A Week of Writing: 5/14/18 to 5/20/18

Another week of writing gone by. Lots of business as usual and one fairly momentous accomplishment.

Here are the details.

The Novel

The first draft is done. The novel is an actual thing that exists somewhere other than my head. There’s still a lot of work to do before it’s fit to be read by other humans, but it’s damn nice to have the first draft in the can. Instead of telling you how much I wrote for the week, I’ll give you the final stats for the first draft:

  • Total Word Count: 92,684
  • Chapters: 32
  • Date Started: 1/24/18
  • Date Finished: 5/14/18

The first draft ended up right about where I thought it would in terms of word count. For a horror novel, between 80,000 and 90,000 words is a solid length, and my guess is that my critique partners will get something around 85,000 words after my first pass. It took me a bit under four months to write the first draft, 111 days to be exact. That’s not too bad, especially since I took two weeks off in the middle to work on another project.

Short Stories

I outlined two more short stories last week, and put about 1,000 words into a first draft on one of them. I stalled out a bit because of another project I’m working on, but I should get back to short stories in the very near future.

Submissions

A couple of submissions and a couple of rejections last week.

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

I sent out submissions #55 and #56 for the year. Still on pace to hit my goal of 100 for 2018 (and then some). I’ve got fourteen submissions pending, and four of those have been waiting over 100 days. I hope to hear back from at least one of them this week.

Other Projects

I have a game design project due next month, and I’ve been making good progress on it. Last week I put 8,000 words into it, and I’m close to a first draft. I’m well ahead of my deadline and feeling pretty good about what I’ve got so far.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week. I’m gonna try for three again this week.

5/14/18: A Week of Writing: 5/7/18 to 5/13/18

Business as usual.

5/16/18: New Author Starter Kit – Submission Prep

In this post, I compiled a list of six things I think you should have ready to go before you send your first submission. If you’re new to the submission biz, give it a look. I’ll follow up this week with part two, Acceptance Prep.

Goals

The goals this week are to finish the first draft of my game design project and start the first pass on the first draft of the novel.

Story Spotlight

This week it’s another bit of flash I published with The Molotov Cocktail. This is one is called “Night Walk,” and it took second place in The Molotov’s FlashFuture contest a couple of years ago. It’s a slightly different spin on the undead apocalypse, and, fun fact, if/when I publish a collection of short fiction, Night Walk is one of the front runners for the title of said hypothetical collection.

Read “Night Walk”


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.

A Week of Writing: 4/30/18 to 5/6/18

Another week of writing come to a close. Got some novel writin’ done, some short stories spruced up, a bunch of submission sent, a pile of rejections received, and even a publication to crow about.

Have a look.

The Novel

Well, I was hoping to have a complete first draft by this point, but instead I decided to stray from my outline for the climax of the third act, which meant I had to rework a bunch of things. That slowed me down considerably. The changes will make for a better book (I hope), but they definitely cut into my raw production.

Date Day Words Written
4/30/2018 Monday 0
5/1/2018 Tuesday 1018
5/2/2018 Wednesday 1550
5/3/2018 Thursday 0
5/4/2018 Friday 0
5/5/2018 Saturday 0
5/6/2018 Sunday 2523

I managed 5,091 words last week. Not bad, all things considered. I’m at just over 85,000 words for the manuscript, and I think there’s probably another 5,000 or so to go. I don’t want the book to be much longer than 90,000 if I can help it. That said, it’ll likely go over for the first draft and then edit down to 90k or just below it.

Short Stories

Like the week before, I didn’t finish any new stories, but I fixed up a bunch of old ones. Some of those I submitted, and some I’ll submit this week. I also started outlining a new sci-fi story I’m pretty excited about. I’ll start working on that soon.

Submissions

Last week was very active in the submission department.

