1Q21 Update

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The last quarter of the first year of COVID-19 is done. This time last year, I was swamped with work as the world shut down. While work eventually became more manageable (and I am exceedingly thankful to have work), this quarter has been more of the same ole same ole. I’m still working from home and still managing my oldest daughter’s virtual school. At least this year, there is a vaccine. While I patiently wait my turn for that, let’s see how the quarter shaped up.

  • Words written = 5,405
  • Submissions = 28
  • Rejections = 17
  • Acceptances = 1
  • Shortlists = 1
  • Publications = 0
  • Rewrites = 1
  • Withdrawals = 1

Overall, I’m pleased with those numbers. The submissions are spot on to reach my goal of 100 for the year. I also received an acceptance, which met my goal of one acceptance a quarter.

The number of words written still isn’t great, though the 5400 words is more than any of the first three quarters last year. The oddest part is none of those words (except for a whopping 25) went to a new project. (The 25 went to a new micro story for a market that only accepts 25 word stories.) Most of my writing involved editing existing stories. That was another goal, and I stuck with it. Editing these stories allowed me to get them out to new markets, which helped those submission numbers. I also added a couple thousand words to a story I’m co-writing with a friend and my memoir.

The single acceptance, shortlist, rewrite request, and withdrawal all involved the same story. I expanded a 2000 word story to 3000 words to meet the minimum word amount for a specific market’s call for submissions. After submitting the story to that market, I discovered the same now-expanded story met the criteria for another call. Luckily, both markets permitted simultaneous submissions, so I submitted the same story to the second market as well. The second market shortlisted the story and asked for a rewrite of the ending. After two rounds of edits, that market accepted the story, necessitating my withdrawing it from the first market. I looked back, and that acceptance broke a 6-month long drought. While not my longest (that distinction clocks in at 11 months), it still was painful.

Anecdotally, I felt that rejections were slower to come in last quarter. I think my receiving only 17 rejections, which is off the typical 25-35, proves I wasn’t too wrong. Editors likely are feeling the same pandemic fatigue as the rest of us.

My goals for the second quarter are more of the same. I’d like to send out about 25 submissions to remain on target there. I’ve already sent out two this month. I’d also like to notch an acceptance to keep me on track there.

On the writing front, I’d like to put the finishing touches on a short story I wrote the first draft of in December. I edited it, along with two other flash stories, while on spring break vacation last week (the first trip since 2019!). Those flash stories are the two submissions I sent already this month. However, when I reached the end of the short story, I realized the verb tense was probably inconsistent though out; so I need to go back through again to correct that. I think I’m also ready to tackle a first round of edits to the middle grade novel I wrote during last year’s NaNoWriMo. Several beta readers gave me excellent comments. They didn’t identify any major issues, so I’m eager to incorporate those as they should be easy fixes.

And that my January – March 2021. How was yours?

2020 Update and 2021 Goals

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Last time, I caught up on my 4Q20 results. Now, let’s dive into how I did for all of 2020.

  • Words written = 34,027
  • Submissions = 91
  • Rejections = 82
  • Acceptances = 5
  • Holds = 1
  • Publications = 4
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

I also had a couple rewrite requests, one of which also was the lone “hold for further consideration,” and both of which turned into two of those five acceptances.

Let’s be honest; that first number isn’t great. That’s the second year in a row my total words written has decreased, setting a new low again in 2020 by about 3000 words.

Both the number of submissions and rejections were down as well when compared to prior years. The number of rejections were particularly low. I noted several markets were slower in 2020 reviewing submissions. Hey, those editors were living through a pandemic too, with all the issues that came with it. On the brighter side, I set highs in acceptances and publications. Can’t complain about that. And one of those acceptances should be published this year after a COVID-delay at the publisher.

How do those results compare to the goals set in January? I didn’t reach 50,000 words (again) and didn’t reach 100 submissions (for the first time). I did average at least one acceptance a quarter plus one! I would gladly trade fewer submissions for more acceptances.

Now for the hard part, what goals to set for 2021. I’m going with a lower 30,000 word goal. I want to focus on editing, at least at the start of the year. I have that middle grade book and several stories to go through from NaNoWriMo. Coincidentally, my fellow Northern Virginia Writers Club member, Darius Jones, who blogs over at Inside the Writer’s Mind, set a similar editing goal. Then I want to finally turn back to my work-in-progress novel, which I haven’t looked at in a year, and continue adding to my memoir. I find the latter fun and easy to write and therefore a welcome distraction when other projects get bogged down.

I’ll keep the submissions goal at 100 again. A couple stories were slow to get out last year after I finished them, which I think kept my submissions down. I need to do better at getting freshly edited stories out the door.

Then there is my reading goal. I like to include this since one of those pieces of advise you always hear is to be a good writer you have to be a good reader. For 2020, I set a goal of reading three 1000+ page tomes. What was I thinking? I got through one, and it took me from January to August, though I took a month break in the middle to read the stack of magazines that had built up. I also read (or listened to) eight other books. That latter number surprised me, so I’ll take it.

This year I’m scaling back the tomes. I’m going with reading one 1000+ pager. Then, I’ll add in another eight normal size books. That should allow me to make progress on the stack next to my nightstand that never seems to get smaller plus have room to squeeze in a couple new discoveries.

Now I’m ready to tackle 2021. How about you? Were you as productive as you hoped during the pandemic? What goals did you set for the new year?

4Q20 Update

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It’s that time of year when the writers in blog land update how they did during the prior year. Like last year, I plan to split this topic into two parts. Below is how I did in the fourth quarter. Next time I’ll write about my 2020 totals, how those compared to my 2020 goals, before finishing with my 2021 goals. Got to think about those last things though.

First, here are the numbers for 4Q20.

  • Words written = 27,201
  • Submissions = 25
  • Rejections = 31
  • Acceptances = 0
  • Holds = 0
  • Publications = 2
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

I had a monster quarter word-wise. Looking back, that’s the most I’ve written in any quarter since I started this writing journey. NaNoWriMo was good to me. I flew through writing the middle grade book that was my goal for NaNoWriMo. Since I still had eight days left in November, I hammered out two flash stories and one 2000 word short story. By then I had run out of ideas that I had developed. I’m not a pantser. Though I have numerous other story ideas, I like to develop them before sitting down to write. So I started working on my memoir. Those events already happened; no need to develop them.

Finally, for good measure, in December, I wrote a 3000 word story in response to a prompt for the December meeting of the Northern Virginia Writers Club. The prompt was to take a character from one of my existing works and put the character in a holiday setting. I got carried away and took a story idea I already had and wrote a story mirroring A Christmas Carol. Might as well borrow from a classic.

I had no acceptances this quarter, which broke my streak of at least one acceptance a quarter. That was the biggest disappointment. I did have two stories published, which is always a thrill. “Temporally Out of Service” (my first published reprint) was included in the anthology The Trouble with Time Trouble, and “Shadow” found its way into Night Terrors Vol. 6. The editors of the latter were so encouraged by the reader responses that they invited authors to submit for an upcoming volume. I took advantage and sent in a horror short story I had written over the summer but hadn’t finalized until being motivated by this submission call. Hopefully, that will lead to my first acceptance of 2021. A writer can dream.

That was my fourth quarter, a strong end to a strange, strange year. How did you end the oddest year of our lifetime?

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.