1Q19 Update

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The first quarter of the new year is done, so it’s time to check on the ole productivity.

  • Words written = 11,070
  • Submissions = 26
  • Rejections = 32
  • Acceptances = 0
  • Publications = 1
  • Awards = 0

Not terrible, but not great. A fourth of my 2019 word goal of 60,000 would be 15,000. I fell short of that one, but I did better than I thought. I found it difficult to write this quarter.  Free time was not abundant, and when I had it, I felt unmotivated to write. I even had two business trips–my favorite writing opportunities–and still got very little writing done.

So what did get done? About 4000 of those words were the result of flash fiction stories. I finished three of roughly 1000 words and then another four that were some amount less than that. In addition, I added a little to the WIP novel (1600 words) and about 450 words to various existing stories I edited before sending out again. I also wrote the first 600 words in a story I’m collaborating on with a fellow novice speculative fiction writer.  I hope to have the opportunity to keep adding to the word total in that work.

The largest chunk of writing went toward finishing my long suffering novella. That was another 4200 words. I am pleased to report that project is now done! Well, the first draft is done. This was a weird one. Most of the novella is in final form already having finished it last summer. However, the consistent critique from my beta readers was it lacked a proper ending. So that’s what I’ve worked on adding intermittently for the last six months. I’ll have to see what my beta readers think now.

My goal was to finish the novella and then break it up into its three component short stories. That way I could include all three stories in the short story collection contest I plan on submitting to by the April 15th deadline. The rules for that contest limit any one story to 15,000 words. The problem is, even with breaking the novella into three stories, the third story now clocks in at 16,200 words. Whoops! Don’t worry, I have plenty of other stories to include in the collection. Besides, the newly written part needs editing anyway before it’s ready for submission.

I also was disappointed not to have an acceptance this quarter. Admittedly, I didn’t maximize my chances, having taken several stories out of circulation, so they’d be available to include in the contest collection. Still, I’d really like to get to where I’m receiving at least one acceptance a quarter. Those are huge motivators.

I did have one publication in Issue 8 of Broadswords and Blasters. Buy the issue here!  It’s a noir detective story with a sci-fi twist.

So that’s it. How’d your first quarter go? Let me know if the comments if you had any triumphs or failures.

Flash Fiction Workshop

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My Writers Club hosted an excellent flash fiction workshop last week. We invited local author, editor, and teacher Tara Campbell to lead the workshop. Another club member and I had attended a writing salon she taught at the National Gallery of Art. Space is limited for those, but if you’re in the DC area, I recommend attending. I left with most of a flash story drafted. Though I’m still shopping that piece around, I’m proud of the outcome.

This time, Tara led a shorter workshop focusing on three types of flash stories. The first task was to produce a story about an ordinary, everyday ceremony but with a twist. The second was to write something autobiographical about a time in our life when we experienced anxiety. The final story was to be something procedural, like a recipe or some other set of instructions but embedding a story therein.

We were given 10 minutes to write each time. And darned if I didn’t come up with ideas for each immediately and get most of a story for each on the screen in that time. The next day I finished all three and polished them a little, but most of the stories were there already. I’d count that as a productive workshop, and if you need inspiration, I recommend using the same three scenarios as the basis of for three stories.

In the interest of full disclosure, these stories are not long. They aren’t even typical flash length. Two are 200 words and the third is 300. However, I think each is a complete, self-contained story. I don’t have any plans to flesh them out further. I like them the way they are.

I intend to shop them around to the flash fiction markets. I haven’t had a flash piece accepted yet. Maybe one or more of these will break that logjam.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve attended a flash fiction workshop and whether you were pleased with the results. Did you get one or more stories out of it? Did you have any success in getting those stories published?

Where to stop?

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I previously posted about different takes on when a writer stops writing for the day (or night).  Some writers keep going until meeting a specific word goal. Others try to finish a chapter or short story. Still others set a time limit and stop when the counter reaches zero.

For those that write toward a word goal or for a set time, I came across an interesting debate. Where do you stop when you reach the word goal or time limit? Do you finish the page? Do you finish the paragraph? Do you even finish the sentence?

Common sense seems to advocate at least finishing the sentence–if not paragraph–the writer is on when reaching his or her self-imposed limit. What if you forget the idea you’re working on? What if you can’t replicate the writing grove you’re in the next time?

