A Week of Writing: 9/10/18 to 9/16/18

A day late and a dollar short, as they say, but here’s my writing week that was.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote is from Jack London.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

– Jack London

I really dig this quote. What it says to me is I can’t sit idle until I feel like writing. I have to get on with it. I have to hit my word count or work on those revisions, even when writing is the last thing I want to do. This is especially true when I have a deadline, and editors are waiting on an outline, or a draft, or revisions. This is not to say I always hit my word count or that I write every single day of my life, but I do it enough to finish the draft in a reasonable amount of time, hit the deadline, and keep the ol’ assembly line moving.

Note, this “write no matter what” attitude doesn’t work for everyone, and I’m not selling it as the one true way, but it does works for me.

The Novel

I’ve started the second round of revisions on Late Risers. Last week that consisted of reading through all the notes from my critique partners, creating a plan of attack, and addressing some minor issues throughout the novel as a way to reacquaint myself with the story. This week I’ll write some new chapters in the beginning of the book that better establish the rules of my world and a few important character relationships. I’ll also trim roughly the same amount of words from the exiting first act, which dragged on a bit.

Short Stories

Since my focus was primarily on the novel (and some out-of-town guests), I didn’t do much of anything with short stories. In fact, I didn’t do squat.

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

I did get an acceptance last week (my 15th of the year) and one of my earlier acceptances was published. So, you know, not a terrible week on the ol’ submission front.

The Blog

I also lagged behind on blogging, and I only managed a single blog post.

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

The usual weekly writing update.


Same as last week, the major goal is work on the revisions for Late Risers. Secondary to that goal is submit more short stories and get back on track with the blog.

Story Spotlight

This week’s story spotlight is “What Kind of Hero?” published last week by EllipsisZine. You can check it out by clicking the link or picture below.

“What Kind of Hero?”

That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 9/3/18 to 9/9/18

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

Words to Write By

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

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

– Robin Hobb

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

The Novel

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

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

Short Stories

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

A very slow week for submissions.

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

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

The Blog

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

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

The usual weekly writing update.

8/31/18: Submission Protocol: Summary Execution

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

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

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

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

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


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

Submission Spotlight

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

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

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

Constellary Tales Guidelines


That was my week. How was yours?

Submission Statement: July & August 2018

Well, I missed the submission statement for July, so I’m just gonna lump it in with August. Here’s a couple of months of submissions, rejections, and acceptances.

July & August 2018 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 13
  • Rejections: 10
  • Acceptances: 7
  • Publications: 3
  • Other: 3

Thirteen submission is pretty good, though most of those came in August. Ten rejections for two months is a little on the low side, but that’s because seven acceptances in on the very high side. Three of the acceptances were also published in in July or August. Lastly, the three others are short-list letters, two of which became acceptance letters. So, despite just an average amount of submissions sent for these two months, results-wise, this might be my best two month period, uh, period.

As for total submissions, I hit 86 for the year by the end of August. I’ve already sent some September submissions, though, putting me at 88 and just twelve away from my goal of 100.


Ten rejections, five for July and five for August.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 7
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 2
  • Personal Rejections: 1

More form rejection than anything, and these were all from pro markets. The two upper-tier form rejections were from a semi-pro and a pro market. The personal rejection was from a pro market.

Spotlight Rejection

The spotlight rejection for the July and August is the personal rejection I received.

Thank you for allowing us to read your story, [story title].

Thank you for being patient while we held your story, but we did not choose it for the lineup.  Any story in the hold pile was one that we would have been happy to publish, but we didn’t have the resources to publish all of the stories that we liked and we have to make some hard choices.  We hope you find a publisher for it, and that you will submit again in the next submission window.

While we don’t always offer comments on stories, this time we did.  These comments are meant to be helpful; if you disagree with the comments, then you should feel free to disregard.

“A well-done piece of flash, foreshadowing major consequences, letting the reader wonder, until the chilling reveal and a solid final line.”


This is a personal rejection after a short-list letter for a pro market that received over 1,200 submissions during their submission window. The comments here are great since they basically tell me I’ve got a good story on my hands. But you know what I’m gonna say. Yep, good stories get rejected too, especially when you’re up against tons of other submissions by lots of talented writers. If you get a rejection like this, don’t overthink it. Just send that story out again. That’s what I did.


So, yeah, seven acceptances is pretty damn nice. It broke down as three for July and four for August. The only really interesting thing about these acceptance letters is most of them were essentially form letters. That’s not uncommon, honestly, as editors have to get across a lot of information in an acceptance letter about contracts, publication dates, editing, and what they need from the author (bios, author photos, etc.). Since many publication send their acceptances in batches just like their rejections, a form letter makes a lot of sense. Sometimes a personal note about the story will be tacked on to the end of the acceptance letter, but that stuff usually comes in the emails that follow.

Here’s an example of one of those acceptance form letters:

Hi Aeryn,

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

I’ve scheduled it for publication on 14 September, if this date changes I will let you know.

Thanks again for submitting your work.


