4Q22 Update and 2023 Goals

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I started seeing people post (on Twitter) their year-end writing numbers early in December. It seemed a little premature. There was so much time left! I understand the excitement of sharing one’s accomplishments (*cough* this blog), but hold your horses people. I’m glad I did. Having to quarantine with the family over the holidays due to an illness led to a late surge in submissions, two new flash stories, and lots of reading time. I also received a shortlist notice with mere hours to spare on New Years Eve. I’m glad I was awake (for a change) for that one! Here are the full numbers for 4Q22.

  • Words written = 17,347
  • Submissions = 36
  • Rejections = 33
  • Acceptances = 4
  • Shortlists = 1
  • Publications = 4
  • Rewrites = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

Those quarterly numbers are pretty good. Fourth highest number of words written. Fourth highest number of submissions. Third highest number of rejections. Most importantly, highest number of acceptances and publications in a quarter!

As is typical (for me) in the 4th quarter, the bulk of the quarter’s writing (about 17k) went to the middle grade novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo. The rest consisted of additions to two existing stories, a new sci fi poem (my first!), and those two flash stories mentioned above, one of which was a tribute to my paternal grandmother, who passed early last year. Probably like most writers, I thought the best way I could honor her was to include her in a story. The story idea came to me on Christmas night after we missed the Christmas dinner gathering at her house due to the quarantining. I started writing it on my phone the next morning while my daughters played on the beach (this was in Florida, though it was still cold) and finished it that afternoon while the kids watched TV. I love it when a story comes together that quickly, and I think my grandmother would have liked it too.

Now, let’s look at 2022 as a whole.

  • Words written = 32,473
  • Submissions = 129
  • Rejections = 104
  • Acceptances = 7
  • Shortlists = 1
  • Publications = 6
  • Rewrites = 0
  • Withdrawals = 2

Those numbers are a mixed bag. The second lowest number of words but the highest number of submissions, acceptances, and publications. And one of those acceptances/publications resulted from third place in the Virginia Writers Club’s 2023 Golden Nib Writing Contest in the nonfiction category. November and December were so busy that I haven’t even blogged about that yet. My first goal of 2023!

Whether I achieved my goals for 2022 also was a mixed bag. 100 submissions. Check. Averaging one acceptance a quarter. Check. 40,000 words written. *crickets chirping* Even though I haven’t written 40k in a year since 2018, it always seems feasible. I either need to accept that it isn’t for me at this time in my life, or try something different. Another 2023 goal! While I did let go of one volunteer position in 2022, I took on two more with my younger daughter joining her older sister in Girl Scouts. I’m hoping to jettison one of my other two Girl Scout volunteer roles in 2023. That, at least, will free up a little more time in the autumn.

My goals for specific projects in 2022 turned out pretty well. I finished a draft of the WIP started during NaNoWriMo 2021. A friend and I finished the short story we had started years before and sent that off in response to a submission calling for co-written works. And I wrote, and fired off, several more stories. Though not a goal, I expanded and/or shortened several stories to enlarge the pool of markets those stories qualified for. That met with remarkable success. Several of my acceptances last year stemmed from these changes.

The goal I didn’t achieve was taking another pass through my first middle grade manuscript and possibly getting that off to an editor. That was intentional. I decided last year that first manuscript would be the first of three, the third of which I wouldn’t write the first draft of until NaNoWriMo. Only then, after all three were drafted, would I revise the trilogy together and get the lot off to an editor. Another goal!

That leaves my goals for 2023. I’ve already mentioned three. I’d like to continue my Behind the Stories series of blogs about stories that have been accepted. I’d like to complete a first edit of my third middle grade manuscript. Then, I’d like to fix any consistency issues in the first two middle grade manuscripts and get all three off to a developmental editor.

On the short story front, I like my usual 100 submissions goal, though that may be a little harder to achieve this year due to another goal taking many of my stories out of circulation. I’d like to finally publish my first short story collection. I’ve already come up with the theme and compiled the stories. I’d like to get this off to a line/copy editor for a final polish. While that’s in process, I want to learn how to format the book and design the cover. No biggie. I consider this good practice for when I eventually publish the middle grade trilogy.

