Submission Statement: May 2020

Another month of submissions. Here’s a breakdown of my short story endeavors for May.

April 2020 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 11
  • Rejections: 4
  • Acceptances: 2
  • Publications: 2

Very good month. Eleven submissions in May gives me forty-three for the year and puts me back on track for my goal of one-hundred. Only four rejections, all form rejections. Two more acceptances, both flash, and both to pro-paying markets. I’ll talk about the two publications below.

Rejections

Four rejections this month.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 1
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 3
  • Personal Rejections: 0

Not much to report here. All the rejections were form letters, though three of them were upper-tier. The shortest took only seven days, the longest 135 days.

Acceptances

Two acceptances this month. I sold my flash fiction story “His Favorite Tune” to the Flame Tree Fiction newsletter, which is my third publication with Flame Tree, the first in the newsletter. I also sold my flash fiction story “Outdoor Space” to The Arcanist. Not counting contests, this is my fifth sale to The Arcanist. 

Publications

The first publication is my noirish supernatural crime short story “Reading the Room,” which was published at The Overcast, an audio market hosted by J. S. Arquin. You can listen to the story by clicking the link below.

Listen to “Reading the Room”

 

The second publication is my flash story “His Favorite Tune,” which was published in the Flame Tree Fiction newsletter. For now you have to be a subscriber to read the story, but they’ll post it on the main website soon, and I’ll be sure to point folks in that direction.


And that was May. Tell me about your month.

A Week of Writing: 5/18/20 to 5/24/20

One more week has come and gone. Here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

Today’s quote is from Jodi Picoult.

 “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page”

– Jodi Picoult

This, this right here, is what keeps me writing the first draft even though every fiber of my being screams THIS IS TERRIBLE. Because, like Jodi Picoult says, I can always edit a bad page. I can fix it in post. This is the only way I can write. If I try to make the first draft perfect–an impossible task anyway–I’ll never get anything done. I’ll be stuck in a kind perfectionist paralysis inimical to the creation of a first draft. So I chant to myself as I write: I can edit, I can fix it in post, I can make it better. JUST GET IT DOWN. That’s worked so far.

The Novel

Armed with a revised outline I got back on track with the Hell to Play last week. I wrote about 6,100 words total, and the manuscript now clocks in at nearly 35,000 words. I even like some of those words. I’m in the beginning of act two, and the last couple of chapters have been very dialogue heavy and maybe a tad too expositional. The dialogue, and especially the interplay between the two POV characters is kind of the heart of the book, but I may have gone overboard, as I am wont to do with dialogue. Still, that’s a second draft problem, and the stage is set this week to get into the meat of plot. I’m shooting, as always, for 10,000 words, but I’m letting this one breathe a bit (as hard as that may be), so if it’s 6,000 or 8,000 words and some reorganization and editing and whatnot, I’m a-okay with that.

Short Story Submissions

Another good week on the submission front.

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

Three more subs last week brings me to 41 for the year and pretty much back on track for my goal of 100. I’ll probably add one or two more subs this week to really seal that particular deal. No acceptances this week, though I did get one yesterday, but I can’t talk about that until next week. The one rejection was a 135-day form letter, which are always a bit of a bummer, but such is the gig. The publication is a good one, and I’ll discuss that below.

Microfiction

I did write some vss365 microfiction last week. Exactly one. 🙂 Here it is.

5/21/20

For years we marveled at the planet’s rings from afar, a beautiful #silver halo around our future home. When the last remnants of humanity made it to the ringed planet, they found not ice or rock, but a graveyard of derelict ships encircling a dead but still hungry world.

Publications

Earlier this year, I sold a story to The Overcast, a supernatural noirish gangster piece called “Reading the Room.” If you’re unfamiliar with The Overcast, they’re a great audio market, and host and narrator J. S. Arquin does a simply stupendous job with the voices and narration. Anyway, click the link below if you’d like to listen to “Reading the Room”. If you stick around after the story is over, you get to hear me read a halting afterword about Texas Hold ‘Em poker and my writing process and stuff. 🙂

Listen to “Reading the Room”

Goals

Back on track with the novel, I’m aiming for more solid progress this week. Like I said above, something around 8,000 to 10,000 words would be great. I’d like to get a few more subs out this week as well. All that seems doable. 🙂


That was my week. How was yours?

Writing Prompts: Stirring or Stifling?

These days it’s not uncommon for writers to use a prompt of some kind to get the ol’ creative juices flowing. It’s often part of a writing exercise, but sometimes it’s an element of a writing contest or even a short story submission. But are writing prompts useful to authors, especially authors looking to produce publishable stories? Let’s talk about that.