More on this acceptance and some of the others as they near publication.


Three of the stories accepted in July and August have been published, and you can read them by clicking the links below.


“Two Legs”

Published by The Molotov Cocktail


“Do Me a Favor”

Published by The Arcanist


“Bear Necessity”

Published by The Molotov Cocktail


And that was my July and August. Tell me about yours.

Submission Protocol: Summary Execution

In my opinion, one of the toughest things for writers to do is summarize their work into a few sentences. I mean get it down to pitch length, still make it interesting, and avoid giving away the entire plot. Authors aren’t called on to do this very often with short story submissions, but a few markets ask for a brief synopsis in the cover letter.

So how do you write a good summary? Well, I’ll tell you how I do it, but before we get started be advised that story summaries are somewhat rare in publisher guidelines and you should never include one unless the publisher specifically asks for it.

Okay, as with everything submission-related, always read and follow the guidelines. When a publisher asks for a summary, they’ll usually say something like this:

Please put your title, byline, and word count in your cover letter, as well as a brief note about how your story fits the theme.

Brief and fit the theme are the important bits there. When you write a summary or synopsis, keep it to a single paragraph, and make sure you clearly demonstrate how the story fits the theme of the magazine or anthology. Something like this:

Set in the mid-50s, “When the Lights Go On” takes place in a small towns near Arco, Idaho, the first to be powered entirely by nuclear energy in the United States. The townsfolk have noticed terrible changes in themselves whenever they turn on the lights powered by this new energy source. 

What I want the editor to get out of my summary are three things: how my story fits the theme/subject matter of the publication, the general premise of the story, and the primary plot hook. I feel if I can accomplish all that, I’m in good shape.

Here’s another, longer story summary. It’s still a single paragraph, however, and again, my goal is to explain how it fits the theme of the publication, set the premise, and give a plot hook.

In an alternate version of the United States, the country has instituted archaic dueling codes overseen by a government agency called the Bureau of Honorable Affairs. Victims of certain offenses can force their tormentors to face them in state-sanctioned combat. In a “Point of Honor,” the protagonist, Jacob Mayweather, is challenged to a duel by a man he has never met for a crime he does not remember committing. 

This is about as long as I would go with a summary (this one is 70 words). More than that, and I think you risk a) giving away too much of the story, b) losing the interest of your reader (the editor), and c) failing to follow guidelines that include words like “brief” or “quickly.”

That’s how I write a story summary, but why would publishers want one in the first place? I think there are two reasons and editor might request one.

  1. Fit the theme. More often than not, when I see a request for a story summary its from an anthology with a very specific theme. By asking writers to briefly summarize their stories, the editors can determine if the story is going work for the anthology before reading it. If the theme is hard sci-fi and the editors get a submission with a story summary that is clearly epic fantasy, they don’t have to waste time reading that story.
  2. Writing sample. A story summary is going to give the editors a sneak peek at the author’s writing ability. Can they clearly and engagingly describe their story? Do they use punctuation and grammar correctly? This is not to say a badly written summary means the editors won’t read the story or that a good one increases chances of an acceptance, but it’s a first impression that will likely color the editor’s opinion of the story to follow.

What are your thoughts on summaries and synopses? Tell me in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 8/20/18 to 8/26/18

It’s Monday, and here’s my literary ledger sheet for the week.

Words to Write By

Still reading a bunch of Elmore Leonard, and since he’s such a great source for quotes, here’s another one.

“When you are developing your style, you avoid weaknesses. I am not good at describing things, so I stay away from it. And if anyone is going to describe anything at all, it’s going to be from the point of view of the character, because then I can use his voice, and his attitude will be revealed in the way he describes what he sees.”

—Elmore Leonard

This one resonates with me for a couple of reasons. First, I wholeheartedly agree that your style is a focus on things your good at and probably the minimization of the things you struggle with. The other reason this quote speaks to me is, well, I’m not great at describing things either, and if Elmore Leonard can get away with it, maybe there’s hope for me too. No surprisingly, in Leonard’s famous Ten Rules of Writing number eight (Avoid detailed descriptions of characters) and number nine (Don’t go into great detail describing places and things) are my favorites.

The Novel

Late Risers is still with my critique partners, and preliminary feedback continues to be positive. I’m eager to get the novel back so I can start fixing all the problems my critique partners have almost certainly identified.

I have some other news about another book I can’t share right now, but I’ll fill you all in just as soon as I’m able. 🙂

Short Stories

I finished a new science fiction short story last week, and it’s currently being worked over by my writing group. I expect to have a version ready to send out this week. I also revised a flash fiction story and got that out the door.

Got a few more submission out last week.

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

A pretty good week for submissions, maybe not in volume, but the overall results were encouraging. The acceptance is from Factor Four Magazine, a new pro market I’ve been trying to crack since they opened. The story I sent them was a brand new one, and it’s always great to get those one-and-done submissions, especially with a really good market. The submissions last week put my at 83 total for the year.

The Blog

Two more blog posts last week.

