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.

Works in Progress: How Many Is Too Many?

I often go hunting for quotes from authors about writing, usually for my weekly writing update posts. I recently stumbled across the following quote from novelist Philip Roth, and I really dig it. He said:

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”

-Philip Roth

It’s a great quote, and I think it cuts to the heart of the most difficult thing a writer can do–call something “done.” If you’re like me, then your hard drive is chocked full of flash fiction pieces, short stories, and novels languishing under the label “work in progress.” So I thought I’d take a dig through my files and see just how many projects I’ve started and yet to finish.

First some ground rules. These rules apply to me and only me. You can, of course, make up your own mind for what counts as a work in progress.

  • One, I will only consider a piece I’ve actually submitted as a work in progress if it is currently undergoing a major revision, like pretty much a total rewrite.
  • Two, I will consider a work as “in progress” if I have actually completed an outline. Jotted-down story ideas don’t count.
  • Three, anything I am contractually obligated to write I won’t count because it WILL be finished. To me, a true WiP needs a little uncertainty.

Okay, let’s have a look.

Flash Fiction WiPs: 13 (about 13,000 words)

The main difference with my flash fiction works in progress is that everyone of these is technically a finished first draft. That has a lot to do with how I generate my flash fiction, primarily in one-hour flash fiction contests/writing exercise that by their very nature ensure I end up with 1,000 words by the end. Most of these are in serious, serious need of revision, but a couple are almost there and will likely head out the door in the near future.

Short Stories WiPs: 22 (about 50,000 words)

My short story works in progress range from simple outlines to ancient completed works that need to be totally rewritten and everything in between.  A fair number of these might never see true completion and submission, but there are a half dozen I’ll finish in the next few months, let my critique partners read, and then send them out into the world.

Novel & Novella WiPs: 3 (about 65,000 words)

This includes one novel in which I’ve written about 35,000 words (my next project), a full novel outline, and a finished novella I’m still tinkering with. The novel that has progressed beyond the outline stage will definitely be finished, and I’m working on it now. The outlined novel I might get to one day, but it’ll be down the road a ways. The novella needs some revision, mostly because it’s the sequel to a published short story, and I’m not sure it works without that short story.

In Summary

In total, I have 38 works in progress totaling about 130,000 words. That’s actually less than I expected, though if I counted stories that have been submitted at least once and are not undergoing major revision, that number would be much, much higher (maybe double).

Now let’s answer the question I posed in the title of this post. Do I have too many works in progress? Maybe, but it’s more a question of identifying which works are actually worth completing and which I should maybe set aside as ideas that are not gonna pan out. If I did that, I guess I’d end up with half the number of flash pieces and short stories, and, as much as I hate to say it, that outlined novel might not make the cut either. This kind of winnowing of WiPs is probably a good thing for every author to do at some point. Basically, I want my creative energies going toward works that are meaningful and might have a shot at publication. Of course, that’s a tough decision to make, and, as you can see, I kinda suck at it.


How many works in progress do you have going? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 10/22/18 to 10/28/18

Getting a late start, but here’s how my writing week that was went.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from Michael Crichton

“Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it …”

—Michael Crichton

This quote pretty much nails how I’m feeling at the moment as I stare down the barrel of another revision. It’s a tough to accept your novel isn’t quite where it needs to be. You want to get it out there, you want people to read it (and publish it), but if you ignore that inescapable feeling that the book isn’t ready and send it out anyway, I think you’re setting yourself up for failure. So, as I finish this revision knowing I’ll need to do at least one more, I’m trying to keep my eye on the goal. That goal is not to write and revise a book as quickly as possible, it’s to write and revise a book that represents my best work.

The Novel

I’m nearing the end of revision three on my novel Late Risers. I’ve fixed many problems, and the book has indeed gotten better, but there’s no escaping the fact I’ll need at least one more revision before it’s ready to shop. It’s a bitter pill because I’m so eager to get the book out in the world, but I wouldn’t be doing myself any favors pushing it out the door before it’s ready. So, it’s head down, keep working, keep refining, keep revising.

Short Stories

Well, last week was a rarity. I was so busy with novel revisions, I didn’t write or submit any short stories. In addition, I didn’t receive any rejections or acceptances, and I didn’t have anything new published. That should change this week, but for the moment, here’s a whole bunch of zeroes.

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

I’m still at 105 submissions for the year, and I have sent 9 submission in October. So I don’t feel last week’s goose egg is a major setback.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

10/22/18: A Week of Writing: 10/15/18 to 10/21/18

The usual weekly writing report.

10/26/18: How Many Rejections Add up to an Acceptance?

In this post, I looked at all my acceptances for the year and how many rejections each received before the big yes.

Goals

Finish this revision and get ready for the next, and hopefully last, one. I’d also like to get at least one more submission out in October for an even ten.

Story Spotlight

This week’s story spotlight is “Burning Man,” recently published in the very last issue of Havok magazine (in it’s current incarnation). This is a story I’ve been kicking around for awhile, and I’m glad it’s finally found a home. This one isn’t free to read, but the magazine is definitely worth the couple of bucks they’re asking over at Amazon. I would also urge you to head on out to the relaunched Havok Publishing and check out their submission guidelines.


