Let’s Play Rejection Bingo

Today we’re returning to rejections, but we’re gonna have a little fun with it. If you’ve been submitting your work for any length of time, you’ve likely accumulated a bunch of form rejections, and you’ve no doubt recognized common phrases that appear in these rejections. So let’s play a little game, and see how long it takes to get a Rejection Bingo!

Before we get started, a little disclaimer/info. Editors use these phrases because they send out a lot of rejections, and they need a boilerplate template to save time. That’s a good thing because it generally means every writer gets a response to their submission. Plus, honestly, these phrases often are a good and gentle way to communicate the no. Keep in mind a boilerplate rejection does NOT mean the editor is not being sincere or they didn’t like the story. In fact, some of the phrases below often indicate a higher-tier rejection and/or even a short-list rejection.

Okay, with that out of the way, here’s the card (in standard manuscript format, of course). The card has 25 common form rejections phrases, so over the next week or month or whatever see if you can get a Rejection Bingo. Feel free to fudge the phrases a bit. For example, if you get a rejection that says “Elected not to publish,” go ahead and count that as a “Decided not to publish.” This is just for fun, after all. Finally, yes, it is absolutely possible to fill up more than one space on the card with a single rejection. In fact, I have one old rejection that would almost get me a bingo all by itself. 🙂


Did I miss any good/common phrases for my rejection bingo card? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll consider an edit.

A Week of Writing: 1/7/19 to 1/13/19

Another week of writing come and gone. Here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

This week’ quotes comes from Ernest Hemingway.

“The hard part about writing a novel is finishing it.”

– Ernest Hemingway

What I like about this quote is that finishing can mean different things to different writers. For example, I can finish a first draft no sweat. For me that’s a simple act of following the outline and putting one word after another. Same with the initial revision. I can take a pretty objective approach to my revisions, set a goal, and then get it done. My struggle is with the type of finishing that means someone else has to read the novel. That could be my critique partners or more recently, my agent. Because at that point, finishing means the work is going to be judged, and I will very likely have to make some hard decisions. I’m at the point now, and though I’ve done what I needed to do, letting go of the book was not easy.

The Novel

Late Risers is done-ish. What I mean is I revised the book to a place where it was ready for my agent to look at it. I spent last week finishing one more revisions, and then I sent the manuscript to my agent yesterday morning. As I alluded to in Word to Write By, this was not easy. In fact, it might be the most acute “submission anxiety” I’ve ever experienced. I expect to be making more revisions based on my agent’s feedback, but waiting to hear back from him is going to be a nerve-wracking in the extreme. So, what to do?

Instead of obsessing on a novel that’s no longer within my control, I’m going to work on another novel. It’s one I started last year and manged to get 30,000 words into it before I switched gears to the current novel. Now I’ll go back and finish the first draft, and it will be my next big project, and hopefully, the next manuscript my agent reads.

Short Stories

Got a few submissions out last week. Nothing earth-shattering, but still positive yardage.

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

All three submissions were to the same publisher, and the rejection came from a pro-market I’ve been trying to crack for years. One publication last week, which you can check out below.

The Blog

Just the one blog post last week.

1/7/19: A Week of Writing: 12/31/18 to 1/6/19

My weekly writing update.

Goals

With Late Risers as done as I can get it, I’ll move on to finishing the first draft of another novel. I also need to write/edit some short stories to get my submission rate up.

Story Spotlight

The story spotlight is “The Sitting Room,” a reprint published by Mystery Tribune last week. It’s definitely one of my darker pieces of flash, and it originally appeared in The Molotov Cocktail’s FlashFelon contest. You can read it by clicking the link below.

Read “The Sitting Room


How was your writing week?

A Week of Writing: 12/31/2018 to 1/6/2019

The first week of 2019 is in the books. Let’s see how I did.

Words to Write By

This week, it’s another of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Good Writing. This is #9.

“Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.”

– Elmore Leonard

This one might rankle some folks, especially those with the ability to write gorgeous prose that, honestly, I lack. With that in mind, I think it’s important to view Elmore Leonard’s rules as rules for a particular style. In fact, he said as much about his famous list:

“These are rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.”

So, rule number nine (and rule number eight, which is the same rule just about characters), resonates with me because it fits my style. I am largely trying to be invisible when I write a story, and I try to use a spare style to show instead of tell. It also lets me focus on things I’m better at (like dialogue) and minimize things I’m not so good at (describing people, places, and things). I do agree that Leonard’s rules can be useful to any writer, but there are certainly writers who flaunt many or even all these rules and are doing just fine.

