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?

Submission Statement: May 2018

Well, May was certainly an active month, though not as successful as March and April. Here’s how I did.

May 2018 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 14
  • Rejections: 12
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 0
  • Other: 1

Fourteen submissions in May. That’s solid, and I’ve got sixty for the year. The acceptance gives me six total for 2018, which puts me at an even ten percent acceptance rate. Not bad, but I’d like to get somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen percent by the end of the year. I’ve got a few stories shortlisted I’m waiting to hear about, but those could go either way.

Rejections

I won’t lie; twelve rejections is kind of a lot, but it’s to be expected with the increased submission volume. Here’s how those rejections broke down.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 6
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 5
  • Personal Rejections: 1

Again, a fair amount of “good” rejections, but some of these stories just aren’t landing despite some encouraging notes. I’m gonna take a good hard look at them and see if I can’t put my finger on what might be missing. There’s really nothing new and exciting in these rejections, so instead of showing you yet another form rejection, I think an examination of how long these markets are taking to respond would be more useful.

Rejection Date Sent Date Received Days Out
Rejection 1 28-Feb-18 1-May-18 62
Rejection 2 26-Mar-18 1-May-18 36
Rejection 3 3-May-18 5-May-18 2
Rejection 4 1-May-18 9-May-18 8
Rejection 5 29-Mar-18 11-May-18 43
Rejection 6 6-May-18 13-May-18 7
Rejection 7 5-May-18 20-May-18 15
Rejection 8 11-May-18 21-May-18 10
Rejection 9 14-May-18 21-May-18 7
Rejection 10 30-Apr-18 22-May-18 22
Rejection 11 22-May-18 23-May-18 1
Rejection 12 23-May-18 24-May-18 1

Not too bad. The longest wait was 60 days, and that’s well within acceptable parameters. As you can see, there’s a fair number of single digit responses here, and that’s not uncommon for a lot of pro markets.

Other

The “other” this month was a withdrawal letter. I sent this withdrawal for what is, by far, the most common reason I’ve sent them in the last few years. The market went under and is now defunct. I sent this letter more as a professional courtesy than anything else.

Dear Editors,

I would like to withdraw my stories [story title] and [story title] from consideration at [publisher]. 

Thank you for your time.

Best,

Aeryn Rudel

Did I have to send this letter? Maybe not. The market basically disappeared, and this email bounced back with an “address not found” note. That said, I don’t know what happened on the other end of those submissions, and closing down a publication is obviously not something anyone wants to do. So it’s important to me to stay professional, wish the publisher well, and move on.

Acceptances

One acceptance this month, which broke a minor rejection streak I had going.

Acceptance: Sent 5/22/2018; Accepted 5/25/2018

Thank you for taking the time to submit your story [story title]. I’d be delighted to publish it on [publisher].

I’ve scheduled it for publication on 29 June, if this date changes I will let you know.

Thanks again for submitting your work.

This is my second publication with this particular market. The interesting thing here is that this is a form letter. Yep, form letters aren’t just for rejections. That said, you’ll often get a personal note after the initial form acceptance with requests for things like bios and author photos and/or info about the contract.


And that was my May. Tell me about yours.

A Week of Writing: 5/21/18 to 5/27/18

Running a little behind this week with the holiday weekend and whatnot, but I’m back on track again.

Here’s what I accomplished for the week.

The Novel

So, I had hoped to be neck-deep in my first round of revisions by this point, but another project with a looming deadline pulled me away. Plus, I think I might benefit from a little more distance from the first draft. I’ll start going through the book this week or early next. I did decide one major plot point needed to change, and while that’s going to add some time to my revision, the book will be better for it.

Short Stories

I did manage to work on some short stories last week. I put down about 3,000 words on a brand new one called “The Infinite You.” It’s pure sci-fi, which is not normally my forte, but I’ve been working on expanding into other genres, and I dig the concept for this one. I should finish a first draft this week.

A very busy week for submissions.

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

The four submissions I sent last week give me a total of 60 for the year. I did get a fair number of rejections, and three came on the same day. Those rejections were starting to pile up, and I was working on a pretty good streak, but I also got an acceptance last week. So, this week, I’m starting with a clean slate.