Before we get started, I’m gonna go ahead and state my bias up front. Some forty of my published stories began life as part of a prompted exercise, so I definitely find them useful, and this post will largely focus on why they are useful to me. That said, there’s some nuance to my love of prompts, and I have reservations about some of them.

First, let’s define what a writing prompt is. In my experience, they fall under the following broad categories.

  1. General Theme. These prompts are an overarching theme or subject the story must encompass, sometimes within a specific story length, like flash fiction. You could argue that something like “zombie apocalypse” or “ghost story” isn’t really a prompt at all, but in my experience they do work like writing prompts and get your brain moving along a certain creative path.
  2. Inspirational. The second type of prompt is the one I’m most familiar with. It’s a photo, illustration, or even a word or phrase that is meant to inspire the author. That inspiration should be obvious in the story, but specific elements of the prompt, like the subject of a photo, for example, do not have to be present.
  3. Specific. These prompts call for a specific location, item, or a word or phrase that must appear in the story (usually combined with an assigned genre). I see these most in big writing contests, like the New York City Midnight challenges.

Category one is certainly the easiest to write, and, again, you could argue calling it a prompt is a stretch. Still, I find simply setting my brain to write on a certain theme is helpful. My experience with this kind of writing prompt is mostly in flash fiction contests from publishers like The Arcanist and The Molotov Cocktail. I’ve done well in those, and even if a story didn’t place, I’ve often been able to sell it elsewhere. You also see prompts like this in themed anthologies.

Category two prompts are my favorite. For many years, I’ve been part of a one-hour flash fiction writing contest/exercise that uses inspirational prompts. These exercises have produced the bulk of my published works. Some have remained at flash length, while others I developed into full-fledged short stories (and, currently, a novel). I’m not sure why this type of prompt works so well for me. It might be because I tend to cleave to fairly traditional tropes when left to my own devices. A prompt and a time limit forces me to write outside my comfort zone, which has led me to some fairly original ideas (or at least twists on old ideas) and a bunch of publishable stories. Like category one, it’s not uncommon to see inspirational prompts in a themed anthology with a slightly narrower focus.

Category three prompts are the hardest to write in my opinion. Sometimes that’s by design as a way to add difficulty. For example, in the NYCM flash fiction contest you’re assigned a location, an item, and a genre. The location and item MUST appear in the story. If you get a real oddball combination it can make writing incredibly challenging, which I guess is kind of the point, but the story can come out feeling a little contrived. For the most part, I find these prompts to be somewhat stifling.

For me, the first two categories of prompts, especially category two, inspire me to write outside my comfort zone. I believe they help me produce stories I might not have on my own. You might call that a crutch, but I’m fine with that because I end up with publishable work (or work with the potential for publication). Category three prompts are less useful to my goal of writing sellable stories. When the prompts is very specific, I find the story is a tough sell to readers who lack the context of the prompts and contest. Of course that’s only how my stories turn out. I know folks who regularly compete in NYCM and go on to sell those stories, sometimes to pro markets.

So, are writing prompts helpful to authors? I’m gonna hedge and say they’re useful to some authors. This author, for example. But there’s another side to this, and I know authors who find writing prompts to be a huge limiting factor on their creativity. Instead of taking them by the hand and leading them to a new and exciting story idea, the prompt acts like a big ‘ol wall of writer’s block. That sure as shit ain’t helpful, and if that were my experience with prompts, I’d avoid them completely.

To sum up, and to hedge yet again, writing prompts are both stirring and stifling, depending on the type of prompt, the author, and the context. If you haven’t used them before, I’d urge you to give them a try. They might just shake loose something new and exciting. 🙂


What are your thoughts on writing prompts? Do you use them? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 5/11/20 to 5/17/20

Another week of writing in the books. Here’s how it all went down.

Words to Write By

Today’s quote comes from Douglas Adams.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

– Douglas Adams

Last week, I stopped writing the first draft of Hell to Play and instead revised my outline. Douglas Adams’ quote kind of sums up why. I realized, as I was writing the first draft, and especially after I ended act one, that the novel I was writing was NOT the novel in my outline. I knew there was a subplot I needed to add, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. As a dedicated plotter, I sat down and figured out how the new story would go. I think (and hope) I have ended up where I needed to be.

The Novel

Well, I didn’t add a single word to the manuscript for Hell to Play last week. What I did do, however, was completely revise acts two and three of my outline. Revise might be understating. I rewrote the outline completely, adding in an entirely new subplot I think strengthens the conflict in the novel and provides key insight into the background and motivations of the principle characters. If we are keeping count of words, that two-thirds of an outline amounted to just over 6,000 words, so, you know, I was pretty busy. 🙂

Short Story Submissions

Pretty good week on the submission front.

