this having just finished a novel. While you’re writing it’s all details, details, details, and it’s pretty easy to lose the big picture narrative if you’re not careful. In each revision–I did four–I tried to step further back and see if all the little detailed pieces I wrote made up a cohesive whole. I think I got a better picture of the forest, so to speak, with each revision, and the book felt more finished with each one. So, here’s hoping I could see that forest despite all the trees I kept planting to block my view. 🙂

The Novel

No much to report here. The manuscript is with my agent, and I don’t expect to hear back for a bit. I know this part of the process is not quick, and I need to be patient. Luckily, I have plenty of other project to fill my time, including a novella I owe Privateer Press and a little self-publishing project I’ll share in the near future.

Short Stories

I’ve been better with submissions over the last couple of weeks, but I still need to pick up the pace.

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

Five subs in two weeks is solid, and I’ll have more going out this week. That five puts me at 62 for the year, which is still off my pace for 100. Gonna have to bring it in the last three months if I want to hit that goal. Here’s a weird thing–I haven’t received a rejection in over a month. I feel like that dam is about to burst any minute.

The Blog

I blogged a bit more over the last couple weeks. Here are the highlights.

9/18/19: Submissions: The Genre Wasteland

In this post I talk about the dearth of markets for genres outside of my usual literary stomping grounds.

9/20/19: Submission Strategy: Ranking Response Times

Here I discuss a submission strategy based around how quickly (or slowly) a publisher might respond.

Goals

The big goal is to get at least halfway on the first draft of the Privateer Press novella, about 10,000 words. After that, it’s all about the submissions, and I’d like to get another five for the month.


That was my week(s). How was/were yours?

Weeks of Writing: 8/19/19 to 9/8/18

Way, way behind on these things. Time to catch up.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from Amy Poehler.

“Most authors liken the struggle of writing to something mighty and macho, like wrestling a bear. Writing a book is nothing like that. It is a small, slow crawl to the finish line. Honestly, I have moments when I don’t even care if anyone reads this book. I just want to finish it.”

– Amy Poehler

Though I have never heard likened writing to wrestling a bear, I’ve certainly heard it described with as much hyperbole. Amy Poehler’s second and third sentence are what really resonate with me, though. The slow crawl to the finish line has definitely been my experience, and I have absolutely gotten to the point where finishing the book became an all-consuming need that eclipsed any thoughts or dreams of publishing the damn thing.

The Novel

Well, the revision is done, and the manuscript has been sent back to my agent. Hopefully, the next step is he begins shopping the book, and then, if the writing gods smile on me, some publisher will actually want to buy it. A lot of folks ask me how I feel about the book, and it’s a complicated answer. I’ll see if I can sum up with three yes or no questions.

  1. Is it better? Yes, undoubtedly. Notes from my agent and critique partners helped me shape the story and characters into something more compelling. It also feels more finished, like a complete product now.
  2. Is it done? Yes, for now. I think I’ve done what I can do with it. If a publisher decides to buy it, there will undoubtedly be further revisions, and I am a-okay with that.
  3. Is it good enough? No idea. As hard as it is for this impostor-syndrome-inflicted writer to admit, I think the book is “good.” I think my premise is different and my approach to a well-travelled trope is unique enough to get a reader’s attention. But is it good enough for a publisher to offer me a book contract? I just don’t know, and like any short story submission, I’m gonna have to wait and see.

Short Stories

With my focus on the novel, I haven’t sent nearly as many submissions as I should have over the last three weeks.

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

Just one submissions sent in the last three weeks, though I did score an acceptance and a couple of stories were published. I’m currently sitting on 57 submissions for the year, which means I need to send out around 11 subs per month from here on out to hit 100 subs for the year. I can do it, but I’m gonna need to bust my ass and write some new material.

The Blog

Two blog posts over the last three weeks.

8/19/19: A Week of Writing: 8/12/19 to 8/18/19

The usual weekly writing update.

8/29/19: Proofing Checklist: Just Nod & Smile

Another entry in my proofing checklist, this one covers overused body language and nonverbal cues.

Publications

I had two pieces of flash fiction published in the last few weeks. Both are free to read, and you can check ’em out by clicking the links below.

“The Grove” published by The Molotov Cocktail

“Ditchers” published by Aphotic Realm

Goals

For the first time in a long time, the novel will not be one of my goals for the coming week. Instead. I need to finish a novella outline for Privateer Press, get my ass in gear with short story submissions, and work on a surprise project I’m very excited about and can’t wait to share with you all. 🙂


That was my week(s). How was/were yours?

A Week of Writing: 8/12/19 to 8/18/19

Here we go. Another week of writing gone by, and here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from Stephen King

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”

— Stephen King

Yeah, that’s, uh, a little grim, but the message is a good one. Kill, kill, kill your darlings. It’s a difficult process, but one that must be done, as Mr. King says. This last week as I wrapped up what will be the penultimate revisions of my novel, I removed a lot of subplots and extraneous characters, so that the focus would be on the central events and how they move the story along. It was difficult because I liked a couple of those subplots and a few of those secondary characters, but when I took a good long look at them I realized they were largely just in the way of the story I was trying to tell. So, out they went. If I’m so lucky as to sell this novel and get to write it’s sequel, then maybe some of the characters and subplots will return. We’ll see.

The Novel

As I said above, I wrapped up the second to the last revision last week. Now, what I need to do is fairly simple. I need to clarify a few scenes with some additional information, add one new chapter at the end to tie everything up, and then just give the whole thing one last proofreading. I aim to finish that in the next ten days and hand it back to my agent. Then I’m going on vacation and I will do my best not to think about the damn book for seven days (I will almost certainly fail).

Short Stories

Slow progress, but, you know, progress.

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

Three submissions is okay, but I need to get out a few more if I want to get back on pace for my goal of one-hundred. I’m at 55 for the year, and I’d like to end August with 60. That would still be off the pace, but with a good September I can catch up. Getting the novel off my plate should free me up to finish a number of short stories in various stages of completion. More new stories always means more submissions,.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

8/12/19: Get Your Hooks In: Even More Fun With First Lines

In this post I take another look at the first lines in some of my published works.

8/16/19: 2019 Acceptance Rate Check-In

Checking in on my acceptance rate for the year.

Goals

I’d like to be finished with the novel by the end of the week and have it back to my agent. It might take me an extra day or so, but my goal is to not begin September with an unfinished novel on my desktop.


That was my week. How was yours?