A Week of Writing: 6/10/19 to 6/16/2019

Another week of writing and stuff.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote is another from Mark Twain.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

― Mark Twain

I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity or more precisely the lack of it. A lot of folks call that writer’s block, but when I’m not productive it’s generally not because I can’t write, it’s because I’m terrified to start writing or editing or revising or whatever. Mark Twain’s quote describes almost exactly what I do to get out of my funk. Looking at something like a novel (or the revision of said novel) as one colossal task is completely overwhelming, so much so that I just spin my wheels and fail to get anything done. If I break down that huge task into a bunch of little ones, like Mr. Twain suggests, I can get on with it.

With a novel, those little tasks are writing an outline, then finishing the first chapter, then writing 2,000 words a day. Basically, I never let myself dwell too long on the overall task, I just complete the task(s) I assigned myself for the day. If I do that for like 90 days in a row, one day I’ll look up and have a completed first draft. For revision, it’s roughly the same process. I’ll assign myself one or two plot points to resolve and focus entirely on those, or if I’m doing a more general proof, I’ll assign myself a number of pages per day.

There’s a bit of self trickery in this process, but I’ll use every dirty trick in the book if it means I can push past the fear and doubt and get more done. 🙂

The Novel

Well, I’m back to revising Late Risers and making good progress. Last week I primarily focused on starting from page one and re-reading the first half of the novel. I did a lot of work in the first half and added a ton of new material. So I needed to reacquaint myself with all those shiny new words and figure out if they’re worth keeping. The good news is that most of them are worth keeping, and, as usual, with a little distance from the novel, it reads a lot better and more cohesively than I thought it would. This week I plan to plow through the second half of the book. I won’t need to revise as much, but there’s one huge plot point I need to rework in the third act. After that, it should be pretty smooth sailing. I hope.

Short Stories

Yes, behold my shame.

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

No submissions last week, but, hey, I did get a form rejection (womp womp). I’m lagging this month with new submissions, though I am working on new short stories that will become new submissions. I hope to get one or two or three of those out this week. I was also invited to contribute a story or two to a sword & sorcery magazine, so I’ll be starting those stories this week.

The Blog

Here are the blog posts from last week.

6/12/19: Weeks of Writing: 5/20/19 to 6/9/19

Getting caught up on the weeks I missed.

6/15/19: Submissions: A Pair of Never Have I Evers

In this post I discuss two publisher responses I’ve never received.

Goals

Novel, novel, novel. Short story, short story, short story.

Curious Fictions

I’ve started posting some of my reprint flash fiction and short stories up at Curious Fictions, and I plan to do that every Monday for a while. I’ll eventually get around to posting new material, and maybe even a serialized novella. For the moment, getting some of my old reprints some fresh air has been a lot of fun.

This week’s story is “Caroline,” a zombie tale published by Red Sun Magazine a few years ago. It’s definitely one of the darker pieces I’ve written, and you can check it out by clicking the link(s) below.

“Caroline”

Photo by Jonny Clow on Unsplash


That was my week. How was yours?

Submissions: A Pair of Never Have I Evers

With over four hundred submissions you might think I’ve seen just about everything when it comes to editorial responses. I’ve certainly seen a lot, but there are a couple of anomalies in my submission record that stick out. Let’s talk about them.

1) Never have I ever received a revision request.

Yep, not once. I think I’ve received just about every other kind of response you can get from a publisher, but the revision request eludes me. I know authors who receive tons of them, to the point where it’s almost commonplace. So why not me? Here are two possible reasons.

  • The market. Some publishers just don’t send them. It’s either a yes or a no because they don’t have the time to work with an author to develop a maybe. This is certainly anecdotal, but the authors I know who receive revision requests on the regular write more lit-fic, so maybe it’s more common in that circle.
  • I’m a true outcome writer. Borrowing a term from baseball, a true outcome player is one who often generates one of three outcomes in an at bat: a home run, a walk, or a strikeout. So far, I tend to be that kind of writer. I either get an acceptance (a home run), a form rejection (a strike out), or a personal rejection (a, uh, walk, I guess). I’m not sure how much of that is what I write and how much is where I submit, probably a bit of both. It’s possible I’m a true outcome writer because my submission targeting needs work. That’s always worth reexamining.

2) Never have I ever received a rude rejection.

I hear tales of rude or mean-spirited rejections a lot, but I’ve never been on the receiving end of one. Unlike the first anomaly, I’m, uh, okay with that. I’ve received feedback I thought was wildly off base, but it wasn’t rude, just wrong for the story I wanted to tell. So, why haven’t I got one of these literary kicks to the teeth?