  • Submissions Sent: 3
  • Rejections: 2
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 1
  • Shortlist: 0

Three submissions is solid, and that’s really the pace I’d like to set every week. I’m up to 38 for the year, and I’ll need another 6 or 7 before the end of May to stay on track for 100 subs. The rejections were from a writing contest, and I’d hoped one of the entries would place. I got close with one of them, but no dice. The acceptance is a good one (I mean, they’re all good), and I managed to place a story with the Flame Tree Fiction Newsletter. That’s my third sale to Flame Tree, and I’m very pleased to have a piece appear in their newsletter. The story will be posted on their website at some point, and I’ll be sure to point you in that direction when it’s free to read.

Microfiction

Normally I would post some of the microfiction I wrote as part of vss365. Thing is, I didn’t write any. 🙂 I’ll get back on the beam this week, though. In the meantime, here are three microfiction pieces I place with 50-Word Stories over the past year or so.

“Treed” –  3/7/19

“His True Name” – 4/24/19

“Dead Bugs” – 4/15/19

Goals

With a revised outline, I aim to start adding words to the manuscript for Hell to Play this week. I’m trying not to focus so much on how quickly I’m writing the first draft, which is tough for me, but I think it will result in a better book. As always, I need to get those story submission out. Shooting for three more submissions by the end of the week.


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 5/4/20 to 5/10/20

A day late on this past week of writing, but here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

Today’s quote comes from Kurt Vonnegut.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

I have stepped off the cliff and now I’m furiously flapping my arms hoping those wings will sprout. There are a few feathers here and there, but we have not yet achieved flight. I’ve stalled a bit on the first draft of Hell to Play, and a desperate sense of falling has set in. The stall is for a very good reason–making the book better–but that feeling of plummeting to my doom remains. Like always, I’ll write through it, but Kurt Vonnegut’s quote resonates right about now.

The (New) Novel

I worked on Hell to Play last week, but I hesitate to call it progress. I wrote 5,200 words for a total of 28,500 on the manuscript. What happened this week is I realized I have a strong first act (which I’ve already completed), a strong third act, but my second act, which I’ve just begun is, well, weak as shit. All is not lost, though. While I was floundering and grappling with what to do, THE SOLUTION became clear. That should be good news because my second act is more or less saved, the book improved, and so on. The problem is, I’m a dedicated plotter, so I can’t just write the new angle in. I have to go back and revise my outline and make sure everything fits before I start writing again. This kind of thing generally awakens the ol ‘ impostor syndrome, which equates stopping writing (for any reason) with failure. That’s nonsense, of course. I’m still working on the book, and the outline is a crucial part of writing for me. So, this week, I’m going to grit my teeth, rework my outline, so when I do start writing again (probably by the end of the week), I’ll be able to push forward with more confidence.

Short Story Submissions

Two subs for the week and not much else.

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

Well, two subs is better than last week’s one sub, right? No other activity, though I expect to hear back on at least four of the eight stories I have pending this week. I’m sitting at thirty-five submissions total, which is an average of seven per month. I need to get that average up to nine to stay on track for 100 subs for the year. That means ten more submissions in the next few weeks. 🙂

Microfiction

Here are two of the better microfiction pieces from my #vss365 work last week. As always, if you want to read my microfiction in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

May 5th, 2020

The planet was thickly forested but dry save for #rainwater. Eventually we drank, ignoring the tiny wriggling things in each swallow. One by one we grew and took root. Now the few who remain wander still groves, mad with thirst, trying not to hear the voices on the wind. 

May 9th, 2020

“Damn, Sal,” Lucky said. “You shot him #nine fucking times.”

“Um, I thought he had a vest.” Sal said.

“But you shot him in the balls. Twice.”

“I thought he had a VEST, Lucky.”

“Uh huh. Guess he shouldn’ta called you a bad shot on Twitter.”

Sal smirked. “Guess not.”

Goals

This week, the big goal is to revise the outline for Hell to Play, which equates to roughly twenty short chapter outlines. The other goal is to send more submissions, as always. I smell rejections on the wind, so I should have plenty of stories to submit. 🙂


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 4/27/20 to 5/3/20

Another week of writing in the books. Let’s see how I did.

Words to Write By

Today’s quote comes from Andy Warhol.

Don’t think about making art, just get it done.

