Weeks of Writing: 3/25/19 to 4/14/19

Well, I fell behind on these again, so here’s a three-week catch-up of the weeks that were.

Words to Write By

The quote this week comes from Stephen King

“The writer must have a good imagination to begin with, but the imagination has to be muscular, which means it must be exercised in a disciplined way, day in and day out, by writing, failing, succeeding and revising.”

– Stephen King

I’m kind of a fitness nerd, so likening the imagination (and the writing process) to a muscle that must be exercised on a regular basis make a lot of sense to me. Like working out, it’s something you have to do even when it’s the last fucking thing you want to do. If you want that literary muscle to get stronger, you have to use it, and though the first thing King lists, writing, can be hard enough, it’s those other things, especially the failing and revising, that really stimulate literary growth for me. As I continue to revise my novel, I’m definitely learning, getting better, and next time I’ll be stronger and faster because of it.

The Novel

Well, my goal for finishing the revision of Late Risers by mid-month was a little optimistic, but the extra time I took was mostly planning and additional outlining, and that’s paying dividends now. I’m in the thick of the revision, and I like where things are going. The story feels stronger, more cohesive, and the changes and additions I’ve made are leading me to some very interesting and, I hope, compelling places. In short, I feel good about how the novel is shaping up, and even though my writer brain is screaming at me not to trust this feeling, I’m gonna run with it and hope it gets me through this round of revisions.

Short Stories

What’s below accounts for roughly three weeks of submissions, and I’d say I’m back on track for the most part.

  • Submissions Sent: 10
  • Rejections: 8
  • Acceptances: 2
  • Publications: 1
  • Shortlist: 0

So, those 10 submissions put me at 34 for the year (6 in April). That puts me on pace for around 120 submissions in 2019. I need to get out three or four more in April to stay on target, but that shouldn’t be difficult. A fair amount of rejections in these past three weeks, and a few of them were heart-breakers, but the acceptances and a publication softened the blow somewhat.

The Blog

Here are the blog highlights for the last three weeks.

3/27/19: Submission Top Ten: Shortest Waits

This is a list of my quickest rejections and acceptances, including what I consider an unbreakable record.

4/1/19: A Month of Microfiction: March 2019

Just what it says on the tin. This is all the Twitter microfiction I wrote last month.

4/8/19: Micromanagement: 4 Benefits of Writing Tiny

In this post I explore some of the benefits of writing microfiction.

Goals

I’d like to finish the revision of Late Risers by the end of the month, but if it takes a bit longer, that’s okay too.

Publications

One publication over the last three weeks. I took 3rd place in The Arcanist’s Magical Story contest, and you can read my entry, “Paint-Eater,” by clicking the link below.

“Paint-Eater”

Published by The Arcanist (free to read)


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

Submission Statement: March 2019

March has come and gone, and here’s how I did for the month.

March 2019 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 12
  • Rejections: 7
  • Acceptances: 3
  • Publications: 2
  • Submission Withdrawal: 1

Okay, this was a pretty good month. A dozen submissions is great, three acceptances is even better, and, hey, seven rejections isn’t too bad, especially since a couple of them were “good” rejections. I also had a couple of publications for the month, which I’ll link at the bottom of the post. I did have to withdraw one story after my status queries went unanswered, but that just happens sometimes.

March’s totals (and one in April) give me twenty-nine submissions for the year, which puts me back on pace for one-hundred. I’m also up to five acceptances, which is roughly the same pace I was on last year. Of course, I hope to exceed that.

Rejections

Seven rejections for March.

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

I did receive a nice personal rejection and a very nice upper-tier rejection, which is the spotlight rejection for the month. (As usual, I’ve removed anything that might overtly reveal the publisher, the story, or any personal information).

Dear Aeryn,

Thank you for considering [publisher] for your story, [story title]

Unfortunately we have decided not to accept it.

As much as we wish we could, we can’t publish every good story that comes our way. Truthfully, we’re forced to return a great many stories with merits that make them well worthy of publication, including yours.

Your story did, however, reach the final stage of our selection process–one among an elite group. Less than 5% of stories make it this far. That is no small feat.

We wish you the best of luck finding a home for your story elsewhere, feel confident of your success in doing so, and hope to receive submissions from you in the future.