The Novel

Almost there. I had meant to turn my novel Late Risers over to my agent at the end of the year, but I didn’t quite make it. I’m very close now, and I should be finished this week. I have a few more plot knots to untangle, but they’re not too scary, and I just have to dive in and write them into submission. Anyway, I dearly hope my next update will be that the novel is off my desk and that I’m waiting, terrified, for my agent to pronounce judgment on the manuscript.

Short Stories

Getting off to a bit of a slow start on the submission front for 2019, but it should pick up this week.

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

Both rejections were for stories submitted in 2018. I received my third rejection and sent my third submission for the year this morning. I’m shooting for 100 submissions for the year again. That’s roughly two a week, and, so far, I’m on pace.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

1/2/19: 2018 Review: Writing by the Numbers

In this post I reviewed my writing endeavors for that last year with lots of stats and a healthy dose of rejectomancy.

1/4/19: 100 Rejections: Achievement Unlocked

An in-depth look at the 100 rejections I received in 2018. Lots of rejectomancy here.

Goals

Same goal. Finish the final revision of Late Risers, get it off my desk and to my agent.

Story Spotlight

One of my favorite publishers, Pseudopod, recently updated their list of recommended stories for new listeners. I am very pleased to report that my baseball vampire story “Night Games” is now one of those recommended stories. You can check out and listen to the recommended list by clicking the link above or listen to “Night Games” by clicking the link below.

Listen to “Night Games


That was my week. How was yours?

100 Rejections: Achievement Unlocked

In 2018 I achieved a landmark (for me) literary achievement – 100 rejections in a single year. I know that might sound like a dubious goal. I mean, why would you want to get rejected 100 times? Let me see if I can explain.

  1. 100 rejections means at a minimum 100 submissions and probably more. In fact, I managed 120 for the year. So, basically, you have to write a lot and submit a lot to accumulate 100 rejections in a year. I did both, and that’s a good thing.
  2. 100 rejections means you (should) learn quite a bit about the markets you’re submitting to. That definitely happened, and with each rejection, especially the upper-tier and personal varieties, I learned more about what specific markets wanted. That data paid off, and last year I cracked a couple of markets that had rejected me more than ten times prior.
  3. 100 rejections (should) mean more acceptances. Why? Mostly because of the first two points. The more stories you submit, and the more you learn about the markets you’re submitting to, the better your chance of acceptance. So, yeah, I set a yearly record for rejections, but I also set a yearly record for acceptances at 19.

Okay, those are the broad reasons why I set a goal of 100 rejections, but let me break it down a bit further and really dig into the data.

1) Total Markets: 48

My rejections came from 48 distinct markets, most of which I’ve submitted to before. That said, I did get rejected by 15 new markets, some of which were established this year.

2) Total Stories: 29

I had 29 distinct stories rejected in 2018. I’d say around half were stories I started and finished in 2018. The others were a mix of reprints or stories I’d started or finished in 2017 (or earlier).

3) Form Rejections: 67; Upper Tier Form Rejections: 18; Personal Rejections: 15

So, 67% of my rejections were standard form rejections, which is about what I’d expect from the markets I focused on in 2018 (pro and semi-pro). The upper-tier and personal rejections include three short-list rejections.

4) Most Rejections for a Single Story: 10

That’s a lot, but nowhere near my record (21), and this story is out for submission again. I think the story is one of my better ones, and it’s gotten some decent feedback, so, hopefully, it’ll find a home in 2019.

5) Story with Most Rejections Before Acceptance: 8

The story “When the Lights Go On” is, I think, one of the best pieces of flash fiction I’ve written, and it was responsible for two of the short-list rejections I mentioned above (all from pro markets). So, why did it take so long to get published? It’s just part of the gig. Good stories get rejected all the time, but when you’re making short lists and getting good personal rejections, you gotta keep sending that sucker out because it WILL find a home.

6) Rejected Stories Published: 9

Nine of my 29 rejected stories did go on to get published. This does not count reprints that were published prior to 2018. The average number of rejections for these pieces is 5 (most of those coming in 2018).

7) Most Rejections from a Single Market: 8

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to crack this particular pro market in 2018, but I came close. I did, however, get published by the runner up, who had rejected me 7 times.


That’s how I got to 100 rejections in 2018. I’m gonna shoot for the same goal in 2019. Though I hope it will be harder to hit next, I want to keep up the same level of production, just with a few more acceptances in the mix. 🙂

2018 Review: Writing by the Numbers

Well, here we are with a brand new year, so I thought I’d look back at 2018 and talk a bit about how I did, writing-wise, in the last twelve months. This is gonna be one of those posts where I give you a whole bunch of numbers, so here we go!

