My First Hold Response

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My writing career is still new enough that I continue to rack up a series of firsts. Earlier this month was my first published Drabbel. Now comes my first hold-for-further-consideration response!

You know, that response from a publisher that is not quite an acceptance but also not quite a rejection. I finally received one. For some reason, I find that response nonetheless a cause to celebrate. My story made it through at least one round of review and is still in the running to be published. Given my dearth of accepted stories this year, I’ll take it.

Of course, there is no guarantee the story will be accepted. Also, the publisher gave no timeline for when a decision will be made. That leaves things in limbo, which is not always the best feeling. I’m willing to deal with that though. Several publishers have rejected this story since I started submitting it last year, so I’m pleased to be one step closer to finding it a home.

There was something a little different about this submission. I don’t generally reread a story following a rejection before sending it to the next market. This time I did. This market had a lower word limit, so I needed to trim about 100 words. Normally that is not an issue. This time was a challenge. The story was already fairly short, and after rereading it, I realized the language was fairly tight as well. But I did it, and as usual when I’m forced to cut from a story, it is better for for it. I especially like this one as it’s one of my humorous stories. It had been so long since I read it, the story was new enough to me to laugh at several parts. That’s a good sign!

Have you had any writing firsts lately?  Let me know in the comments.

My First Drabble

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It’s been a while since I had a publication to announce, so I’m pleased to share one. Today, The Drabble published my drabble (an exactly 100-word story). Check it out here.

Thanks goes to my oldest daughter for the story idea.  I had just heard about drabbles as a type of story and was looking for inspiration.  She stepped up one weekend while we were doing laundry.

I hope you enjoy it!

2Q19 Update

Well, that just happened, three more months on their way.  Let’s see how I did.

  • Words written = 9,300
  • Submissions = 38
  • Rejections = 31
  • Acceptances = 0
  • Publications = 0
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 1

The submissions are up, but the word count is down.  I should say the word count is down further.  I haven’t met my target word count either quarter this year.  I’m halfway through the year but only a third of the way to my word goal.

I realized recently I’ve taken on more in my personal life, such as being president of the Northern Virginia Writers Club, which has left less free time to write.  I’m also writing fewer longer stories, instead I crank out a lot of flash fiction these days.  I find I feel more productive when I can hammer out a 1000 word story in a day or two, rather than struggle to find the time to get through a 6000 story.

The submissions were up thanks to a backlog of flash pieces I finally started sending out the door.  That also helped the rejection numbers increase as those same stories started came back.

In addition, I had packaged most of my earlier sci-fi stories into a collection and submitted it to the C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize.  That got a bunch of stories out the door at once but also meant those stories stopped making the submissions rounds for a while.  I found out on July 1 that I would not be a winner.  I’ll count those rejections in the third quarter.

I did have one first — a withdrawal.  I had submitted a short story to a market in 2018 and received almost an immediate response thanking me for the submission.  Then nothing, though the market remains open.  At the year mark, I decided that was long enough and withdrew it.  It went immediately to the next market, where it sits currently.

Now I need to figure out what to do during the current quarter besides the usual rounds of submissions.  I still have the sci-fi novel I got 20k words into.  I also started plotting a middle grade novel, but I don’t want to start that one until it’s mapped out a little more.  I’d rather plug away at the sci-fi novel before starting anything else of that length.  And then there are always the random short stories that pop up.  Got to get those out of my head as they come along.

Let me know in the comments how you did with your writing goals last quarter and what your writing goals are for this quarter.

Netherlands-Belgium-Luxembourg Writing Adventure

Last year, I blogged here and here about writing while on vacation in France. Both the cultural experiences, mostly art museums, and the setting in Paris and the French Riviera were inspiring. Though my writing had nothing to do with either, I hammered out a good many words and better yet, felt productive.

This year, the family toured the Benelux countries. There was plenty of culture to soak up, but it felt different. The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam was impressive and should be inspiring to any artists out there. My oldest daughter enjoys attempting to recreate the works of famous artists and had brought along her own self portrait to compare to Van Gogh’s numerous ones. But I didn’t feel the inspiration, like the year before.

I still managed to get some words on the screen. Most of the trip I worked on a new short story. I’m continuing to work on that one now that we’re home. It needs one more scene, which just happens to be the climax, so not difficult at all! I also wrote a flash story that’s a little political satire.

One of the last days in Luxembourg, the kids got these chocolate eggs that had a toy inside each. My wife tells me it’s a thing. Well, one of the little toys was a miniature dolphin. Like any toy these days, it came with instructions and a chocking hazard warning—in 30+ languages. This thing is like Pit Bull, worldwide.

And darned if that set of instructions wasn’t inspirational. A flash story idea popped into my head, and I got it on the screen that night with a few tweaks the next day.

Before these vacations, I hadn’t thought much about locations being inspirational, especially since I don’t write stories set in these locals. Now I know the location itself can feed the creative drive even if your story is set out in the solar system. Going forward, I need to make sure our vacations are set in the appropriate locales, and we visit the necessary sights, to get the creative energy going. I also need to read more toy instructions.

Let me know in the comments if you derive inspiration from your writing locations—or toy instructions.

The First Sentence

How important is the first sentence? A Writers Path had a recent post on the importance of the first sentence setting the tone for the entire story. That blog also had a similar post on The Importance of a Great Literary First Impression.

Aeryn Rudel of Rejectomancy had a post as well where he analyzed the first lines from his stories that were published last year. And The Write, Already! blog recently had a series of posts promoting John Brueckner’s “892 Opening Lines” book. There’s even a publication dedicated to the first sentence called, not so coincidentally, The First Line. I’ve posted previously about that publication.

I also recall an editor of Asimov’s or Analog year’s ago discussing how important the first sentence was. What I recall, whether I remember correctly or not, essentially was if the first sentence didn’t grip him, it had little chance of being purchased.

Clearly, this is on a lot of people’s minds. So have I practiced this philosophy? I’ve certainly tried with varying amounts of success. I’ve also tried to vary my approach. Sometimes the first line is dialogue. Other times it’s the narrator speaking.

To date my favorite is from a story I’m still shopping around. Indeed, I hope to use it as the lead story in my short story collection submitted to the C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize. (I wrote about this contest here.) The line is: “The naked man ran screaming from the room.” Don’t you want to read on to know why he is both naked and screaming? I thought so; I haven’t gotten an editor to bite yet though.

Do you try to nail that first line before proceeding with a story, or do you not worry about it? Do you have any first lines you’re especially proud of? Let me know in the comments.