What bout the all-important words written goal? I’m not sure about this one. I could set it at 40k again and likely fall short. Various stories throughout the year will chip away at that total, but I’m not sure I’ll participate in NaNoWriMo. I have an idea for the start of a new middle grade series, but I’m not sure I want jump into that yet with my other middle grade series still in its relative infancy. I could instead spend NaNoWriMo 2023 doing a thorough edit of my existing middle grade series. A friend did something similar during NaNoWriMo 2022. Instead of writing new material, she set a goal of spending 50 hours in November fixing (i.e. editing and untangling plot lines) what she had as far as a manuscript for the fourth (and possibly fifth) books in her existing series. What the heck, I’ll set my words goal at 36,000. That’s 3k a month. Let’s do this.

That’s looking back at 2022 and looking forward to 2023. How’d you do, and what will you do this year?

Behind the Stories – Agenda

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In my continuing series where I describe the inspiration behind my stories, I have one that’s hot off the presses. (It felt old to type that. Do kids these days even know what a printing press is?)

My story “Agenda” appears in Planetside: Science Fiction Drabbles, which was released yesterday! As the anthology’s name suggests, mine (and all of the other stories in the anthology) are 100 words–no more, no less.

It’s hard writing exactly 100 words. There’s a lot of counting for starters. For this particular story, I took a work that was 160 words and cut it down to 100. I think that was even harder than setting out to write only 100 words from the start–killing your darlings an all.

This story has a very unique, and I dare say experimental, format. The title gives it away, but the story is in the form of a meeting agenda. I wrote this a couple of years ago when I was president of two volunteer organizations, both of which required me to prepare agendas for the organization’s monthly meetings. At some point in doing this every month, I had the idea of trying to tell a story solely through a meeting agenda. I’d seen other authors tell stories through lists or even recipes but never an agenda. I thought using an agenda format was creative at the time and still do.

I plan to include the 160 word version of this story in my forthcoming short story collection of related tales. (I say “forthcoming,” but I haven’t made much progress on putting it together.) This summer I realized over the last several years that I’d written at least three stories where aliens invade Earth, and it didn’t go well for us humans. I decided those stories should all be in the same universe, so I plan to harmonize several details, such as the name of the race of alien invaders. These I’ll include in my short story collection, along with several other groups of related short stories, i.e. each story in a group is related to the other stories in that group but not related to stories in other groups.

And that’s “Agenda.” Have you ever tried an experimental format in your writing? Did it work or not? Let me know in the comments.

An Unusual Behind the Story – Livelihood

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I have an unusual Behind the Story for you this time. My story “Livelihood” appears in the Northern Virginia Writers Club’s 15th Anniversary Anthology. It’s unusual for a couple reasons. First, it’s a fantasy story, probably the only one I’ve written. While I consider myself a speculative fiction writer, that has really meant science fiction and more recently horror.

I wrote “Livelihood” in response to the submissions call of a specific fantasy market. The call wasn’t specific; it was that this well known market was briefly open. This was fairly early in my writing adventure, and unfortunately, I don’t remember the inspiration for the story.

The story has a little humor in it. Okay, the premise may be based on a pun. It’s not the first time I’ve written a story based on a pun. I can’t help it and have the excuse of being a dad.

The story has a strong, young female protagonist, who is modeled after my younger daughter. My daughter is not at the protagonist’s age yet, but I can see her in a few years being this resilient. My older daughter has a story with a character based on her as well, but that will be the subject of another blog post.

The story also is unusual because not many will get to read it despite its publication. The 15th Anniversary Anthology celebrates (as the name suggests) 15 years of the NVWC’s existence and features fiction, nonfiction, and poetry works from current members. However, the club published the anthology only long enough to order a certain number of copies but did not leave it up for general sales. If you want a copy, you’ll have to come to an event where the club has a booth, like Art on the Avenue in Alexandria, Virginia on November 12! If you’re in the area, stop by and have a chat and maybe pick up a copy. I’ll be there.

3Q22 Update

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It’s that time of year again. Yes, the Halloween decorations need to go up. Yes, the decorative gourds need to be put out. Oh, and I should provide an update on my writing progress during the third quarter.