  • I’m just lucky. Totally plausible. Maybe, I’ve just managed to avoid the editors that send rude rejections, or I’ve managed not to do anything that would bring their ire down on my head.  *Knocks on wood.*
  • They’re pretty rare. When I do see an author talking about a rude rejection on social media it invariably gets a whole bunch of clicks, shares, and retweets. It’s the kind of salacious tidbit folks love to read and talk about. So, when it does happen, I think it gets magnified, and that might make it seem more common than it actually is. (My personal opinion is that rude rejections are rare as hen’s teeth, but see my last point.)
  • Rude is subjective. Sometimes, when I see an author talking about a rude rejection, it turns out to be what I’d consider a pretty standard form rejection. Yeah, these things can be short and to the point, and if you’re feeling salty about the rejection, it might come across as terse or dismissive. In other words, one author’s rude is another author’s shrug and move on. I’m not saying rude rejections don’t exist–I’ve seen conclusive evidence they do–but I think it’s best to get a little distance before using any rejectomancy to divine a rejection’s intent, good or bad.

Got anything to add to my submission anomalies? Or maybe you have some of your own. Tell me about them in the comments.

Weeks of Writing: 5/20/19 to 6/9/19

Yikes. Time to get caught up on these weeklies.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote is another from Jodi Picoult.

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

― Jodi Picoult

I love this quote because it’s such a simple truth. Essentially, writing is always better than NOT writing. I recently wrote a blog post about what I’d learned from working under deadlines, and this was one of the best lessons. I called it “fix it in post,” but it’s the same concept. Getting the words on the page, getting the broad strokes of the story down, even when it feels terrible, is a necessity, and it’ll almost never be as bad as you think it’ll be. Like Jodi Picoult says, you can always edit a bad page. You can improve it, make it better, even make it great. But you need to get those words on the page before you can do literally anything.

The Novel

I’ve spent the last three weeks or so working on a Privateer Press novella (and then entertaining family), so I haven’t worked on Late Risers at all. That changes this week, and I’m headed back to the revision salt mines. I stopped the revision at a good place, and I had added most of the new material I needed. This week I’m gonna read through all that new stuff now that I’ve head a chance to step away and gain some perspective, then I’ll head into the second and third act, and hopefully it’ll be a gentle downhill revision from there.

Short Stories

Some submissions. Not enough, but some.

  • Submissions Sent: 6
  • Rejections: 4
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

I managed a couple of submissions per week over the last month. These six put me at forty-six for the year, still mostly on pace for my one-hundred. I still have nine submissions pending, and I’m hoping one or more of those will break my acceptance-less streak dating back to April.

The Blog

Here are the blog highlights for the last three weeks.

5/29/19: Deadlines: What Can They Teach You?

In this post I discuss what I’ve learned from working under tight deadlines.

5/31/19: Submission Protocol: Further Consideration Letters

A discussion of further consideration letters and if/when you should respond to them.

6/4/19: The Post-Rejection Process

What do you do after a rejection? Well, here’s what I do.

Goals

The novel is the primary goal as I inch closer to a completed revision. As usual, I’d like to get a few submission out too.

Other Stuff

There’s one more thing I’d like to call to your attention. I’ve started putting some fiction out at Curious Fictions, mostly reprints that are free to read, though I do have plans for original, even serialized stuff. So, head on out there, read some of the free stuff I have up (and will add to each week), and if you’re so inclined, give me a follow and/or a like. 🙂 Just click on my smilin’ mug below to get to my author profile.

Aeryn Rudel Curious Fictions


That was my week(s). How was yours?

The Post-Rejection Process

Rejections are inevitable. You can’t avoid them, you can’t (and absolutely shouldn’t) argue with them, and though they lose some of their sting over time, they’ll always have some bite. What you can do is control how you deal with rejections. For me, that boils down to a specific four-step process that lets me put rejections in perspective and move on. Of course, this is going to be a very different process for each writer, but here’s what I do.