Other Projects

The game design project I’ve been working is a Dungeons & Dragons adventure for Goodman Games. I finished the first draft last week and playtested the module with a great group of experienced gamers. They gave me fantastic feedback, and this week I’ll be incorporating that feedback into the manuscript and preparing the final draft.

The Blog

I seem to be stuck on two blog posts a week lately. I had a pretty good run there of three per week, and I’d like to get back to that.

5/21/18: A Week of Writing: 5/14/18 to 5/20/18

Uh, the writing I did for the week before last week.

5/23/18: New Author Starter Kit – Acceptance Prep

The follow-up to my post New Author Starter Kit – Submission Prep, this one deals with the four things you should have ready to go when that first acceptance rolls into your inbox.

Goals

The goals this week is to get a final draft of the adventure for Goodman Games, finish the short story “The Infinite You,” and get cracking on the first revision pass on the novel

Story Spotlight

This week, it’s a story I recently published in a new sword & sorcery magazine called Tales from the Magician’s Skull published by Goodman Games. My story, “Beyond the Block,” was published in the inaugural issue, and it’s a sword & sorcery piece (naturally) with a strong horror element. You can check it out in PDF or print below.


That was my week. How was yours?

New Author Starter Kit – Submission Prep

If you’re a new author and you want to submit your work to magazines, literary journals, anthologies, contests, and the like, it can seem a daunting process. I mean, where do you submit? How do you submit? A lot of us simply learned by doing, and, of course, experience is often the best teacher. That said, there’s no reason to go into the wilds of submission land completely unprepared.

So, based on my experience, here’s a list of six things you need before you throw your precious word baby on the mercy of the market.

1) Duotrope or The Submission Grinder. These two online market guides and submission trackers are, in my opinion, a must for any new author. Not only do they have a vast, searchable databases of potential markets, they also keep track of your submissions so you don’t have to worry about keeping a spreadsheet (though it’s not a terrible idea to do that anyway). Duotrope is a paid service (at $5.00 a month) and The Submission Grinder is free. There are other good databases out there, and you might track those down later, but Duotrope and The Submission Grinder are, in my opinion, the best places to start.

2) Separate submission email address. I think it’s a good idea to set up a separate email address for your submissions (and then use that email when you set up submission-related accounts like Submittable). This is a do as I say and not as I do kind of thing, as my own email is, uh, kind of a legacy thing that would take a while to explain. So why a separate email? Three reasons.

  • Less chance of losing publisher responses in the spam folder. If your personal email is like mine, you probably get a shit-ton of junk mail. I’m pretty diligent about checking my spam folder, but if you have a dedicated email address just for submissions, you’ll get less junk, and you can cut way, way down on the chance of missing a publisher response if your spam folder eats it.
  • Professional presentation. That personal email you’ve had since college, you know, buds_and_beers@aol.com, may not be the first impression you want to make with a publisher. So you might want to set up an email address that is a little more writerly, probably just your name. If you have a very common name, try something like John_Smith_Writes or John_Smith_Author. Is a publisher gonna reject you because of an email address? Very, very unlikely unless it’s outright offensive, but, hey, best foot forward and all that.
  • Mental health. So, here’s the thing, you’re gonna get rejected, like, a lot, and if those rejections show up somewhere other than your personal email you check all the damn time, those rejections might be a little easier to handle. If you can choose when to deal with rejections because they’re safely locked away in your submission email address, I think you’ll be better off, especially at first.

3) Submittable account. Not every publisher accepts submissions through email, and it’s becoming a lot more common for publishers to use submission management software. The most common is Submittable, and I would urge you to just set up an account right away. It’s free, and it’s one less thing you have to think about when you’re agonizing over which story to send to a publisher. There are a few other submission managers, but they either don’t require an author account or they’re not common enough yet to worry about right off the bat.