This is my second close-but-not-cigar rejection in a row from this pro publisher, so as disappointing as it to get this close again and not make it through, I am definitely getting a very good idea of the types of stories I need to send. Hopefully, my next attempt (or the one after that) will end in an acceptance.

So, what should we take away from this rejection? Well, the most obvious thing is what has pretty much become my motto here on the blog: good stories get rejected too. Even though I didn’t get published here, I feel confident I have a good story, so I subbed it to another pro market, and if it’s rejected there, I’ll sub it to another, and another, and another.

Acceptances

Three acceptances this month, one of which is new territory for me. My microfiction story “Treed” was published by 50-Word Stories. I just started writing microfiction, so that’s some nice validation I’m doing something right. If you’d like to take a gander at the microfiction I’ve been writing, I gathered all of March’s micros in this post.

The second acceptance is with Jersey Devil Press for my reprint flash fiction story “Big Problems.” This is a new publisher for me, so it’s great to get an acceptance on my first submission. That story will be out in April, and I’ll point you all to it.

The last acceptance is from my old pals at The Arcanist. My short story “Paint-Eater” took third place in their Magical Short Story contest. That one will be free to read sometime later this month.

Publications

Two publications this month, the aforementioned “Treed” and 50-Word Stories and a flash piece called “Far Shores and Ancient Graves” at NewMyths. Both are free to read by clicking the links below.

“Treed”

Published by 50-Word Stories 

“Far Shores and Ancient Graves”

Published by NewMyths 


And that was my March. Tell me about yours.

Submission Top Ten: Shortest Waits

Last week I showed you my ten longest waits for submissions. This week, I’m gonna flip the script and show you the ten shortest waits. So, without further ado, here they are:

Time Elapsed Result Sold
1 10 minutes Rejection
2 17 minutes Acceptance Yes (2)
3 46 minutes Rejection
4 49 minutes Rejection Yes
5 1 hour, 37 minutes Rejection
6 1 hour, 52 minutes Higher-Tier Rejection
7 2 hours, 30 minutes Rejection
8 2 hours, 58 minutes Rejection
9 3 hours, 22 minutes Rejection Yes (3)
10 4 hours, 6 minutes Higher-Tier Rejection

Instead of going through each one of these (they’re all pretty similar), I’ll just give you the highlights.

  • Yep, 10 minutes is my record, and it’s one I’ll probably never break. You might be thinking, “Wow, they must really hate your work,” but that is apparently not the case, as they’ve since bought a story from me. This market is just one that rejects quickly, and they could likely tell within the first paragraph the story wasn’t going to work for them. You might also be wondering if I just really screwed up the formatting or missed some other crucial guideline. I thought the same thing, and I went back over the submission with a fine-toothed comb. As far as I can tell, the submission was formatted correctly.
  • My second shortest wait was an acceptance, which is another record I doubt I’ll ever break. They bought another story from me a few weeks later, but the response took almost THREE DAYS, an eternity compared to the first submission. 🙂
  • There’s ten spots here, but they only cover four markets. One of the markets has five slots, and another has three. These are both well-known for rejecting (and accepting) very quickly.
  • Three of the stories here I’ve gone on to sell to other markets, sometimes multiple times as reprints. I’m only pointing that out because the speed of rejection often has a lot more to do with the market than your story.
  • Most of these are form rejections, but there’s a couple of higher-tier rejections, and I’ve even gotten full-blown personal rejections with tons of feedback on next-day responses. So, just because a market responds quickly doesn’t meant they didn’t read your story or gave it due consideration.
  • You might be wondering if these speedy rejections bother me. They don’t. I appreciate how quickly these markets respond, as it means I can send the story out again (or make revisions) almost right away.

That’s my top ten shortest waits. Tell me about some of yours, especially if you’ve beaten my record time for a rejection or an acceptance. 🙂

A Week of Writing: 3/18/19 to 3/24/19

Back on track with the weekly writing updates. Here’s the week that was.

