Incorporating Social Distancing in Writing

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I’ve debated this since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Should I incorporate social distancing elements in my writing? Should characters wear masks and stay 6 feet apart? Should they never greet each other with a physical gesture like a handshake or hug? Should more than one character even be in the same room together? Or do I ignore all that and write as if life is back to the old normal?

Stories always represent a snapshot in time. Whether it’s the language used, the technology described, or the social norms of the characters, stories inevitably date themselves. As a science fiction writer, many of my stories occur in the future; so outdated tech usually isn’t an issue. But my characters speak and use early 21st century vocabulary and not the words, or even a separate language, developed between now and when the story takes place. And say I’m writing about a colony ship hurtling toward a new planet. What about the crew’s composition? If written 100 years ago, the crew likely would have been all male and white. Not today, at least not for me. I purposefully include an ensemble cast consisting of both sexes and multiple races and ethnicities.

Whether we like it or not, our writing dates us. Wouldn’t including elements of social distancing simply further date an already dated work? Or do such elements go too far? Or would we prefer our fiction to be just that, a fictional escape from reality? Would we rather not be reminded of this unusual and difficult time we are living through?

So far I’ve written two short stories during the pandemic. Neither one includes social distancing concepts, but I thought about doing so both times. I ultimately rejected doing so because it would have interfered with the story. For example, one story takes place at an academic conference. Those are all cancelled for the foreseeable future, so that would have killed the story. The climax wouldn’t quite have the same dramatic impact if it was a virtual conference.

There is no right answer, but I’m curious. How have you treated social distancing in your writing? Let me know in the comments.

My Daughter is a Published Author!

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For NaNoWriMo the last two years, I’ve challenged my daughter to write a book while I worked on my novel. Though only 4 years old the first year, she completed the challenge both times, whereas her father has yet to finish his first novel.

Her first book was called The Little Witch about, you guessed it, a little witch. She enjoyed it so much, she immediately wrote a second book called The Head Monster. This one you might guess was about the leader of some sort of monster group. This time you would have guessed wrong. Instead, the book was about a monster, who only had a head! I thought this book was awesome. Unfortunately, we can’t find the book she wrote during last year’s NaNoWriMo, nor can we remember the title.

One thing these books all had in common was my daughter drew the pictures but had to dictate the story to her parents. This year she started kindergarten and began the process of learning to read and write. Then quarantine shut down schools. Many aspects of her education took a hit with the move to virtual learning, but her reading and writing didn’t. Both have improved dramatically. So much so, she wanted to work on another book and write the text herself this time.

Also, during this time, I was submitting a series of stories to a flash fiction market, Smokelong Quarterly. While doing so, I discovered this market accepts stories written by children that are posted on the publication’s website in a series called Fridge Fiction. So I submitted her quarantine work. To all of our delight, her story called Who Will Win the Race? was accepted. Yep, not only was she accepted by a market I have yet to crack, she was accepted on her first try. (No, I’m not jealous. Why would you think that?)

You can read her story here. Congratulations, Amara! (I’m taking credit for the awesome author photo.)

Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to work on my next story in the hopes of getting my own acceptance rate up.

Image via Pixabay.

2Q20 Update

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I did better getting this quarterly update out much sooner than last quarter.  I’m still busy at home working the ole 9-5 or what sometimes becomes 8a-9p.  Regardless, below is what I managed to squeeze in this quarter.

  • Words written = 1146
  • Submissions = 27
  • Rejections = 21
  • Acceptances = 1
  • Holds = 0
  • Publications = 1
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

After setting a new low for my written word total in 1Q20, I did it again last quarter.  And most of those few words were added to existing stories as part of revisions to get them out the door to new markets.

Those of us with small children have not found stay-at-home orders to be relaxing or productive. If you are in the same boat, I sympathize. If you are one of the lucky ones with no kids or older, self sufficient kids, I secretly despise am jealous of you.

On a more positive note, I doubled my number of submissions (and rejections) from last quarter.  Several flash fiction markets, which had been closed, opened again, and I took advantage.

I’ve already written about my short story publication this past quarter here.  This story means a lot to me. It’s YA/middle grade, and I borrowed my oldest daughter as the main character. Also, the editor, who ended up accepting it, originally asked for a rewrite (my first). I was intimidated by the prospect and took nearly a week to get back to the editor, likely jeopardizing my chances of eventual acceptance. The editor later stated she was holding a space for my story and was running up against her own deadline. That allowed me only a few short days to do the rewrite. I was fortunate, this time.  Lesson learned: get back to editors more quickly!

