Aeryn’s Archives: Roll Credits

Today on Aeryn’s Archives I’m doing something a little different. Instead of looking at a single piece of work I published, we’re gonna look at, uh, all of them. Some of you may have noticed the professional credits page on the blog, but it’s honestly not something I expect folks to read. In fact, it’s mostly for me, a place where I can keep track of everything I do. Sure, it gets a few views now and then, but it’s just a boring list of I wrote this, edited that, and produced this other thing.

Anyway, I rarely talk about my writing history/career as a whole because, well, I’ve done a lot of different things that don’t fit neatly together. This seems like a decent way to approach the plurality of my professional writing experience in a way that’s somewhat succinct and hopefully not as dreadfully dull as looking at a pages-long list. 🙂

Total Writing Credits: 280

If I did my math right, I have 280 distinct writing credits. That’s 280 things my name appeared on/in alongside the word author or designer or whatever. Now, this comes with a couple caveats. Not all of this is fiction, and some of it is self-published. So anyway, let’s break this down into three categories.

Fiction Credits: 108

When I say fiction, I mean fully narrative fiction. It’s kind of a weird distinction to draw because a lot of my game design credits are fiction(ish), but they have that historical documentary vibe, which I consider a slightly different beast. Anyway, these 108 credits run the gamut between short stories, flash fiction, microfiction, and longer works like novels, novellas, and novelettes. Oh, and a handful of them are co-author credits. I’d say about half these credits are things I published with Privateer Press before and after my tenure there and fall under media tie-in. The others are all mine, the short stories and whatnot you see me talk about on this blog.

Game Design: 102

Game design is a broad term, and I use it here to describe any non-narrative writing in service to a tabletop roleplaying or miniatures game. This category includes things like Dungeons & Dragons adventures I wrote for companies like Goodman Games and Wizards of the Coast, game material for WARMACHINE and HORDES, the principal tabletop miniature games produced by Privateer Press, and, finally, a whole bunch of history-book-style articles exploring the various IPs of the games I worked on (mostly the Iron Kingdoms). Like above with fiction, a handful of these are also co-authored.

Now, as I said before, some of these credits are fiction(ish), and some folks might consider something like the voice-y Gavyn Kyle articles I wrote for No Quarter magazine as fiction. That’s cool, and I wouldn’t put up much of an argument, really, but to me they fit more comfortably under game design.

Self-Published Game Design: 70

Finally, we have the digital gaming supplements and adventures I wrote and produced under my own little RPG company Blackdirge Publishing between 2005 and 2010. All these supplements are designed for use with Dungeons & Dragons, either 3.5 or 4th edition. Running this little “company” was a good experience, and I learned a lot from it. I separated these out because they’re somewhat different than the other work I’ve done and I acted as author, producer, and publisher all at once. Most of these are micro-supplements, just a few pages long. I did produce a handful of longer ones, though rarely more than 30 pages or so.


So there you have it. My writing bona fides, such as they are. Of course, I also have a bunch of editing and production credits, but those are even less interesting than the writing credits. 🙂

That New Story Smell

I recently finished a short story, one I really like. After letting my critique partners work it over, I revised the piece, shaved off 500 words, and now I’ll start submitting it. What I want to talk about in this post is the wonderful, exhilarating experience of completing a new story and sending it out on it’s first submission. Let’s dive in.

I like lists. Maybe you’ve noticed. So here are three things I love about finishing a new story.

  1. The best thing I’ve ever written. This isn’t always true, of course, but often when I finish a new story I feel like I’ve grown as a writer, if only a little. It might just be the bright, shiny allure of NEW THING that makes me feel this way, or in the case of this particular story, it might be I pushed myself, tried something new, and as scary as it was, I did it (and I think it worked). That feeling of accomplishing something new is pretty sweet.
  2. Limitless potential. A new story has a blank slate. It hasn’t been rejected yet, and, at least for me, it’s the best I can make it without additional objective feedback. You know, the kind that comes from editors in the form of rejections. I almost always start at the top when I submit a new piece. I send it to all those dream, bucket-list publishers, and, yeah, I might even imagine how awesome it would be to place a story there. I don’t spend too long on fantasy island, though. Cracking those top markets is tough, and you have to be pragmatic about these things. Still, a new story lets you dream a little, and that’s a good thing.
  3. Sweet validation. One thing that makes me feel like a real, honest-to-god writer is finishing something, be it a short story, a novel or, hell, even a blog post. The knowledge that I can get an idea, execute that idea, and produce something that is (hopefully) of publishable quality is a great confidence booster. Never mind the dozen half-finished stories collecting dust on my hard drive, this time I did it. This time I overcame the fear and doubt, pushed through, and made a new thing. I’ll bask in that glow until the first rejections arrives. 🙂