  • Submissions Sent: 6
  • Rejections: 6
  • Withdrawals: 2
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 1

A little bit of everything last week. I sent a bunch of submission, got a bunch of rejections (three in one day), and I even had to withdraw a couple of stories from a market that went under.

The Blog

Three more blog posts last week, including my monthly submission statement for April.

4/30/18: A Week of Writing: 4/23/18 to 4/29/18

Yep, the week before this one.

5/2/18: Submission Statement: April 2018

My monthly tally of submissions, rejections, acceptances, etc, including some of the rejection letters I received in all their glory.

5/4/18: One-Hour Flash Success Stories

A list of the flash fiction and short stories I’ve published that began life as one-hour flash fiction writing exercises. Also, why I think setting a clock on your writing can be a good thing.

Goals

One more time, with feeling. FINISH. THE. NOVEL.

Story Spotlight

This week’s story is my most recent publication, and it’s one of the few stories I’ve published that could be called literary . . . if you squint, from a long way away. The story is called “Simulacra” and it was published by the fine folks over at Ellipsis Zine.

Read “Simulacra

Image by MarjanNo via Pixabay

 


And that was my week. How was yours?

One-Hour Flash Success Stories

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, then you might have seen a series of posts called One-Hour Flash. These are flash fiction stories I’ve written in one hour as part of a writing exercise. The basic gist is that you get a prompt and then try to bang out the best story you can on that prompt in one hour. It’s a great little exercise/contest to do with your (closed) writing group, as it really forces you out of your comfort zone (always good for a writer). The One-Hour Flash series on this blog features stories that weren’t good enough (in my opinion) to submit to publishers. I could call them Flash Failures, but I try not to be too negative. So, have I ever actually published any of these one-hour flash stories? Yes I have.

The latest one-hour flash story to be published went live this morning. It’s called “Simulacra” and you can read it right now over at Ellipsis Zine. 

“Simulacra” is my twenty-third publication (acceptance) of a story that began life as a one-hour flash piece. Here’s the rest, with links to read some if you are so inclined.

Title Publisher Length
A Man of Many Hats The Molotov Cocktail Flash
An Incident on Dover Street The Molotov Cocktail Flash
At the Seams The Molotov Cocktail Flash
Beyond the Block The Molotov Cocktail Flash
Big Problems Havok Magzine Flash
Caroline Red Sun Magazine Short Story
Cowtown The Arcanist Flash
Little Sister The Molotov Cocktail Flash
Luck Be a Bullet* Spinetingler Mag Short Story
Masks The Molotov Cocktail Flash
New Arrivals Havok Magzine Flash
Night Walk The Molotov Cocktail Flash
One Last Spell, My Love Allegory Short Story
Paper Cut Red Sun Magazine Short Story
Reunion The Arcanist Flash
Scare Tactics* Flame Tree Publishing Short Story
Shadow Can The Molotov Cocktail Flash
Side Effects The Molotov Cocktail Flash
Simulacra Ellipsis Zine Flash
The Father of Terror The Molotov Cocktail Flash
The Rarest Cut Evil Girlfriend Media Flash
The Sitting Room The Molotov Cocktail Flash
Where They Belong DarkFuse Magazine Flash

*Forthcoming

As you can see, The Molotov Cocktail has been very good to me, and many of these stories have placed in their various themed contests. Most of the stories I kept as flash fiction with a little (or a lot) of revision and polish. A few, though, I expanded into longer pieces, and one of them, “Scare Tactics,” is on it’s third publication.

So, what am I trying to say with all this other than showing off a bunch of publications? Basically, when you force yourself to write outside of your comfort zone (by setting a clock), you are likely to write something you normally wouldn’t out of sheer desperation and less likely fall back on concepts and tropes you might overuse. I know that’s the case for me. Of course, you can get out of your comfort zone in a lot of ways. Putting yourself on a clock and writing to a random prompt is just one way to do it. Still, I urge you to give the one-hour flash challenge a try and see where it takes you.

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?