That’s half the year behind us.  How was your productivity during quarantine last quarter?

Acceptances 2.0

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Acceptances are what it’s all about, right? Whether you’re shopping a novel to an agent or publisher, or like me, shopping short stories to various markets, it’s all about being accepted. (Really, for me who does not write for a living, it’s about validation; but we can explore that another time.)

My goal for the year, as with prior years, was to receive four acceptances. I’m pleased to say I’m already there. With two acceptances by token markets and two more by non-paying markets, I’ve reached my four. I must say I’m grateful and surprised. Last year was a little sparse on the acceptance front.

I’ve already blogged about my first set of acceptances from the two non-paying markets this year here. Both can be read for free. Check out the links on my Publications page.

The two more recent acceptances are from token markets. The first is Spaceports and Spidersilk. The editor for this one provided my very first rewrite request. I was pleased that she gave me the opportunity to transform my work into what she was looking for. I took on the challenger, and it apparently worked because she accepted the revised story.  I also think the revised version is a better story. Writers rarely like to admit it, but editors often know what they are talking about. 

My story in Spaceports and Spidersilk is a young adult science fiction piece. You can purchase the entire issue here directly from the publisher. It’s also available through Amazon and can be found on my Author Central Page.

The last acceptance is a story I had written for a very specific prompt from another market. Needless to say, that market rejected it. After reworking the story and shopping it elsewhere, I’m pleased Frostfire Worlds accepted it for the September issue. I’ll post a link to that issue on my Publications page when available. If you enjoy humorous sci-fi, this is the story for you.

So there you have it. Two more acceptances, and the year is but half over. I’d love to double that up. My output has fallen off this year, but I continue to submit what I have. None of the four accepted this year were new works. I just need to continue to make the rounds with what I have and attempt to supplement those with more stories as time, and ideas, permit.  (I’d also take an acceptance from a semi-pro or pro market, but I’ve always treated this journey as a marathon and not a sprint.)

How goes your acceptances journey this year? Let me know in the comments.

1Q20 Update

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I am way behind on posting my quarterly update.  Unfortunately, I am not one of those people faced with boredom as life moved completely online.  If anything, it’s been the opposite.  Really, that is an excuse applicable only to March, but let’s see how I did for the entire quarter.

  • Words written = 2230
  • Submissions = 11
  • Rejections = 12
  • Acceptances = 3
  • Holds = 0
  • Publications = 2
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

That word amount is the lowest I’ve written in a quarter since I started seriously writing in 2017.  I took on a third volunteer position at the start of the year that has eaten even more into my free time.  Still, that’s not a great excuse.  I will be the first to admit I have not made writing a priority.  I’ll discuss that more below.

The submissions, and by extension the rejections, are down by about half.  At this rate, I will not make my goal of 100 submissions in 2020.  I need to pick that up.  I have plenty of unpublished stories.  I just haven’t spent the time needed to research markets and submit to them.  I don’t have an excuse for that either.  The Authors Publish Magazine sends an email every month listing numerous markets open to submissions that month.  I recommend signing up for their emails.  It’s a valuable (and free!) resource.

The best part of my quarterly numbers is the three acceptances and two publications!  I set as a goal only four acceptances for all of 2020, and I’m already almost there.  That’s incredible, and I am grateful for each of those markets.  I’ve listed them on my Publications page.

Of the three, the one that has not yet been published is my first pro sale!  For those who have followed me from the beginning, my overarching goal is to become a full member of the Science Fiction Writers of America.  For short story writers, such as myself, that requires three pro-sales.  Now, I’m 1/3 of the way there!  Hey, I’ll take it.

For 2Q20, I’d like to write more, you know, actually make writing a priority.  I expect my volunteer positions to quiet down over the summer months, though that may be more true in 3Q20.  Regardless, it’s time for my annual pivot back to the WIP novel anyway.  I’d really like to finish a first draft of that by the end of the year and not rely on this year’s NaNoWriMo to do so.

I’d also like to get submissions up.  I don’t know if I can make up for lost time to reach 100 on the year, but I’ll give it the ole college try.

That was my first quarter.  How was yours, especially during this strange time in which we live?