–Andy Warhol

It’s rare you find a quote that perfectly encapsulates your writing process, but this single sentence from Andy Warhol pretty much describes how I go about my first drafts. I just want to get the story on the page and not worry about making it perfect. Sure, I do occasionally go back and fill in plot holes or fix continuity errors while I’m writing the first draft, but I save most of the refining for the revision(s) after the first draft is done. The primary reason I do this is I find it overwhelming to try and make the story perfect (or at least better) while I’m writing it. It just spikes my anxiety and self-doubt to a degree that kills my productivity, so I don’t do it, and that helps me get from first word to last more-or-less painlessly.

The (New) Novel

More good progress on Hell to Play last week. I wrote just over 8,700 words for a total of 23,000 and change for the manuscript. I’m not hitting my 10,000 words a week like I usually do, but I’ve kind of made peace with that. There are just so many outside distractions right now–and one BIG one–that I’m happy to be making any decent progress at all. Maybe I’ll work back up to 10,000 a week, but at this point I’m looking at having a first draft in twelve weeks. I can absolutely live with that.

Short Story Submissions

Kind of a pathetic week for submissions.

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

Exciting, huh? One submission. I haven’t even gotten a rejection in weeks. The one submission last week gives me 33 for the year, which means I need to pick up the pace in May if I want to hit 100 subs by the end of the year.

Microfiction

I missed a few days again last week, but I think what I did write came out pretty good. Here are the two best in my humble opinion. As always, if you want to read my microfiction in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

April 28th, 2020

Dying’s not so bad, but the #resurrection is a real shit sandwich. Each time I croak and return to life, there’s a new group of mortals convinced I’m the second coming. Sorry, folks, no messiah here. I’m just an accident-prone revenant, and this is my, uh, 94th(?) coming.

May 2nd, 2020

The ancient #ragpicker scavenged only the choicest bits. Castoff shreds that still held some magic, some life. He worked his finds into a shape dear to him but nearly forgotten. The final scrap was his tatterdemalion soul, and when he breathed his last, the child awoke.

Goals

Same as usual. Keep plugging away at the novel and get more submission out the door.


That was my week. How was yours?

Submission Statement: April 2020

Okay, let’s get accountable again. Here’s a breakdown of my submission endeavors for April.

April 2020 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 8
  • Rejections: 9
  • Acceptances: 2
  • Publications: 3

Pretty good month, really. I’m a tad off my pace of 100 subs for the year, but I hope to catch up in May. A fair amount of rejections, but there are some encouraging nos from new markets that tell me I should keep trying stories with them. Two acceptances in a month is always good, and the three publications is extra good.

Rejections

Nine rejections this month.

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

I’ve been shopping a new short story, and it’s gotten some pretty good feedback. That’s were some of the personal rejections come from. The others are from new markets (to me), and the response was encouraging. I’ll definitely submit to these markets again. The form rejections are your typical boilerplate nos from pro markets.

Spotlight Rejection

The spotlight rejection for last month is one that again illustrates why stories get rejected, even good ones.

Thank you very much for your submission, and we’re sorry for the delayed reply. 

That said, [story] is fascinating, and the end quite genius. However, and sadly, we’re already contracted several stories with a similar tone, so we’ll be passing on this at this time.

Thank you again, and we hope this finds a good home soon.

I’d call this a personal rejection, and they say some nice things about my story. The reason they give for the rejections is, I think, one that a lot of authors run into and never know about. My story was a sci-fi noir thriller type thing, which is not terribly uncommon, and it’s perfectly understandable that a market would want a diverse mix of tones and styles in an issue. Now, of course, I’m practicing a little rejectomancy here, but as usual, I think you should take editors at their word

Acceptances

Two acceptances this month. One from The Arcanist for my flash story “Liquid Courage” and one from 50-Word Stories for my micro “Dead Bugs.” My goal every month is to get at least one acceptance, and getting two is, well, uh, better than one. 🙂 I haven’t been skunked yet in 2020, and hopefully I can continue my streak into May.

Publications

The first publication is the flash story “Liquid Courage,” which you may have gleaned from the letter above took 4th place in The Arcanist’s Western Story Contest. You can read or listen to it below.

The next publication is a good old-fashioned print pub. I sold my story “The Back-Off” to On Spec Magazine back in October, and I received my contributor copies in the mail a few days ago. It’s a great looking magazine, full of excellent stories. If you’re into speculative fiction, give a thought to picking up an issue or a subscription to On Spec. Here’s the cover of the latest issue.

Finally, I finish up the month with a publication of my microfiction tale “Dead Bugs” over ay 50-Word Stories, which you can read right here.


And that was my April. Tell me about yours.