A Week of Writing: 4/29/19 to 5/5/19

A day late, but here’s another week of writing wins and woes.

Words to Write By

The quote this week comes from Ernest Hemingway.

“Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”

– Ernest Hemingway

I’m featuring this quote not because I think it’s how everyone should write, but because it’s how I tend to approach writing. Hemingway is famous for spare, unadorned prose, and I tend to write in a similar fashion (note, I am not making any kind of qualitative comparison between my own writing and Hemingway’s). I certainly look at my prose as a means to and end rather than anything approaching the end product itself. What does that mean, though? Generally, it means I don’t spend a lot of time describing people, places, and things; I rely heavily on dialog to express plot points and develop characters; and I weed out passive voice, most adverbs, and try not to get too complex with my sentence structure. If I do it right, I end up with lean, fast-paced prose that conveys a story efficiently and is, hopefully, compelling. So, why do I write this way? Simple. It’s a style that tends to highlight things I’m good at, like action and dialog, and downplays things I’m not so good at, like truly stylish prose and expansive descriptions. Once more, this is not the best way to write (there’s no such thing), but it’s how I write. Looking at my prose like architecture, as Hemingway suggests, has helped me do what all authors must–finish stories and novels.

The Novel

I was out for a few days last week for a badly needed vacation, but I did manage to get a fair amount done on the current revision of Late Risers. I’m confident things will speed up once I get out of the first act where the bulk of the heavy revisions are taking place. This week, I’m working on the last bit of completely new material, and my goal is to finish that, integrate it into the manuscript, and get beyond the halfway point in the revision.

Short Stories

Finally, a respectable submission week.

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

I got 4 submissions out last week. That’s solid, and it’s a good start to May. That gives me 39 for the year and puts me back on track for 100 for 2019. I’d like to end up somewhere around 10 to 12 submissions for the month.

The Blog

Three blog posts last week.

4/29/19: A Week of Writing: 4/22/19 to 4/28/19

The usual weekly writing update.

5/1/19: Submission Protocol: For the Record

In this post I discuss why it’s important to keep detailed records of all your submissions.

5/3/19: Submission Statement: April 2019

A detailed account of my submission endeavors for the month of April.

Goals

Keep revising the novel and chugging toward that finish line. As usual, I’d like a side dish of short story submissions to go with my revision main course.


That was my week. How was yours?

Submission Statement: April 2019

April is in the books, and here are all my submissions, rejections, and acceptances for the month.

April 2019 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 8
  • Rejections: 6
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 3
  • Submission Withdrawal: 0

That’s a decent month submission-wise. A reasonable amount of rejections against one acceptance and three publications. I give this month a solid B. April’s numbers give me thirty-six submissions for the year. A little off my pace for one-hundred submissions, but I’ve already fired off three subs in May, so I should turn things around this month.

Rejections

Six rejections for April.

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

Nothing really exciting or new in the rejection department this month. All six rejections were form rejections and likely ones you’d recognize. That gives me twenty-six total rejections for the year. I got one-hundred right on the nose last year, and I’m on pace for a paltry seventy-eight this year. I’m okay with that. 🙂

Acceptances

Just one tiny little acceptance this month, a microfiction story called “His True Name” at 50-Word Stories. I’m two for two with microfiction subs so far, and I might send a few more this month to some other markets. That’s six total acceptances for the year. I’d really liked to beat last year’s total of nineteen. I’m more or less on pace for that same number, but hopefully May will be a multi-acceptance month to let me pull ahead.

Publications

Three publications this month, the aforementioned “His True Name” at 50-Word Stories, a flash piece called “Big Problems” at Jersey Devil Press, and a short story titled “Paint-Eater” at The Arcanist. All three are free to read by clicking the links below.

“His True Name”

Published by 50-Word Stories (free to read)

“Big Problems”

Published by Jersey Devil Press (free to read)

“Paint-Eater”

Published by The Arcanist (free to read)


And that was April. Tell me about your month.

Submission Protocol: For the Record

No doubt you’ve seen me post copious amounts of stats and analysis on this blog relating to my submissions, rejections, and acceptances. I’m able to do that because I keep track of every single submission I send and its outcome (plus a bunch of other details). You don’t have to be a stat wonk like me, but you should keep track of all your submissions. Here’s why.