  1. Read and feel. You can’t avoid this part, so I just lean into it. Be disappointed, be angry, be sad. There’s nothing wrong with any of that . . . as long as you set some kind of time limit. If I need it, I’ll usually give myself anywhere from ten minutes to an hour just to deal with the emotions. I remind myself none of this is personal, that selling a story is all often about putting it in front of the right editor at the right time, and all the other little adages and affirmations I talk about on the blog. What I don’t want is to let those emotions overwhelm me and keep me from being productive, i.e., sending out more submissions. This is also a time I might reach out to other authors to commiserate, normalize the experience, and, hey, get a little sympathy from folks going through the same thing.
  2. Observe and report. The next thing I do is all the bookkeeping. It’s a clinical process that removes me from the emotional aspect of rejection. First thing I do is move the rejection email from my inbox into a rejection folder. It’s kind of an out of sight, out of mind thing, but it’s also so I can put the rejection where it belongs. There’s something vaguely comforting in that. The next thing I do is head out to Duotrope and report the rejection there. I want to keep accurate records because I need them for my blog, and I want to make sure I don’t make stupid mistakes like sending a rejected story to the same publisher. I can’t let a disappointing rejection hurt my chances at future publication.
  3. Get analytical. Okay, now that I’ve let my emotions have their moment and I’ve done all the necessary accounting, I’m usually in a pretty objective place. If I’ve received a personal rejection with feedback, I’ll pull up the email and really try and absorb it. Is it useful to me? Do I need to revise the story based on the feedback? More importantly, does the feedback possibly pinpoint a larger issue in my writing? If the feedback resonates with me, then I’ll revise the story. If I’ve received a form rejection, then I generally go straight to step four.
  4. Fire and forget. I often send out a rejected story right away if I received a standard form rejection and the story has only been submitted a few times (or if I can’t use the feedback I received from a personal rejection). It’s another process that has, I don’t know, kind of a cleansing element, especially after I’ve done all the stuff above. Sending that story out again feels like the final step in the process, one that allows me to put a rejection behind me and move forward.

So that’s my process, my ritual if you will. It keeps me sane and keeps me sending out more submissions, and that’s all I can hope for.

What do you do post-rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

Submission Protocol: Further Consideration Letters

A recent discussion with another author about further consideration letters (sometimes called short-list letters) prompted the question of whether or not you should respond to them. It got me thinking about how I generally handle short lists and further considerations. So let’s talk about that. First, what is a further consideration letter? Here’s an example:

Hello Aeryn, 

The editorial team has read your story, [Story Title]. They have decided to put this story on the “short-list” to be considered for publication. We want to respect your time as an author, so we will make a final decision as soon as possible. 

Thank you, 

Should you respond to a letter like this? I don’t think it’s necessary, and here are two reasons why.

  1. It’s really just a status update. In my experience, a lot of further consideration letters are form letters to let you know what’s going on with your story. They’re not too dissimilar from the auto-generated notifications you get when your story is initially received (in other words, they are meant as one-way communications). Basically, no response is required. The letter is just a “Hey, here’s what’s up with your submission.”
  2. It’s not expected. Piggy-backing on point number one, I personally don’t think editors expect a response to further consideration letters, even if they sent a short personal note. Like responding to a rejection (or generally anything but an acceptance), it’s not necessary and is probably just clutter in an inbox already filled to bursting.

I have not responded to most further consideration letters (but see below), and it doesn’t appear to have affected my chances of publication.

Okay, so are there times you should respond to a further consideration letter? That answer is yes, when the editor asks you to. See below:

Dear Aeryn,

Thank you again for your submission. We really like this story and would like to add this on our short list, if that is okay with you. We will have the final decisions by July 1 at the latest. Let us know!

Thanks!

This is something I’ve seen a few times with further consideration letters, especially if it’s going to take the editors a while to make decisions. Like in the letter above, the editors will a) tell you how long the decisions is going to take and b) ask you if you mind letting them hold on to the story for that long. In this case, yes, absolutely respond to let the editors to let them know what you decide. I really appreciate a letter like this, as it allows me to make an informed decision about what happens to my story. I’ve never pulled a story back after a letter like this, but it’s nice to have that option.

I have kind of a funny outlier story about responding to a further consideration letter. I once sent a story to a pro market (now sadly out of business), and after not hearing back for over six months, I sent a query letter. When I received no response to the query, I sent a withdrawal letter. About a week after I sent the withdrawal I received a further consideration letter from the publisher. In a panic, I sent the editor a note explaining I’d withdrawn the story, but if he didn’t mind too much, I’d like to, uh, withdraw my withdrawal. Luckily, he was a very understanding person and added the story back into his final review. I received an acceptance about two months later. (Yay! Happy ending.)


Thoughts on responding to a further consideration letter? Tell me about it in the comments.

Deadlines: What Can They Teach You?

I’m currently writing on deadline, something I’ve done a lot in my career. From short stories to novels, I’ve frequently had to bang out the words under the gun. That got me thinking. What has writing under a deadline taught me and how has it shaped my writing? Here are three deadline-induced skills I’ve developed, which I’ve reduced down to acronyms because it’s more fun. So, lets talk about ABO, GID, and FIP.

1) ABO (Always be Outlining)

Look, I’m not saying outlining is the one true way. A lot of writers prefer to fly by the seat of their pants, and that clearly works for them. For me, however, outlining a fiction project does two things. One, it alleviates a lot of the worry that goes hand-in-hand with writing under a (tight) deadline. If I know where the story is going, and I have a solid road map to get there, I worry less about that and can focus on the writing. Two, it makes it easier to get started. An outline is kind of like a practice run or a warm-up, and it allows me to dive into the story without all the anxiety-inducing baggage of actually writing it (yet). That, for some reason, make the whole thing easier.