4) Shunn Standard Manuscript format. Most publishers are going to ask you to format your manuscript in something called standard or Shunn Standard Manuscript format (sometimes simply called standard manuscript format), and you should get familiar with it right away. In fact, if you know how to use MS Word, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to set up a template so you don’t have to mess with all the formatting for every manuscript. Some publishers want slight variations of the format, most often with how things like italics are treated, but this is the most common format for short story submissions. In fact, if a publisher doesn’t mention manuscript format in their guidelines, I just send it in standard.

5) Cover Letter template. When you send a submission, you’ll need some kind of cover letter. It should be simple and short. Generally, the publisher wants to see the story title, the approximate word length, and any publications credits you might have. Here’s the template I use:

Dear Editors,

Please consider my short story [Story Name] for publication at [Publisher Name]. The story is approximately [# of words] words in length. My short fiction has recently appeared in [Market 1], [Market 2], and [Market 3].

Best,

Name (byline)
Address
Email

If you don’t have any publication credits yet, just leave that part off. It’s a perfectly serviceable cover letter without it. For more info on the component parts of this cover letter, check out this post: Back to Basics: The Cover Letter.

6) Know your rights. One thing you should definitely understand before you send your work to a market is what happens if they accept said work. By that I mean what rights they acquire. Many publishers put this information in their guidelines. This article, “Rights: What They Mean and Why They’re Important,” at Writing-World.com by Marg Gilks has good explanations of the rights publishers often look to acquire (and you can find a bunch more with a quick Google search). As a genre author, I think the SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) model contract is another great resource for authors of all types and experience levels. This contract is meant to be fair to both authors and publishers, and I would recommend referring to it when you need to know what is generally considered standard in the industry (and what isn’t).

I’ll also add the websites for the various writer organizations are a great source of info about the industry, and there’s one for just about every genre: HWA (Horror Writers Association), MWA (Mystery Writers of America), RWA (Romance Writers of America), and the aforementioned SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).


Of course, this list doesn’t encompass everything you might need for submissions, but like the contents of any good starter kit, these are things I think you’ll need right away and most often. In the second part of this short series, we’ll get all inspirational and stuff, and I’ll break down what you need for that first acceptance. So check back soon for New Author Starter Kit – Acceptance Prep.

Did I leave anything out of the starter kit? Let me know in the comments.

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?

Submission Protocol: The Unsolicited Rewrite

Here’s a scenario for you. You receive a very encouraging personal rejection from a publisher, where the editor says something like, “Hey, good story. We’re going to pass, but we think you might consider improving the story by changing X and revising Y.” If you’re new to the submission grind, you might think if you addressed X and Y and sent the story back to the publisher, you’d have a good chance of an acceptance. Unfortunately, that’s called an unsolicited rewrite, and the majority of publishers won’t consider them.

Though well known to savvy submitters, the “no unsolicited rewrites” policy is often an unwritten submission guideline. New writers may violate this policy because a) no one has told them about it, and b) they’ve only submitted to a few markets who may not mention unsolicited rewrites in their guidelines.

But how do I know most publishers don’t want unsolicited rewrites? Three reasons.

1) First, it’s not an entirely unwritten policy, and some publishers do call it out in their guidelines. When a publisher does mention the policy, it’ll look something like this.

Unsolicited Rewrites: We DO NOT accept unsolicited rewrites of stories that we’ve already rejected. (That is a nearly universal policy among short fiction markets of all genres.)

This is an excellent example, and I really appreciate this pro market looking to help folks new to the biz. The kicker is in parentheses, of course, and as far as I can tell, it is a nearly universal policy.

2) Second, if a publisher wants you to revise a story and resubmit it, they’ll straight up tell you. Basically, they will solicit you for the rewrite. That’s often called a revision request, and it’s fairly common.

3) Finally, I know folks, unaware of this policy, who have sent unsolicited rewrites. What was the result? Nothing dire, just a very polite letter stating the publisher does not accept them. In the most recent case, I think the publisher was aware the policy was not in their guidelines, so being polite, professional humans (most editors fall into this category, by the way), they recognized an innocent mistake and simply informed the author of their policy and invited the author to submit something new.

So, to sum up, when you get good feedback from a publisher, revise the story and send it somewhere else. Send the encouraging publisher something new.