  1. Avoid dumb submission mistakes. Once you get into triple digits with submissions that comprise dozens of stories, it can be pretty easy to forget where you sent each one. So one of the things I do before I send out a story, especially one that’s racked up a fair number of rejections, is to check my database. That way I can make sure I’m not sending it to a publisher that’s already rejected it. Full disclosure: I’ve actually made this mistake a few times. Wanna know why? I didn’t check my fucking database before I hit send. (Let’s call that a cautionary tale.)
  2. Submission analysis & targeting. Look, you don’t have to get all crazy with the data like I do, but having some data at hand can be useful to determine how your submissions are doing overall. You can look for trends and anomalies that might help you dial in your submission targeting. Are you only getting standard form rejections from that one magazine and then going on to sell those stories elsewhere? Yeah? Then maybe that market isn’t a good fit for your work. Are your horror stories landing at a market but they’re consistently rejecting your fantasy stories? Okay, then stop sending them fantasy stories. A submission database that keeps track of not just when and where, but also genre, length, and other details may slightly increase the likelihood of an acceptance.
  3. Big-picture progress. One of my favorite things about a robust database is it really lets me see how I’m doing month to month and year to year. I can see if my acceptance numbers (and rate) are improving, if I’m getting more higher-tier and personal rejections than standard rejections, and all sorts of other info that can be quite encouraging. Having a database can help you take a big-picture view of your work rather than the isolated snapshots that come with each rejection. That’s always a confidence booster for me.

I’ve told you why you should keep a submission database; now let me tell you how. My preferred method is to let someone else do the bulk of the work, which is why I track all my submissions through Duotrope. They keep that database for me, and I can filter by market, by story, by rejection (and type of rejection), and so on. I can also download all this data with the click of a button if I want to manipulate it further. Yes, Duotrope is five bucks a month, but if you submit as often as I do, I think that’s a bargain. The Submission Grinder (which is free) has similar functionality, but since I don’t use that service I can’t give you the exact details.

What if you don’t want to use Duotrope or the Submission Grinder to track your submissions? No problem. It’s super easy to set up an Excel spreadsheet that’ll do the trick. If you’re Excel savvy, you can even get a lot of the same functionality you get at Duotrope with a little work. What should your submission database track? Here are the basics you should include: story title, genre, length, market, date sent, date received, and response. That might look like this.

This is a cobbled-together snapshot of some of my own submissions as an example of how you might track your own (No, I don’t generally rock a 50% acceptance rate; I just grabbed a bunch of old submissions for variety). Pretty simple, right? I can sort and parse this data in a number of ways to get all analytical if I want or just to make sure I don’t send a story to a market that’s already rejected it. If you want a more functionality, consider keeping tracking things like the days between submissions and responses and if the submission is a reprint or a sim-sub. That’s all great data. Whatever your database looks like the real key is to be consistent and diligent with keeping track of your submissions. Record every submissions and every response right away (if possible). Yeah, I know recording rejections kind of sucks, but trust me, it’ll serve you in the long run.


How do you keep track of your submissions? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 4/22/19 to 4/28/19

Seven more days down. Here’s the writing week that was.

Words to Write By

The quote this week comes from Louis L’Amour.

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

— Louis L’Amour

I come back to this quote a lot when I’m struggling with a story, a novel, or especially a novel revision. You see, the hardest thing for me is getting started. I have a tendency to build up whatever project I’m working on into this terrifying monolith of impossible work that I psyche myself out before I even start. So, what I have to do is grit my teeth, open that Word document, and just START. Sometimes that’s as simple as rereading and revising what I worked on the day prior, and almost always the fear fades away, the goal becomes clearer, and I can get to it. It’s not exactly writer’s block, but I think it stems from the same place: fear. I’ve found that fear is kind of like fire; it’ll spread if you give it more fuel. So I take Mr. L’Amour’s advice, turn on the faucet, and put out that fire.