Words written = 6,591
Submissions = 42
Rejections = 32
Acceptances = 0
Shortlists/Holds = 0
Publications = 1
Rewrites = 0
Withdrawals = 0

Those numbers on the top look amazing. Outside of a quarter with NaNoWriMo, I haven’t written that much in ages. Even more impressive, only about 1700 words of that were additions to existing stories, which has been where a lot of my writing has gone this year. Instead, I actually wrote 5 new stories – 4 flash and 1 short story. I had an awesome vacation in August to thank. Not only did the family go out west to see some amazing national parks, but work left me alone enough that I could write in the evenings rather than catching up on things.

Also, that submission total is one shy of my all time quarterly record. I’m basically sneezing distance from reaching my goal of 100 submissions this year already.

On the other hand, the big fat zero in the Acceptances column hurts. While I still have 3 acceptances on the year, thus meeting my one acceptance per quarter goal, that zero in the Acceptances column looms large. Thankfully, a ton of markets opened to submission as of October 1, and I’ve already fired off 5 this month. I just need one to hit to meet my acceptances goal.

The sole publication snuck in at the end of the quarter in the Virginia Writers Club Journal. I wrote about that here including the inspiration for the story. If you like humorous science fiction or are a fan of dad jokes in general, give it a read. You won’t be disappointed.

Now it’s time to look forward to an exciting time of the year. Yes, there is Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas (at least in my household), and I love all three of those holidays. But the 4th quarter also means NaNoWriMo in November. I already know the book I plan to write, and I’ve been plotting it in my head all year. Honestly, I thought I’d have the entire book mapped out by now, but there are still a couple scenes missing. If past experience is a guide, those will come to me while writing what I’ve already got.

I’m excited. The book I plan to write during NaNoWriMo is the third in a middle grade series, the first two of which I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2020 and 2021. Chronologically, this one will be the second in the series. It’s just how things have worked out. Next year I plan to have them professionally edited, and then I plan to make the tough decision of whether to query agents or move directly to self publishing. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about that next year.

The only goal I’m worried about for the 4th quarter is finishing my NaNoWriMo middle grade book. Last year, I got a great start during NaNoWriMo but didn’t finish the first draft until the calendar rolled over to 2022. This year, I’d like to finish the first draft in November. If I can do that and then give it a very rough first edit before the Christmas break, my first reader for these middle grade books (my 8 year old daughter) can read it over the holiday break.

That was my July – August 2022. How’d yours go?

Behind the Stories – Dyson Vacuum Sphere

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A fellow blogger Lady Jabberwocky on her own writing journey that I recently discovered gave me the idea to discuss the inspirations for my stories. I’ve sometimes mentioned in this blog snippets of the inspiration for certain stories when I announce their publication, but I thought it’d be interesting to revisit a little and do a deeper dive. I still only plan to discuss those that have been published. I simply need to keep those acceptances up to continue this line of blogs. 😀

Luckily, for this first installment, I get to announce a publication and give a behind the scenes tour of the story. And do I have an interesting one for you!

First, the announcement – my story, “Dyson Vacuum Sphere,” appears in The Virginia Writers Club Journal 2022 released last week. I am a proud member of the Virginia Writers Club and its Northern Virginia chapter. A couple years ago the Virginia Writers Club began publishing a journal of works by the club’s members. I’ve appeared in a prior issue of the journal. However, since then, there has been a revision to the editorial standards. Let’s just say the barrier to entry rose.

Now on to the fun part – the backstory.

I had recently written my first comedic story in response to a publication’s extremely detailed called. Though that story wasn’t accepted by that publication, it was later accepted but by a market that then went defunct. That story hasn’t found a home yet, so I’ll have to talk about that one another time.

After practicing my comedic chops, I wanted to keep going. The Dyson Sphere episode from Star Trek: TNG was one of my favorites. It brought back Scotty! Combine that with the similarly named Dyson vacuum, and I had a story that essentially was one long dad joke.

I’ve always liked a good dad joke, but I’ve come to appreciate dad jokes even more now that I’m a father of two. Mixing my love of sci fi and dad jokes only seemed logical.

I enjoy writing most of my stories (or why would I be doing this), but I especially enjoyed writing this one. Not only does the premise include several dad jokes, but one of the characters tells a couple more dad jokes in the story. I’m proud of those since I made them up myself! Maybe I have a future in standup comedy. After Bob Saget’s death, I tweeted about how comics at their core are writers, and I still feel their writing talents are underappreciated.

If you want to groan at a couple of dad jokes, give “Dyson Vacuum Sphere” a read in the The Virginia Writers Club Journal 2022.