Words to Write By

The quote this week comes from the incomparable Ray Bradbury

“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”

– Ray Bradbury

I touched on this a bit last week, but I think it’s worth talking about again. Obviously, if you want to make it as a writer (at any level), you have to learn to accept rejection. That’s a given, but what might Mr. Bradbury mean by “rejecting acceptance?” I think what he’s not saying is don’t enjoy acceptance or success. Those little (or even big) victories are important to celebrate (though, admittedly, I suck at it). What I take away from this quote is you can’t rest on your laurels or believe an acceptance, even to a prestigious market, means you no longer need to work on your craft. I think it’s about an attitude of stopping for a moment to revel in success, but always with a mind to what’s next? What can I improve? How can I get better?

The Novel

I’ve finished with my chapter summary spreadsheet, and it has been an enlightening process. I was really able to pinpoint where I need to do the most work and how best to incorporate my agent’s feedback. This week I’m going to plot out the new material, add it into the spreadsheet, make notes of changes it’ll create downstream, and then start writing. I think my mid-April goal is still a possibility, but I don’t want to rush the process. I’d rather take a bit longer and do it right than give in to the urge to finish, finish, FINISH! 🙂

Short Stories

Not exactly burning it up this week.

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

Yep, just one submission, but it’s a story I’ve been working on and revising for–I shit you not–seven years. So getting it to the point where it’s ready for submission felt like a victory. Still time in March for me to send a few more submissions and hit my numbers toward the goal of 100 submissions.

The Blog

Three blog posts last week.

3/18/19: Weeks of Writing: 2/25/19 to 3/17/19

Catching up on the weeks I missed.

3/20/19: Why I’m Not Writing: Procrastination

This post deals with the ever-present bane of deadlines and finished manuscripts: procrastination.

3/22/19: Submission Top Ten: Longest Waits

In this post I took a look at the longest I’ve had to wait for a response to a submission and how it turned out.

Goals

Broken record time: continue with revisions to Late Risers and send out more short stories.

Very Short Stories

Had a pretty good crop of microfiction last week. Here are the top three, in my humble opinion.

March 20th – Prompt: Pseudonym

He does his job under a pseudonym. Sometimes he goes by cancer, or stroke, or heart attack; other times he’s car accident, killed in action, or simply victim. No matter what he calls himself today, his true name is writ large and bold across each of our frail bodies.

March 21st – Prompt: Magnify

A demon walked into Lucifer’s office with an idea.
“I’ve invented a way to magnify human evil so it’s easier for them to be terrible to each other,” the demon said.
“Wonderful! What’s it called?”
“That’s the best part. It sounds harmless. I call it ‘social media.'”

March 23rd – Prompt: Assassins (theme not word)

He began his career with a gun. When it got too easy, he used a knife. After that, he just strangled his hits, and we thought we’d seen the pinnacle of the hitman’s art. Then they found Jimmy Moretti, eyes wide, mouth open, not a mark on him, literally scared to death.


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

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.

The Rejectomantic Arts: Reading the Wait

As you know, rejectomancy is the practice of divining hidden meaning from rejection. This is the most commonly done with rejection letters, but rejectomancy is a broad tent sheltering many mystical writerly arts. You see, a writer looks for meaning, patterns, and validation in more than just rejection letters. They will attempt to apply other forms of literary prognostication to, well, just about everything related to the submission process. In this post we’ll examine the merits (or lack thereof) of one of these esoteric arts: reading the wait.

What is reading the wait? It is the rejectomantic practice of finding hidden meaning not in the rejections themselves but how long it takes for them to arrive. I’ve touched on this subject in past blog posts, but this time I have a sterling example of how it works (in my brain, at last).

There’s one pro publisher to whom I’ve submitted over a dozen times without an acceptance, though I’ve gotten close (and I’ll keep trying). I have enough data points on when they send rejections I think I can see patterns and then apply a little rejectomancy. Here’s what I mean. According to Duotrope, this market rejects a story on an average of sixteen days and accepts a story on an average of thirty-eight days. So, if one of my stories is held beyond sixteen days, I may begin to hope. I have other data points too. I received a higher-tier rejection after twenty-nine days, so if a story is held longer than that, I may really begin to hope. Finally, I received a close-but-no-cigar rejections after forty-three days, which means if I start getting into the the mid-thirties, I think, “Hey, maybe I have a real chance.”