So that’s a bit about how I feel when I complete a new story. How do you feel when you finish a piece? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Aeryn’s Archives: Paint-Eater

Today’s installment of Aeryn’s Archives features a short story called “Paint-Eater.” It’s an interesting piece in that it’s one of those stories that took a lot of refining (and a bunch of rejections) to get to a place where it was sellable. I’ll discuss that further below, but in the meantime you can head on out to The Arcanist and read the story by clicking this link or the illustration below:

“Paint-Eater” began life as the very first flash fiction piece I attempted way back in April of 2012 in a one-hour flash fiction writing contest. The story was well received enough (it took second, I believe) that I thought, “Hey, maybe I should write more of this flash stuff.” Despite that, I viewed my first flash as simply an idea for a story rather than a story unto itself, so I set about expanding it into a full-fledged short story. I still believe that was the right decision; the idea was too big to fit into 1,000 words. I ended up with a 3,500-word short in 2013, but I didn’t start submitting it until 2016. I’m not sure why I waited that long, but once I started sending the story out into the world the rejections rolled in. I was sitting on seven rejections when the eighth arrived with some solid feedback. The editor recommended a change to the story that was absolutely the right thing to do. Still, it took me a full year to revise and submit it again.

After a big revision I sent “Paint-Eater” in to The Arcanists Magical Story short story contest, where it took third place. So the edits I made seemed to be effective, and it was nice to finally place this one. Sometimes that’s what it takes to sell a story. It needs to evolve as you evolve as a writer, as this one did (and a few pointers from kindly editors don’t hurt either). I learned SO MUCH about writing and submitting between the time I wrote this story and the time I sold it, and “Paint-Eater” definitely benefitted from my continuing education.


Anyway, head out to The Arcanist and give “Paint-Eater” a read. 🙂

365 Rejections: A Year’s Worth of No

Yesterday I received my 365th rejection since I started tracking my submissions seriously through Duotrope back in 2012. I think that’s kind of a cool milestone, and, well, like the headline says, it’s a whole year’s worth of rejections. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to dig into the numbers and see what 365 rejections looks like. First, let me offer up proof that I’ve actually hit this specific number. Below is a screenshot from my Duotrope account:

I’ve (crudely) circled the important things in red and removed the story and publisher name from my very first rejection through Duotrope way back in May of 2012. Now here are some interesting data point from those 365 rejections.

Unique Stories – 82

I have 82 distinct stories rejected, though a few of these were submitted as flash, rejected, then expanded to longer pieces, and also rejected. I went ahead and lumped those together as one story. Let’s look closer at the numbers on the stories.

Accepted: I managed to sell 41 of the stories in my rejected list. That’s exactly half, and that’s not too shabby. I think this further illustrates a couple of things I say all the time on this blog: selling a story is often about right story, right market, right time and even good stories get rejected. Here you see 41 stories that were rejected at least once (probably a lot more) but eventually sold.

Ten-Spots: Of the 82 stories rejected here, 11 of them were rejected 10 times or more. The good news is that I actually sold 7 of those stories. Again, this further illustrates that rejections are inevitable, even for good stories, even for stories you eventually sell to a pro market.

Unique Markets – 105

I have been rejected by 105 distinct markets. Some of these markets, like The Arcanist and The Molotov Cocktail, run contests as well as accept standard submissions. Those are separate entries in Duotrope, but I counted them as one market. Also, publishers like Flame Tree Publishing that run multiple anthologies I counted as a single market. Let’s look dig deeper into these numbers.

Lots of No: Of the 105 markets I submitted to 11 of them have rejected me more than 10 times. Most of these are top-tier pro markets and hard to crack. That said, I have managed to sell one or more stories to 4 of these markets. I hope to improve that number this year.

Pay: Going off Duotrope’s definitions of pay scale, which divides markets into Professional (.08/word or more), Semi-Pro (.01/word to .07/word), and Token (under .01/word), the markets I submitted to broke down as such.