The Novel

The revision of Late Risers continues, and last week I again made good progress. I’m about a third of the way through, but I expect my pace to accelerate once I get past the first act where the bulk of the revision is happening. My focus remains on adding new material and then making everything downstream fit that new material. Last week this meant completely removing some chapters and moving others around (with slight adjustments). The result, so far, is a first act that moves quicker and gets to important plot elements as they are happening instead of the characters finding out about them second hand. Anyway, I hope to get to at least the halfway point this week.

Short Stories

Still lagging a bit with submissions, but I did manage to get one out last week.

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

Though I only managed one submission, an acceptance and two publications kind of makes up for the lack of activity. The acceptance was my second microfiction acceptance, and the publications were the aforementioned microfiction and a reprint flash piece. You can check out both publications below.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

4/22/19: Weeks of Writing: 4/15/19 to 4/21/19

The usual weekly writing update.

4/26/19: The Random Rejection Generator v1.0

This is just a bit of fun rejectomancy where you randomly generate your own form rejections.

Goals

Still chugging along on the novel revision and trying to get short story submission out. The focus remains on the former.

Publications

Two publications last week. A microfiction piece called “His True Name” at 50-Word Stories and a flash fiction story called “Big Problems” at Jersey Devil Press. You can read both by clicking the links below.

“His True Name”

Published by 50-Word Stories (free to read)

“Big Problems”

Published by Jersey Devil Press (free to read)


And that was my week. How was yours?

The Random Rejection Generator v1.0

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know I like to have a little fun with rejections (it helps keep me mostly sane), and I’ve created a number of activities writers can do with their nos and not for us’s to make the process less heart-breaking. My last creation was Rejection Bingo, but this time I want to give authors the chance to create their very own rejections with my new Random Rejection Generator!

Here’s how it works. Just grab a six-sided die and roll it once for the INTRO, once for the BAD NEWS, and once for the CLOSING to generate your random rejection.

INTRO

1) Thank you for submitting [story title] to [publisher], but
2) We appreciate your interest in [publisher], but
3) Thank you for considering [publisher], unfortunately
4) Thank you for thinking of [publisher], alas
5) Thank you for sending [story title], but
6) Thanks for giving us a chance to read [story title], but

BAD NEWS

1) this story is not what we’re looking for at the moment.
2) we are going to have to pass on this one.
3) your story does not fit our current needs.
4) this one is not for us.
5) we will not be using your story in this issue.
6) this one didn’t quite grab us.

CLOSING

1) Please keep us in mind in the future.
2) We look forward to your next submission.
3) Best of luck placing this elsewhere.
4) We wish you all the best with your work.
5) Best of luck finding a home for this.
6) We appreciate your interest in our magazine.

So, for example, if I rolled 1, 2, 4, my random rejection would be:

Thank you for submitting “When the Woodchipper Whispers Your Name” to Buckets-O-Blood Quarterly, but we are going to have to pass on this one. We wish you all the best with your work.

Or if I rolled 6, 3, 5, my random rejection would be:

Thanks for giving us a chance to read “Vegan Vampire Vengeance,” but your story does not fit our current needs. Best of luck finding a home for this. 

How might you use the Random Rejection Generator? Well, for fun, mostly, but, hey, if you get a no-response rejection, feel free to roll up a random rejection on the table for some closure. Of course, the current version of the Random Rejection Generator only produces standard form rejections, but keep an eye out for a new and improved RRG with options for higher-tier rejections.


Roll up your own random rejection and post it in the comments or throw out suggestions for the RRG v2.0. 🙂

A Week of Writing: 4/15/19 to 4/21/19

Another week in the books. Here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

The quote this week is another of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing.

Never open a book with weather.

If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people.

– Elmore Leonard

I think Leonard meant this literally, in that it’s an old cliche best avoided, but I think there’s something else to be gleaned here from “The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people.” What I get from that is, basically, open the book (or story) with characters doing and experiencing things rather than static descriptions. Like all of Leonard’s rules, these are useful guides for writing in a particular style, and may not be a perfect fit for everyone. They work for me, though, and I tend to use his rules as a kind of checklist when I’m reviewing my manuscript. In fact, the original opening to my novel was a little, uh, weathery, so I revised it and opened with characters doing stuff important to the plot. The new opening is one I hope prompts readers to ask: Who are these people? Why are they doing these things? More than that, I hope it prompts folks to read further in search of the answers to those questions.