Total Words Written: 153,842

This total ONLY includes projects I started and finished in 2018. This includes 1 novel, 1 novella, 1 Dungeons & Dragons adventure, and 17 short stories. Of the 17 short stories, I subbed 13, and 6 were accepted for publication. The novella will be published by Privateer Press this month. The novel, hopefully, will be published in 2019. The Dungeons & Dragons adventure was published by Goodman Games back in August.

Of course, I wrote a lot more than that. The number above doesn’t count stories I started in 2018 and haven’t finished yet or the stories (and novels) I started in 2017, worked on in 2018, and still haven’t finished. It also doesn’t count things like blog posts. If I had to guess what all that other writing would add up to, I’d guess it’d be another 100,000 words or so (96 blog posts is an easy 50k all by itself).

The Novel

I wrote a horror/urban fantasy novel called Late Risers in 2018, and I’ll turn over the “final” draft to my agent next week. I’ve been trying to get to that stage for months, revising and revising and revising, but now, finally, it’s almost ready. Anyway, here are the basic stats for the novel:

  • Word Count: 93,549
  • Time Spent Writing First Draft: 3.5 months
  • Time Spent Revising Draft(s): 6.5 months
  • Number of Revisions: 4

The word count might drop a little more once I finish this final round of revisions, but it’ll still be around 90,000 words. That’s a nice, comfortable 350ish-page novel. When I wrote the outline, that’s what I was aiming for, and I’m pleased that I pretty much nailed the length. It took me exactly 111 days to write the first draft. That wasn’t a continuous thing, though. I took about three weeks off to work on another project. The revision time includes about a month where my critique partners were reviewing the book.

The revision process went like this. After I finished the first draft, I immediately started the first revision. That revision was to fix all the huge, glaring issues I knew were there. When that was done, I sent the book to my critique partners. Once I had their notes in hand, I started the second revision, fixing the issue they called out. When I was done with that, I went back through again, fixing more issues that cropped up after some extensive rewrites. Now, in this fourth revision, I’m polishing the language as well as making minor continuity and character fixes. If this book goes anywhere, I have no doubt more revisions will be needed, but, hopefully, those will be suggestions from my publisher.

So, roughly a year of work on this novel, give or take a week or two, that will hopefully pay off in 2019.

Short Story Submissions

Okay, let’s get to the nitty-gritty here. Here are my stats for short story submissions in 2018.

  • Total Submissions: 120
  • Total Rejections: 100
  • Total Acceptances: 19

This is by far my best year for submissions, and I exceeded my yearly bests in submissions, rejections, and, most importantly, acceptances by a wide margin. I managed to crack some markets that had rejected me a bunch, and I got close with a few others.

Submission Details

  • Distinct Stories Submitted: 38
  • Flash Fiction Stories Submitted: 26
  • Short Stories Submitted: 12
  • Reprints Submitted: 7

I sent 38 distinct stories in 2018, 13 of which I wrote in the same year. I sent more than double the number of flash fiction stories over standard shorts, as I tend to write flash over shorts at about the same ratio. Finally, I sent seven reprints, two of which were accepted.

Market Details

  • Distinct Markets: 53
  • Pro Markets: 31
  • Semi-Pro: 19
  • Token/Free: 3

I sent stories to 56 distinct markets, most of them paying a pro rate. I also sent a fair number of submissions to semi-pro markets, but I limited my submissions to token and free markets in 2018. As usual, I used Duotrope’s definition of pro, semi-pro, and token/free pay scales.

Rejection Details

  • Standard Form Rejections: 67
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 18
  • Personal Rejections: 15

I submitted to a lot of pro markets, hence the large number of standard form rejections. That said, I did receive a good number of upper-tier and personal rejections. Since 100 rejections in a single year is kind of a big deal for me, I’ll break that all down further in another blog post. This here is just the basic stats.

Acceptance Details

  • Pro Acceptances: 6
  • Semi-Pro Acceptances: 5
  • Token/Free Acceptances: 8

More than half of my acceptances were of the paying variety, and more than half of those were paid at a pro rate. That’s not too bad, and, of course, I’d like to increase the number of paying publications. That said, I’ll continue to submit to some of my favorite token/free markets.

Free to Read Publications

Okay, if you’re so inclined, here are all the stories I published this year that are available to read online for free. You’ll note the number of publications and the number of acceptances don’t jive, that’s simply because some of the stories accepted in 2018 have yet to be published and some are not free to read online.