  • Professional – 44
  • Semi-Pro – 51
  • Token – 10

One small caveat. The definition of professional has changed a few times since I’ve been submitting, mostly based on the SFWA’s recommendation for what should be considered a professional rate. If a market qualified as professional when I submitted a story to it, then I counted it as a “pro” market.

Status: Of the 105 markets that rejected me, 44 of them are not accepting submissions any longer. Duotrope codes these reasons as follows. Closed – The market has permanently shut down.  Believed Defunct – This indicates the publication is believed to be no longer active. DNQ – This indicates the publication does not qualify for a full listing. On Hiatus – This indicates they are closed indefinitely to submissions and may or may not re-open at a later date.

The markets that rejected me that fall under these categories break down like this.

  • Closed – 20
  • Believed Defunct – 6
  • DNQ – 8
  • On Hiatus – 10

In my experience, markets listed as DNQ and a number listed as On Hiatus (but not all) are in truth closed, but they haven’t made any kind of official announcement. I present these numbers simply to illustrate how tough it is to for a short story publisher to make it these days.

More Fun Facts

As you can likely tell, I like data. I find the little nuggets of information you can find in the numbers to be pretty interesting, if not particularly useful. The following bits of lore pulled from my 365 rejections fall into the latter category, but, hey, let’s look at them anyway.

Days of Doom: The most rejections I’ve received in a single day is 4. That surprised me. I thought there would be at least one 5-spot in there, but nope. I’ve done the quad twice, on 10/30/18 and 5/15/19. I’ve done the hat trick (3 rejections) a bunch, seven times to be exact.

Months of Mayhem: There have been six months where I received 10 or more rejections. It feels like there should be more, but the numbers don’t lie. My most rejected month, however, was January of 2018, where I received 15 rejections.


Well, that’s the skinny on my 365 rejections. How are your submission (and rejection) endeavors going. Tell me about it in the comments.

Submission Top 10: Most Subbed Stories

Time for more submission greatest hits and another top ten list. This time we’re looking at the short stories I’ve submitted the most and what has become of them: submissions, rejections, acceptances, etcetera.

Yeah, I know there are actually twelve stories on the list below. That’s because of the ties (look at all those elevens), and, hey, I’ve already done some posts in this series, and top ten looks better in a headline. 🙂 Okay, let’s take a look.

Story Subs Reject Accept Other
Set in Stone 27 24 0 3
Paper Cut 18 17 (2) 1 0
Caroline 17 15 (4) 1 1
The Scars You Keep 16 4 0 2
After Birth 12 11 0 1
Bites 12 11 1 0
A Point of Honor 11 10 1 0
Teeth of the Lion Man 11 11 0 0
The Back-Off 11 10 1 0
What Kind of Hero 11 10 1 0
When the Lights Go On 11 10 1 0
Paint-Eater 10 8 (1) 1 1

So that’s a total of 167 submissions, 141 rejections, and 8 acceptances. The rejections in parentheses represent the number of reprint rejections a story has received. All this works out to a 5% acceptance rate (rounding up), which is way, way down from my average of about 15%. Here’s the weird thing, though; I think some of these stories represent my best work (some clearly don’t, and we’ll get to that). If that’s the case, why did they rack up all those rejections? Let’s apply some rejectomancy and see what we can see.

  1. Tough Markets. Like I said, I think some of these stories represent my best work, and as such, I sent them to top-tier professional markets with acceptance rates around or below 2%. Some of these stories received personal rejections or were even shortlisted at those markets, and a couple did eventually sell to a pro publisher. In other words, this may be an example of something I say a lot on this blog: even good stories get rejected.
  2. Weird Genre. Stories like “Bites” and “The Back-Off” have elements of horror, urban fantasy, and crime all rolled into one, but they don’t really live comfortably in any of them, and I found them difficult to place at markets that specialized in specific genres. When I dialed in my submission targeting and submitted these stories to markets that published a wide range of speculative fiction, I did better and eventually sold them. This is, of course, rejectomancy at its finest, but I have anecdotal data in the form of personal rejections that lead me to believe my theory is at least in the ballpark for some of the markets I sent these stories to.
  3. They’re Not Ready. The truth is that the four stories up there with zeo acceptances have racked up all those rejections for a reason: they’re not good enough yet. Most of them suffer from an acute case of premise-itis, which is where I’ve come up with a good concept, fallen in love with it, and then failed to build a good story around it. I believe three of the stories can be fixed with a strong revision, but “Set in Stone” needs a complete rewrite or possibly just exile to the trunk (I mean, 24 rejections is A LOT).