Thoughts on unsolicited rewrites? Know of any publishers that accept or encourage them? Tell me about it in the comments.

Submission Statement: April 2018

Although not as good as March, April was a solid month that featured a little but of everything. Lots of submissions, some rejections, an acceptance, and a few other bits and pieces.

April 2018 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 13
  • Rejections: 10
  • Acceptances: 3
  • Publications: 2

Thirteen submissions in April, and that’s very good production. It more than keeps me on pace for my goal of one hundred submissions for the year. I’m currently at forty-eight, so almost half-way there with eight months to go.

Rejections

Ten rejections in on the high side, but I’ve been consistently sending out submissions, so more rejections just comes with that particular territory. Here’s how the rejections break down.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 4
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 5
  • Personal Rejections: 1

Mostly “good” rejections in April, and I think the stories I have out there are pretty strong and will find a home eventually. Here are some of the highlight rejections for the month.

Highlight Rejection 1: Sent 2/18/2018; Rejected 4/8/2018

Thanks for submitting [story title] but I’m going to pass on it. It’s nicely written and I enjoyed reading it, but overall it didn’t quite win me over, I’m afraid. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way. I look forward to seeing your next submission.

This is a higher-tier rejection from one of the premier science fiction markets. This was my first submission to this publisher, and though I would have loved an acceptance, a higher-tier rejection is not too bad right out of the gate. I’ll definitely submit to them again during their next submission window.

Highlight Rejection 2: Sent 3/24/2018; Rejected 4/30/2018

Thank you for sending us [story title]. We appreciate your taking the time to send it in for our consideration. The editors have read the story but feel that it will not be a good fit for our publication. We wish you luck with placing it elsewhere. 

Please send something new when we reopen to new submissions.

Another higher-tier rejection from a new market (for me). Again, I will definitely submit here again when they reopen to submissions.

Highlight Rejection 3: Sent 6/24/2017; Rejected 4/30/2018

Thank you again for allowing us to consider your story, but it’s not a match for [anthology title].

Your story made it to the final round. It was ranked among the best of the best. We had thousands of submissions from writers all over the world. Even some of our favorites, like your story, didn’t make it through.

Most of the time we don’t move forward with a story because it’s similar to another story in a different word slot. We’re striving for a diversity of sub-genres, writing styles and plot lines, in addition to stories of different lengths.

So that’s the bad news: Your story wasn’t selected for [anthology title]. The good news is that there will be many more opportunities to submit to [publisher] in the future. Even though your work was not selected, you are a talented writer. We hope you will consider submitting to our future editions. 

And the heart-breaker. This is a personal rejection from a horror anthology I submitted to last year. Now, I knew this was going to be a long wait because I checked Duotrope for their last anthology and saw it was taking somewhere in the neighborhood of 250+ days for a response. But they were open to simultaneous submissions, and I submitted a reprint, so, basically, I was fine with the long wait. That said, to wait 310 days and get so close is disappointing, but that’s part of the gig, and I certainly don’t hold that against the publisher (I knew what I was getting into). I do appreciate the very nice rejection letter the editors sent, and I will submit work to their future anthologies.

Acceptances

Thought not the record-breaking month I experienced in March, any month with an acceptance is a good month in my book.

Acceptance 1: Sent 1/18/2018; Accepted 4/22/2018

I am delighted to inform you that we would like to publish your story ’Scare Tactics’ in our Lost Souls Short Story Anthology. 

Since I’ve already announced this acceptance pretty much everywhere, I’m fine naming names here. When the Lost Souls anthology is released in September, I’ll let you all know. There is more to this acceptance letter, but it’s just the contract and legal stuff standard with any publication.

Publications

Two publications this month, both repeat customers. 🙂

Publication 1: “New Arrivals” in Havok

My story “New Arrivals” was published in the April issue of Havok magazine. This is my second publication with Havok, and you can check out that story and bunch of other great flash pieces by clicking the link below.

Publication 2: “The Food Bank” in The Arcanist

My third publication with The Arcanist, “The Food Bank” is a post-apocalyptic flash piece. You can read the whole thing by clicking the praying mantis below.


 

And that’s April. How was yours?