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 9/3/18 to 9/9/18

It’s Monday, and I’m back on track with weekly, writerly updates.

Words to Write By

Today’s quotes comes from one of my favorite fantasy authors, Robin Hobb.

The challenge is always to find the good place to end the book. The rule I follow with myself is that every book should end where the next book would logically begin. I know that some readers wish that literally all of the threads would be neatly tied off and snipped, but life just doesn’t work that way.

– Robin Hobb

I wholeheartedly agree with Robin Hobb here. To me, there’s something really artificial about an ending that ties everything up neatly, and it always leaves me unsatisfied. Like she says, life doesn’t work that way. I think life is largely a collection of loose threads we spend, well, a lifetime trying to resolve. Although fiction doesn’t have to reflect how the real world works, this is an area where I try to cleave as close to reality as I can. The ending of Late Risers is messy, the resolution of some plot points uncertain, and I’m fine with that. Some of this has to do with my hope there will be a another book, but, even if there is only this one, I think Late Risers works as a standalone novel. (I really just hope it works as a novel, period.)

The Novel

My critique partners have finished my novel Late Risers, and I have their notes. The good news is a lot of the problems are ones I suspected were there, and my critique partners are in agreement on the major issues. That makes my job a lot easier, since we’re all basically on the same page with what is wrong with the book. The other good news is they liked the draft, the story, the concept, and the writing. Yes, there’s work to do on all of those elements, but after getting the notes, I think the first draft went about as well as I could have hoped.

This week I’m going to dive in and start my second round of revisions. I’ll still focus on fixing big-picture problems first, then worry about tightening the prose after that.

Short Stories

Not a whole lot to report on this front. I did get one story back that has had a number of near misses, and I promptly sent it out again. I tinkered with some old stories, and even unearthed an ancient short story from a backup hard drive that has a great concept with some, uh, archaic writing. That’ll be my next short story project. I currently have nine submissions pending with various publishers.

A very slow week for submissions.

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

I have 89 submissions for the year, and I’m still on a very comfortable pace to hit my goal of 100.

The Blog

Here are the blog posts from the last couple of weeks.

8/27/18: A Week of Writing: 8/20/18 to 8/26/18

The usual weekly writing update.

8/31/18: Submission Protocol: Summary Execution

Another entry in the submission protocol series. In this one I discuss summarizing your short story when a publisher asks for a synopsis.

9/4/18: Submission Statement: July & August 2018

I missed the July submission statement, so this is two months of my submission endeavors.

9/7/18: Iron Kingdoms Fiction – Peace of Mind

Another Iron Kingdoms story originally published in the pages of No Quarter magazine.

Goals

One major goal for the week: start the second round of revisions on Late Risers. Everything else will take a backseat until that’s finished.

Submission Spotlight

This week I’d like to point you at a brand new pro-paying (.06/word) speculative fiction market called Constellary Tales. Here’s what they’re looking for:

We love SF stories that carry characters from their beginning to their end. That take the reader along on the journey of discovery (or loss, or redemption, or whatever). And of course, they have to be speculative. The name “Constellary” betrays our love for science fiction, but we’re fans of fantasy too.

Note, they’re closed to submissions from September 11th through September 30th–no doubt to sort through the tons of submissions they’ve already received–but they will reopen to submissions on October 1st. Guidelines in the link below.

Constellary Tales Guidelines


 

That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 5/28/18 to 6/3/18

New month, new week, more writing and whatnot.

The Novel

I’m about 20,000 words into my first read-through of my horror novel, Late Risers. I let it sit for almost three weeks before I jumped in, and, as expected, my reactions range from “this is pretty good” to “this is objectively terrible.” That’s about par for the course, I think. It should be noted that what I’m doing in this read-through is fixing the problems that are so obvious they can be seen from space. The more nuanced issues, which I’m likely blind to at this point, will be left to skilled and gracious critique partners.

The question I ask myself a lot lately is did I write a good book? Here’s my honest answer. I think I wrote something that could become a good book after a liberal dose of literary elbow grease. I’m satisfied with that and more than willing to put in the work.

Short Stories

I finished a new flash piece this week, another one born of the one-hour flash challenge. It’s a horror/comedy mashup, and I really dig it. It’ll be going out for submission this week. I also had two short stories come back to me after a number of rejections. I really like both stories, and they received good feedback, but they’re not landing, so my writing group is giving them the once over before I send them out again.

A very, very slow week for submissions.

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

Yep, my first goose egg in the submissions sent column in a long time. That’s due to a combination of factors that include not having any new stories to send out and a greater focus on other projects (the novel, for example). That’ll change this week, as I have one new story and a couple of reinvigorated pieces ready for submission.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week. This week, I’m again aiming for three and some actual content beyond “Hey, look at all my submissions.”

5/30/18: A Week of Writing: 5/21/18 to 5/27/18

The usual weekly writing update.

6/1/18: Submission Statement: May 2018

My submission scorecard for the month of May.

Goals

The big goal is to continue my first read-through/revision on the novel. I’d like to get another 20,000 words or so.