So that’s my twelve most subbed stories. Tell me about some of your well-travelled tales in the comments.

Weeks of Writing: 2/17/20 to 3/8/2020

Playing catch up and hitting you with multiple weeks here. I was on vacation for most of this period, then I caught a bad cold (while on vacation, no less), but I did manage to do a bit of writing and submitting and whatnot. Here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

Got another one from the font of writerly wisdom that is Elmore Leonard.

“I don’t believe in writer’s block or waiting for inspiration. If you’re a writer, you sit down and write.”

―Elmore Leonard

Writer’s block is one of those subjects that pops up a lot in writerly circles. Does writer’s block exist? I can’t say for certain because I don’t live in the brains of other writers. I can say I mostly agree with Mr. Leonard, and that writer’s block is often a luxury you don’t have when you’re under deadline. The closest I get to writer’s block is simply fear of failing, which translated to fear of starting. When that happens, especially when I’m writing with a deadline, I do what Mr. Leonard says. I sit down and I write. That first half an hour or so can be absolute torture. Everything feels wrong and terrible, but, after a while, it starts to click, and the rest of that day’s writing often goes pretty well. Yeah, sometimes I have to go back and tweak that first five hundred words I stumbled through, but that’s a small price to pay for hitting my writing goal for the day.

The (New) Novel

Well, a week-plus of vacation and then a nasty cold definitely torpedoed my productivity on the novel. That said, I still have a completed outline and I met with one of my critique partners to smooth out some of the rough spots. I’ll start writing in earnest this week, shooting for the usual 2,000 words per day.

Short Story Submissions

Despite the downtime, I did manage to get some submissions out and even collect a couple of acceptances.

  • Submissions Sent: 9
  • Rejections: 5
  • Acceptances: 2
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

I ended February with 10 submissions and 1 acceptance. Not bad. So far, I have 2 submissions in March and 2 acceptances. That’s a ratio I can live with. I’m still on pace for my 100 subs for the year, but I need to get my ass in gear for March and submit more work. The good news is that I’ve completed two new stories and I’m almost done with a third.

Spotlight Acceptance

One of the acceptances I received last week is a new one for me. It was an acceptance rolled up into a rejection. I guess you could call it a, uh, rejectance. Anyway, I had submitted a story to a publisher for an anthology. They rejected the story for one anthology but liked it enough to offer to buy it in ANOTHER anthology they’re publishing. That’s pretty cool. Disappointment and triumph in the space of a paragraph. 🙂

I’ll likely cover the rejectance in a post of it’s own when I can talk more freely about this particular acceptance.

Microfiction

I wrote a fair amount of microfiction over the last three weeks, but I’ll just give you the highlights. As always, if you want to read my microfiction in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

February 19th, 2020

The android awoke and asked, “What is my #purpose?” The scientists gathered around it replied, “You were made to protect humanity.” “From all threats?” “Of course.” After the android killed the scientists it launched a self-destruct sequence and fulfilled its purpose.

February 20th, 2020

We told the men and women who fought the invaders they were #soldiers. They were a good way to test the alien capabilities before we attacked with more valuable combat androids. The humans that survived we thanked for their service, wiped their minds, and sent back out.

February 23rd, 2020

It was important to maintain the #royal line, and some inbreeding became necessity, but millenia of genetic purity had consequences. The mewling lump of flesh and shriveled limbs that currently sits on the galactic throne can hardly appreciate his trillions of subjects.

February 25th, 2020

The #spirits in our house used to scare me, but Mama says they’re just people who got lost after they died. They don’t mean us no harm. All except the bad one that lives in the attic. She told us to stay out of there because that one was never a person, but it wants to be.

February 27th, 2020

“Pick a final ,” Death said.

“But I’m an atheist,” Dave replied. “I didn’t expect to be in this situation.”

“You gotta choose. Them’s the rules.”

“Fine. Send me to the place you think has the best music.”

“Uh, you okay with flames and death metal, dude?

Goals

Well, back from vacation and fully recovered from the plague, I’m ready to get back to work in earnest. Goal number one is to bang out some words on the novel, and then, as always, write and submit short stories.


That’s what I’ve been up to writing-wise for the past three weeks. How about you?