But is there any real information to be gained by my literary tea leaf reading? Maybe a little, depending on the market, but you shouldn’t hang your hat on it. The publisher above is pretty consistent, and most of my form rejections have come within a few days of their average response time, but a few have come as many as eleven days after. It’s possible the longer this market (or any market) holds a story the better, but there are so many factors that could influence the wait time that have nothing to do with your story (a large glut of submissions, editors or slush readers on vacation, when you send the submission, etc.). In other words, it can be misleading to read too much into it. This is especially true with markets that send further consideration letters. A market like Apex or Pseudopod, for example, will straight up tell you they’re holding your story for further consideration or kicking it up to the editors. No rejectomancy necessary (and, yes, I think it’s okay to hope a little at that point).

In summation, it’s fun to read into wait times, but, as hard as it may be, I wouldn’t put much stock in it. I’ve had a market with an average wait time for acceptances of seventy-five days accept my story in three, and a market with a rejection wait time of four days send me a form rejection in sixty. After three-hundred-some rejections, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s likely best to look at each submission in a vacuum with it’s own set of invisible parameters and wait times unknowable to even the most skilled rejectomancer. It might not be as fun, but it’ll be easier on your sanity. 🙂


Thoughts on reading the wait? Tell me about it in the comments.

Charting the Rejection Progression

As I’ve discussed many times on the blog, there are different tiers of rejection letters that may indicate how close you might have came to an acceptance. Now, spread across multiple publishers, the differences in these rejections may not be so apparent, but when they come from the same publisher you can often see the progress you’re making. As usual, I have examples!

I’m going to show you three rejections from the same pro market, and I think you’ll see the progression I’m talking about.

Rejection 1*

Thank you for considering [publisher] for your story, [story title]. 

Unfortunately we have decided not to accept it. We wish you the best of luck finding a home for your story elsewhere. 

A polite but unremarkable standard form rejection like you might see from a dozen different publishers. I racked up five or six more just like this, but I was undeterred. This is very tough market, and I knew I was gonna have to dial in my submission targeting to have a chance of getting through.

Rejection 2

Thank you for considering [publisher] for your story, [Story Title]. 

Though several of our staff members enjoyed the story, it did not receive enough votes to make it to the third and final round of voting. We wish you the best of luck finding a home for this story elsewhere and hope you will consider us for future submissions. 

Well, okay, now we’re getting somewhere. As they said in this very informative rejection, the story made some progress, but ultimately it wasn’t for them. I learned some things here. This story is a bit different from what I’d been sending, so in my next original fiction submissions to this publisher I tried to choose work closer in tone and voice to this one.

Rejection 3

Thank you for considering [publisher] for your story, [story title]

Unfortunately we have decided not to accept it. 

As much as we wish we could, we can’t publish every good story that comes our way. Truthfully, we’re forced to return a great many stories with merits that make them well worthy of publication, including yours. 

Your story did, however, reach the final stage of our selection process–one among an elite group. Less than 5% of stories make it this far. That is no small feat. 

We wish you the best of luck finding a home for your story elsewhere, feel confident of your success in doing so, and hope to receive submissions from you in the future. 

Now this is a good rejection and it tells me so much. I know my story got close, so I learned a lot about the kind of stories they’re looking for. They also sent me detailed feedback, which was immensely helpful, and I’ve since revised the story based on the issues they called out. It’s a better story now, and I feel pretty confident it’ll find a home soon.

So, what conclusions can we draw from this progression? For one, don’t give up on a market, especially a tough one, just because you’re racking up rejections. This is even more important if you’re getting rejections like the last two examples. Sometimes rejections are like playing a game of Battleship– a few close misses can tell you an awful lot about where your target might be. Also, it’s important to understand when you get one of those higher-tier or close-but-no-cigar rejections from a market like this, you likely have a good and salable story on your hands. Yes, it wasn’t right for this publisher, but you can have some confidence the next one (or the one after that) might dig it.

*As I often do, I removed certain elements from these rejections that might identify the publisher or story in question. My goal, of course, is never to “call out” an editor or publication for a rejection (that’s stupid and immature) but to present informative examples like these so we can learn from them.


Thoughts on these rejections? Do you have a rejection progression of your own? Tell me about it in the comments.