Story Spotlight

This week it’s not a story, but an interview. Howard Andrew Jones, editor-in-chief of Tales from the Magician’s Skull and a very accomplished editor and writer to boot, interviewed me for his website in a series called Writer Chat. Check it out below.

Writer Chat: Aeryn Rudel


And that, friends, was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 5/7/18 to 5/13/18

And the second week of May is in the books. Less progress than I would have liked, but, in all, positive yardage.

Here’s how I did.

The Novel

The novel I’m currently working on is the fourth I’ve written in the last three years. This one is by far the most challenging, but it’s similar to the others in a lot ways. One of those ways goes like this:

  • Starting a novel – Pretty easy
  • Writing to the halfway point in a novel – Challenging but not too bad
  • Finishing a novel, especially the last 10,000 words or so – Head meets brick wall (repeatedly, at high velocity) difficult

So, yeah, I’m currently in the third stage and beating myself bloody trying to wrap everything up. I’m pretty sure I can do it today, but the finale and epilogue of this book have certainly slowed me down. That’s not really a bad thing. I mean, I do want to stick the landing as well as I can. Still, I’m very much ready to be done with the first draft.

Date Day Words Written
5/7/2018 Monday 504
5/8/2018 Tuesday 2031
5/9/2018 Wednesday 0
5/10/2018 Thursday 1082
5/11/2018 Friday 1531
5/12/2018 Saturday 1023
5/13/2018 Sunday 0

So another 6,171 words added to the manuscript for a total just north of 91,000. I think I’ve got another 3,000 or so to go, for a grand total for the first draft around 95,000 words.

Short Stories

Not much to report on this front. Most of my creative energies have gone into the novel. I’ve outlined a few ideas for new stories I want to write once the first draft of the novel is done and I can set it aside for a week or so.

Submissions

What I’d call slightly above average submission volume for the week.

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

No matter what I’m working on, I try to get at least a few submission out every week. This week I sent submissions #52, #53, and #54 for the year. Still on pace for 100 subs for 2018.

The Blog

For the first time in a while, I didn’t manage three blog posts, but I hope to get back on track this week.

5/7/18: A Week of Writing: 4/30/18 to 5/6/18

Just the usual here.

5/9/18: Submission Protocol: The Unsolicited Rewrite

This is a subject I’ve never covered on the blog, and it’s kind of an “unwritten” submission guideline. Worth a look if you’re unfamiliar with the term.

Goals

The primary goal is to finish the novel, which I hope to do today. The secondary goal is to finish up another project with an approaching (but still comfortably distant) deadline.

Story Spotlight

This week I’m gonna point you at a novelette I wrote for Privateer Press a while back called “Blood in the Water.” It’s a pretty good introduction to the Iron Kingdoms, the steam-powered fantasy world that serves as the setting for Privateer’s WARMACHINE and HORDES games. You can check it out on Amazon by clicking the cover below.


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 4/23/18 to 4/29/18

On more week of writing, editing, and submitting in the books.

Getting close to done(ish) on at least one big project.

The Novel

Solid production on the novel for the week, and I passed 80,000 words total. I’m at the climax of the story, and I’m looking at another 10,000 words to wrap up the first draft. I think 90,000 is a solid length for a horror novel, though it’ll likely boil down to 85,000 or so after my first pass and possibly a bit more once my beta readers are done chewing on it. Here’s how the week went.

Date Day Words Written
4/23/2018 Monday 2515
4/24/2018 Tuesday 2529
4/25/2018 Wednesday 0
4/26/2018 Thursday 2531
4/27/2018 Friday 0
4/28/2018 Saturday 0
4/29/2018 Sunday 1262

That’s another 8,837 words. Again, I’d have liked 10,000, but so close to the end I’m writing slower and taking more time to think certain plot points through. I hope next week’s update will be that I’ve finished the first draft.

Short Stories

Last week I tinkered with a bunch of trunk stories and outlined a sci-fi story, but I didn’t finish anything new. That’ll be apparent in my submission numbers. My focus has been on the novel and a few other projects, so less time for short stories.

Submissions

Only one submission this week, a trunk story I spruced up and sent out.

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

Technically, I only received one rejection last week, but I got three this morning, so it feels like a lot more. Anyway, I’ll account for this morning’s rejections in next week’s update. 🙂

The Blog

I’ve been pretty steady with updating the blog three times a week, and as a result my traffic and followers have increased. Here’s last week’s trio.

4/23/18: A Week of Writing: 4/16/18 to 4/22/18

Pretty self-explanatory, right?

4/25/18: A Day in the Life of a First Draft

One of my goofier posts in a while, I relate what my typical writing day looks like, hour by hour.

4/27/18: Back to Basics: More Cover Letter Components 

A follow up to my post about constructing a basic cover letter. This one details some of the additional elements publishers sometimes ask for in a cover letter.

Goals

Finish. The. Novel.

Story Spotlight

This week it’s a story from one of my favorite peddlers of flash fiction, The Molotov CocktailThe following story, “Masks,” took third place in their FlashFear contest.

Read “Masks

 

 


And that was my week. How was yours?