The Novel

I continue to make good progress on revisions with the novel. Its going slower than I’d like, but I feel like the changes are good. Last week I added a lot of new material, made adjustments immediately downstream for that new material, and plotted out where further changes would need to be made. This week, I’m adding more new stuff, cutting some of the deadwood, and, again, making changes to existing chapters to fit with the new stuff. The main thrust is that I had a very talky novel, and while some of that talking was interesting and important and will remain, it needed more “people doing stuff,” especially in the first act. At this point, I’m gonna stop setting deadlines for this revision and default to a simple “soon.”

Short Stories

After getting back on track in the weeks prior, I’ve derailed this week.

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

Yeah, not great. My focus has been on the novel, and I think that’s where it needs to be for the moment. I’ve got stories ready to submit, and I might send out a few this week, but if I don’t, I’ll catch up next month.

The Blog

Only one blog post last week, but I got more planned for this week.

4/15/19: Weeks of Writing: 3/24/19 to 4/14/19

A big catch-up post of the past three weeks of writing and submissions.

Goals

The novel is priority and will command the bulk of my writing time. Though I’ll try to get some short story submissions out, I won’t beat myself up if I don’t.


And that was my week. How was yours?

Weeks of Writing: 3/25/19 to 4/14/19

Well, I fell behind on these again, so here’s a three-week catch-up of the weeks that were.

Words to Write By

The quote this week comes from Stephen King

“The writer must have a good imagination to begin with, but the imagination has to be muscular, which means it must be exercised in a disciplined way, day in and day out, by writing, failing, succeeding and revising.”

– Stephen King

I’m kind of a fitness nerd, so likening the imagination (and the writing process) to a muscle that must be exercised on a regular basis make a lot of sense to me. Like working out, it’s something you have to do even when it’s the last fucking thing you want to do. If you want that literary muscle to get stronger, you have to use it, and though the first thing King lists, writing, can be hard enough, it’s those other things, especially the failing and revising, that really stimulate literary growth for me. As I continue to revise my novel, I’m definitely learning, getting better, and next time I’ll be stronger and faster because of it.

The Novel

Well, my goal for finishing the revision of Late Risers by mid-month was a little optimistic, but the extra time I took was mostly planning and additional outlining, and that’s paying dividends now. I’m in the thick of the revision, and I like where things are going. The story feels stronger, more cohesive, and the changes and additions I’ve made are leading me to some very interesting and, I hope, compelling places. In short, I feel good about how the novel is shaping up, and even though my writer brain is screaming at me not to trust this feeling, I’m gonna run with it and hope it gets me through this round of revisions.

Short Stories

What’s below accounts for roughly three weeks of submissions, and I’d say I’m back on track for the most part.

  • Submissions Sent: 10
  • Rejections: 8
  • Acceptances: 2
  • Publications: 1
  • Shortlist: 0

So, those 10 submissions put me at 34 for the year (6 in April). That puts me on pace for around 120 submissions in 2019. I need to get out three or four more in April to stay on target, but that shouldn’t be difficult. A fair amount of rejections in these past three weeks, and a few of them were heart-breakers, but the acceptances and a publication softened the blow somewhat.

The Blog

Here are the blog highlights for the last three weeks.

3/27/19: Submission Top Ten: Shortest Waits

This is a list of my quickest rejections and acceptances, including what I consider an unbreakable record.

4/1/19: A Month of Microfiction: March 2019

Just what it says on the tin. This is all the Twitter microfiction I wrote last month.

4/8/19: Micromanagement: 4 Benefits of Writing Tiny

In this post I explore some of the benefits of writing microfiction.

Goals

I’d like to finish the revision of Late Risers by the end of the month, but if it takes a bit longer, that’s okay too.

Publications

One publication over the last three weeks. I took 3rd place in The Arcanist’s Magical Story contest, and you can read my entry, “Paint-Eater,” by clicking the link below.

“Paint-Eater”

Published by The Arcanist (free to read)


How was your writing week(s)? Tell me about it in the comments.