What ABO has Taught Me

Well, this is pretty simple. I’ve become a dedicated plotter in my own work for the same reasons I describe above. I write detailed outlines for short stories and novels, and it’s made both starting and finishing my own projects much easier. As I said above, outlining is not for everyone, and I get that, but it’s been an invaluable tool for me.

2) GID (Get it Down)

When I’m writing on a deadline, I don’t have time to let self-doubt and fear get in my way. That’s not to say they aren’t present (they are), but the only thing that frightens me more than getting those words on the page is, uh, not getting those words on the page and missing my deadline. So I sit down and write, no matter how I’m feeling, not matter how my brain is screaming “THIS IS ALL TERRIBLE.” I just forge ahead, word by word, paragraph by paragraph, at a pace of 2,000 to 3,000 words per day until I have a first draft. Basically, I tell myself “just get it down,” which is to say get it on the page, get that first draft done, and, most importantly, you can worry about the rest later.

What GID has Taught Me

With my own writing, I often pretend I’m on a deadline. For a novel, I figure out a writing schedule that requires a pace of about 10,000 words a week. I write my outline, and then, well, I just get it down. It allows me to knock out a first draft in about nine to twelve weeks. Really, what GID has allowed me to do, in conjunction with outlining, is finish things. It’s often a struggle, but if I can allow myself to not care about everything being perfect as I write it and really just focus on getting words on the page, I can get things done, and it’s never as bad as I think it’s gonna be, which leads me to the next skill.

3) FIP (Fix it in Post)

The bosom buddy of get it down, fix it in post or FIP is another mantra I recite as I’m writing a first draft. It’s more of a film/TV term than a writing term, but the concept of cleaning up and editing raw footage still applies. Working in the gaming industry as an editor and writer for all those years taught me just about everything can be fixed (often at the last minute) once you have a complete draft to work with.

What FIP Taught Me

Like the rest of these acronyms, FIP is all about finishing. It’s another way to do an end run around the fear and doubt that might keep me from writing. When I’m working on that first draft of a story or a novel, and I start to get a little freaked out that it’s not going well or whatever, I tell myself “fix it in post,” often right after I tell myself “just get it down.” Those two together are a powerful force that lets me forge ahead and keep working.


Armed with ABO, GID, and FIP, I feel I can go into just about any project with the understanding that a) I can complete it, b) it won’t be nearly as bad as I fear it will be, and c) even if it needs work, I can DO that work. They’ve been a great confidence booster, and I learned them all because of the looming threat and ticking doom clock of years and years of deadlines. Those skills–though I guess they’re more mindsets than actual skills–have definitely paid dividends in my own work.

So that’s what deadlines have done for me. What have they done for you? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 5/13/19 to 5/19/19

A day late again, but here’s another writing week that was.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote is another from Stephen King.

“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to makes speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

– Stephen King

This is a great quote, and in my experience it’s definitely true. I always feel like writing is done in a vacuum. You’re sealed away with all your doubts and fears while you create. Yes, you can seek out input from folks you trust after you have a draft finished, but that initial act of creation? That’s all you. Alone. So, yes, having someone who believes in you and your ability, be it a spouse, a good friend, or supportive people in your writing group, can often be the difference between those previously mentioned doubts and fears eating you alive and actually getting something finished. Like Mr. King says, they don’t need to make speeches, just knowing they’re there and rooting for you means an awful lot.

The Novel

The novel is on a temporary back-burner while I complete the next Privateer Press novella I’m contracted to write. I should polish off the first draft this week, though, and then get back to the novel shortly thereafter.

Short Stories

Another slow week for submissions.

  • Submissions Sent: 1
  • Rejections: 5
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

Yeah, not great. Better than the week before, but that’s only because I didn’t send a single submission. Three of the five rejections were personal rejections, and one was a bit of a heart-breaker, but that’s all part of the gig. Rejections hurt sometimes, but you gotta roll with it and never take it personally.

I now have 40 submissions for the year, which is off my pace of 100 for 2019. If I can send 5 more submissions this month, that’ll put me back on track. I’m not gonna make any promises, though. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

5/14/19: A Week of Writing: 5/6/19 to 5/12/19

The usual weekly writing update.

5/17/19: One-Hour Flash – Blood Sport 

Another installment of flash fiction that wasn’t quite up-to-snuff for submission.

Goals

I’ve got a deadline to hit for the Privateer Press novella, so that is my number one goal. In between pounding out the words, I’ll try to send a submission or two, but, that’s probably more wishful thinking than actual priority.


That was my week. How was yours?