8/20/18: A Week of Writing: 8/13/18 to 8/19/18

The usual weekly writing update.

8/22/18: Accepting the Unacceptance 

In this post I discuss the rare and unfortunate unacceptance.


Uncanny Magazine is still open for submissions, and there’s a story I’d like to revise and send to them. I’d also like to finish up the initial revisions on the new story I mentioned and get that out the door.

Writer Pal Spotlight

This week we’re going to do something a little different. Instead of directing you to my own meager accomplishments, I’m gonna point you at two brand new novels by two of my writer pals you definitely need to check out.

First up is Vox by Christina Dalcher. If you haven’t yet heard of this book, get out from under that rock and go buy it.

Next is Texas Ranger co-authored by Andrew Bourelle and some guy named James Patterson. 🙂

That was my week. How was yours?

Accepting the Unacceptance

I’ve had a good year for acceptances, and I’m up to an even dozen so far. But, as they say, in every life a little rain must fall, and one of those acceptances is, well, not an acceptance anymore. Let me explain.

Earlier this year I received an acceptance for a story with a promise of publication in around three months. When I didn’t hear from the publisher by the end of that period, I sent them an email asking for a status update. Then I checked their website and discovered it had disappeared. I followed up by checking Duotrope and learned they’d been marked as “Permanently Closed.” I waited a month to see if they’d respond to my email. They didn’t, so I sent the following withdrawal letter (more or less).

Dear [publisher]

It appears [market] has closed and is no longer publishing fiction. At this time, I’d like to withdraw my story [story title].

[personal note]


Aeryn Rudel

Did I have to send a withdrawal letter? Probably not, but as I’ve said before in these circumstances, you don’t know what’s happening on the other side of that email. No publisher wants to go under, and though I would have preferred notification that my story would not be published, I also understand this is not personal. It’s just the fallout from what is certainly a bad situation for everyone. I sent this letter because I want to submit the story elsewhere, and if the publisher were to start up again, I don’t want there to be any confusion on that point. I also included a personal note thanking the publisher for accepting the story and expressing my condolences the market would no longer be publishing.

After comparing notes with Michael Bracken, an author whose knowledge on the subjects of submissions and rejections far exceeds my own, he called this an example of the unacceptance. If you’d like to learn more about that particular phenomenon, Michael was kind enough to write a guest post about it a while back. You can find that post right here: The Unacceptance Letter by Michael Bracken.

Do you have any experience with the unacceptance? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 8/13/18 to 8/19/18

Finally managed to squeak one of these things out on a Monday. Here’s my writing week that was.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from one of my favorite speculative authors, C. J. Cherryh.

It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.

– C. J. Cherryh

When I finished the first draft of my novel Late Risers (currently with my critique partners), some friends and family were surprised by my rather subdued celebration of that milestone. I think C. J. Cherryh’s quote speaks to that a bit. You see, the first draft is the easy part for me (well, less difficult), and maybe it’s not all garbage, but significant portions of it are destined for the revision dumpster. The hard part, the crucial part, the absolutely gotta-nail-it part is the second piece of her quote, “edit brilliantly.” That’s the process I’ve started, and that’s the process that will determine whether I end up with a salable novel or something destined for the trunk.

The Novel

Late Risers is still with my critique partners, and I eagerly await their notes. One of them is a good friend who lives nearby, and he’s been giving me tidbits of feedback as he goes through the book. Based on what he’s told me, I’m happy with the things that are working, and I’m not surprised by the the things that aren’t. So far, so good, but I know there’s going to be a lot of work to do once I get the manuscript back and start going through the notes.

Short Stories

I write a lot of flash fiction, but I really struggle to complete those stories in under 1,000 words. Last week, I submitted a story to a market that capped stories at 800 words, so I cut one of my flash pieces down to size. It was a good exercise in keeping only what you absolutely need, and I honestly think the story is better after losing 200 words.

Got a few more submission out last week.

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

No rejections last week, but I have a number of stories pushing that 60-day mark, so I expect a response pretty soon. The two submissions last week put my at 81 for the year. My pace has definitely slowed in the second half of the year, but I only need 19 more submissions to hit my goal of 100.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

8/14/18: A Week of Writing: 8/6/18 to 8/12/18

The usual weekly writing update.

8/17/18: The Rejection Reversal with Michael Bracken

The prolific and talented Michael Bracken shared a rare type of publisher response he recently received and let me blog about it.


I’d like to pick up the pace on my short story submissions this week, so I’ll focus on that. I’ll also continue to read through the 35,000 words I have of another novel and continue to tinker with its outline.

Submission Spotlight

This week I’d like to call your attention to a newer market that publishes flash fiction (and just a bit longer) and pays a professional rate of .08/word. The market is Factor Four Magazine, and the speculative genres they’re interested in are: “. . . science fiction, fantasy, supernatural, super hero, or any combination of these . . .” Definitely give them a look if you have a story that fits. Guidelines in the link below.

Factor Four Magazine Guidelines


That was my week. How was yours?