I certainly followed this line of reasoning. When I had more time to write, my goal for a writing session was to finish a scene. If I finished that scene before my writing time ran out, I’d usually still quit, enjoying the sense of accomplishment and the unexpected free time. I also dreaded getting in the grove of writing the next scene and having to stop midway.

As my time to write decreased, I had to settle for stopping at the appointed time. Even so, I would finish the paragraph I was on. Then I listed to an interview with speculative fiction author Tim Powers on the Reading and Writing Podcast. He writes each day to a specific word goal and stops when he reaches that goal, regardless of whether he is in the middle of paragraph or in the middle of a sentence. He argues it is easier and more exciting to resume writing when you have to dive back into the middle rather than starting at the beginning of something new.

I was skeptical but put this nugget in the back of my mind. Lately, as my writing time each day diminished further, I almost had no choice but to give it a shot. I first ended a couple evening writing sessions at the end of a sentence, no matter if it was the end of a paragraph. Then, I took the leap and ended in the middle of a sentence. It was a line of dialogue, and I simply stopped three words in. The next evening I picked it right back up with little hesitation.  And I didn’t hate it.

It worked so well, I’ve continued with this technique. Sometimes that last paragraph or sentence can take another 2, 5, or 10 minutes. I’m already under pressure to finish and get ready for bed, which can’t help the writing process. So now I stop. Period. Though admittedly, the stopping point is not necessarily a period.

If you haven’t already, I recommend giving this approach a try. If you have or when you do, let me know in the comments what you think. Did it work for you, or was it a catastrophe?

Bouncing Around

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I’ve been bouncing around a lot these days. I’ve lacked focus on any of my writing. I’ve even put off submitting those works that have received a rejection. So what gives? Good question. I don’t know.

According to Word, I haven’t worked on my WIP novel in over a month. I’ve finished three flash stories though, and I’m one scene away from finishing the novella I thought I’d finish last summer. That’s some progress, I guess.

I feel like I’m waiting for something, which is probably the wrong approach. If there is any upside, it’s by not resubmitting my stories, I have a catalogue worth I can combine into a collection for the contest mention in Submission Dilemma III. Needless to say, I’m going for it. I’ll spend the $25 on the submission fee and take my chances.

But, first, I need to finish the novella. The submission guidelines say no story should be longer than 15,000 words. The novella is longer but already broken down into a couple stories. I estimate the longest of those stories will come in just under 15,000 words. Regardless, I plan to spread the individual stories out in the collection to build tension.

Collecting my stories into a single work will reduce my number of submissions for the year while I wait to hear back from the contest, but I’m okay with that. I like the idea of having a collected works manuscript. Now I just need to finish the novella and organize the collection before the April 15 deadline.

How has your writing focus been lately? Have you been productive, or are you finding distractions? Let me know in the comments.

Submission Dilemma III

I haven’t had one of these in a while. The ole do I or don’t I submit dilemma. The C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize is open to submissions of short story collections until April 16. I meet all the requirements. I live in the Southeastern United States. I’m an emerging writer. I have enough stories to reach the 140-220 page (35,000-55,000 word) range. And the manuscript wouldn’t be that difficult to put together, simply cutting and pasting several stories into one file.

The contest winner gets $10,000 and their manuscript published. Sounds great, so what’s my hold up? Like a lot of publishing contests, this one has an entry fee–$25. I have yet to pay to play as a writer. I believe in the old adage that money flows one way from the publisher to the writer. I understand the economics of a lot of publishing these days, especially in the literary magazine industry, is difficult and holding contests with paid entries helps pays the bills. I don’t fault that, and I don’t fault those who enter for a chance to win additional compensation beyond what normally would accompany acceptance in a literary magazine.

The contest fees I’ve seen generally run in the $5-$25 range. While not cost prohibitive, those fees can add up if a writer constantly applies to these contests.

If I’m so opposed, why would I even consider this contest? For starters, it’s the first I’ve seen geared towards collections of short stories. Usually the contests I come across are for a single short story. I have plenty of those still making the rounds with the literary magazines and not a whole lot to show for it. I’m intrigued by the thought of collecting my stories into a single work. That has been a goal of mine from the start, though I had hoped it would be a collection of reprints. I’d be happy with the publication of a collection of original works too!

Also, like I mentioned earlier, I meet all the criteria. How often does that happen?

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments if I should fork over the $25 and submit a collection of short stories to this contest.