“The Food Bank” published by The Arcanist

“Simulacra” published by EllipsisZine

“Two Legs” published by The Molotov Cocktail

“The Inside People” published by EllipsisZine

“Do Me a Favor” published by The Arcanist

“The Last Scar” published by Trembling with Fear

“What Kind of Hero” published by EllipsisZine

“Bear Necessity” published by The Molotov Cocktail

“When the Lights Go On” published by The Arcanist 


And that was my 2018. Tell me about your year in the comments and/or link to a blog post with all the details.

A Week of Writing: 12/10/18 to 12/16/18

Another update on the writing week that was.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from Edgar Rice Burroughs.

If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.

– Edgar Rice Burroughs

This is pretty much my writing and submission philosophy in a nutshell. I’ve written a lot of stories, and some of them are very bad. That said, even the bad ones taught me something, something I could apply to the next story and make it a little bit better. Those incremental improvements add up over time, and now if I write, say five stories, one is bad, three are mediocre, and one of them might be publishable. Still working on that ratio.

The Novel

I’m still in the middle of the final revision of my novel Late Risers and it’s going well. I’m primarily focusing on cleaning up the language, adding clarity and simply sharpening the prose. I find this is largely a process of subtraction, and I have a hit list of words, phrases, and other stuff that’ll get the chop. For example, I often overuse the “was” sentence construction, which can create unwanted distance, especially in action scenes. So, I search for every instance of was, wasn’t, were, and weren’t, and see if I can’t find a more descriptive (and active) verb. Of course, was is a perfectly fine word to use, and my novel still has plenty of them, but those that remain have earned their keep.

Short Stories

A little more submission activity last week than the week before.

  • Submissions Sent: 2
  • Rejections: 4
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

The four rejection last week put me at 98 for the year. So, getting close to my 100-rejection goal. Here are my current stats for 2018:

  • Submissions – 117
  • Acceptances – 19
  • Rejections – 98

I’d like to hit 120/20/100 for the year, and I have about two weeks to pull that off.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

12/10/18: A Week of Writing: 12/3/18 to 12/9/18

The usual weekly writing update.

12/14/18: A New Rejection Record

This past year I set a number of personal submissions and rejection records. This post details one – most rejection by a single publisher.

Goals

Keep pushing on that final revision of Late Risers for the hand-off to my agent at the end of the month.


That was my week. How was yours?

A New Rejection Record

I’ve written a couple of posts on my various rejections records, lists of dubious achievements in number, speed, and type of rejections. Because I send out so many submissions, it should come as no surprise that a lot of these records don’t stand for long. Today, I’d like to share a new rejection record with you and tell you why this particular record is a source of motivation rather than a source of frustration.

The record I recently broke (multiple times) was for most rejections from a single publisher. My old record was nine (9). Before I get to the new record, there are some honorable mentions I’d like to discuss.

  • Honorable Mention #1 – Rejections 8; Acceptances 1
  • Honorable Mention #2 – Rejections 10; Acceptances 1

As you can see, after a healthy number of rejections (even a short-lived record-setter) I finally broke through with these publishers. One is a pro market and the other is semi-pro. The reason I mention these two is to encourage folks not to give up on a market just because they’ve been rejected a bunch. Sometimes you have to keep trying until you find the right story. I managed to do that with these two markets, and it’s a highlight of my year.

Now, on to the record.

My new record for most rejections by a single publisher is . . . SIXTEEN (16).

I know, some of you are  thinking, goddamn, take a hint! I might think that too, but let me tell you why I keep trying.

First, this is a professional market with a very low acceptance rate. As with most top-tier markets, they’re tough to crack even with a good story. I know that kind of sounds like an excuse, but I’ve seen editors from similar markets publicly state they turn away quality stories all the time for a myriad of (good) reasons. (Another reason you shouldn’t give up on a market or story, but more on that below).

Second, my rejections from this publisher are getting “better.” Earlier in the year, after a bunch of standard form rejections, I received a second-round rejection (sort an upper-tier rejection), and my last rejection was a short-list rejection, which means I was at least within spitting distance of publication. I’d call that progress.

With these factors in mind, I’ll continue to submit to this market because I have a better idea of the type of story they want, and my chances at publication are better than they’ve ever been (still not great, but better). Again, I’m telling you this because rejections don’t necessarily mean you should give up on a market (or a story, for that matter). If you’re working on and refining your craft (and your submission targeting), then keep trying, keep submitting, and you might find the right story to crack that tough market.

If you’d like to see my other rejections records, check out these posts.

I’v broken a few more records this year, so look for an updated list of my rejectomantic achievements in 2019.


Got a rejection record you’d like to share? Tell me about it in the comments.