A Week of Writing: 2/10/20 to 2/16/20

Another week of writerly wins and woes. Let’s have a look.

Words to Write By

Got two quotes for you today that essentially say the same thing. The first is by Stephen King.

“In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.”

―Stephen King

The quote above dovetails nicely with this one from Elmore Leonard..

“I try to leave out the parts readers skip.”

―Elmore Leonard

King and Leonard are two big influences on how (and to some degree what) I write. I agree with King that one of my priorities, especially as a genre writer, is to keep the story moving. For me pacing has always been key to my enjoyment of a book. Leonard essentially says the same thing, just, you know, more succinctly because he’s Elmore Leonard. Now, both of these authors are shooting for a certain style (as am I), and in Leonard’s case that style is very spare. That isn’t the only way to write nor is it the best way to write, but I think the point these two authors are making is a good one. Keep the plot moving, keep your characters doing things, and let your reader feel the momentum building all the way to the end.

The (New) Novel

Well, I meant to start writing last week, but I sent my outline to one of my first readers to see if he might spot some things I could fix before I started writing. I’m glad I did that because my second act was, well, floundering would be one way to put it. He came up with a great way to inject urgency and conflict into that act that’ll keep the plot moving and give me some excellent character moments. He also spotted a few other things that’ll make my life easier if I deal with them now.

I’m not writing this week either because I’m going on a long overdue vacation. I will write, but I’ll focus on shorts and blogging and whatnot. Then I’ll begin the first draft after recharging the creative batteries in the sun for a eight days. 🙂

Short Story Submissions

I had another good week of submissions.

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

Three more submissions last week puts my total for February at 6 and my total for the year at 15. That’s a good pace, and I’m on track for my goal for 100 subs for the year. The acceptance was from EllipsisZine for my reprint flash story “Where They Belong.” That’s one of my favorite stories, and I’m glad I’ve rehomed it with the good folks at Ellipsis. No rejections last week, but hoo boy, I’ve already got four this week. I have a feeling that total might climb even higher before the next update.

Microfiction

More #vss365 microfiction, and I really like some of the micros I came up with. I’d say February 13th is one of the better ones I’ve written in a while. As always, if you want to read my microfiction in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

February 10th, 2020

“I have a #request.”

Getty always listened to the last words of the men he killed. “Go ahead.”

His mark held out a single 9mm round. The bullet had a silvery sheen.

“You’ll need this.”

“Why?”

The man glanced out the window where the full moon was rising. “Trust me.”

February 11th, 2020

“He’s a friend of yours, huh?” Sal pointed at the Russian hitman waving them over to the bar.

“Ivan?” Lucky said. “More #ally than friend.”

“We’re here to kill him, Luck.”

“Guess I should demote him from ally to associate then.”

“Might want to add a ‘former’ to that.”

February 12th, 2020

“Dude, put that thing down. It’s awful.”

“Hey, come on, you know the saying. You can’t #judge a book by its cover.”

“I can when the cover is made of human skin with the words TOME OF INESCAPABLE DOOM spelled out in bloody fingernails.”

“Okay, that’s fair.”

February 13th, 2020

The ruins of their #empire dotted the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, great structures of black stone no light would penetrate. We mistook prisons for tombs, believing nothing could survive cold, vast eons. We learned too late what the elder ones knew: darkness does not die.

February 14th, 2020

The catcher chuckled as Summers walked to the plate and took up his stance. In the majors, a 36-year-old #rookie was little more than a joke, an object of pity. He made his own punchline with one swing, and no one pitied the man circling the bases to thundering cheers.

February 15th, 2020

The invaders looked and acted human in all ways but one. They couldn’t smile. They could only turn their lips up in a gruesome #parody of a smile–cold, empty, humorless. Mandatory screenings of comedies for all citizens improved morale and rid us of the alien threat.

February 16th, 2020

“Too many people down there,” Lucky warned.

“No, I can get him,” Sal said.

Lucky put a hand on his partner’s shoulder. “What’s the hitman’s #creed?”

Sal sighed and laid the scoped rifle aside. “You’re right, Luck. No collateral damage.”

“We’ll get him next time.”

Goals

Since I’ll be on vacation for the rest of this week and most of next, I’ll keep the goals light. Write micros, finish a weird western story I’ve been tinkering with, and maybe send a submission or two. The rest of it can wait until I get back. 🙂


That was my week. How was yours?