1Q22 Update

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I’m a little late on this. I’m not going to lie. The first quarter of this year was tough, probably tougher than any quarter the last two years and those involved a global pandemic. An extended family member passed away; one of my kids was out of daycare for nearly a month, reeking havoc on work and family life, and I ended up in the hospital briefly. Still, it could have been worse. I could live in a country that was invaded and now lays in ruins while its people continue to fight off the foreign aggressor. It sounds like a great story idea if it weren’t so sad and too soon. Still, I am a horror writer now, so maybe there is an idea to be mined there.

Let’s move on to happier thoughts, if my minimal writing exploits can be considered happy.

Words written = 3,509
Submissions = 27
Rejections = 18
Acceptances = 2
Shortlists/Holds = 0
Publications = 1
Rewrites = 0
Withdrawals = 2

I wish I had brought my laptop to the hospital. For those of you who have had the pleasure, you know there is lots of downtime. I could have gotten some more writing in. Most of those words this quarter went toward the current middle-grade sequel WIP. I also managed to sneak a new flash story in there and add to an existing story in an attempt to raise its words to drabble length. For those not in the know, a drabble is an exactly 100 word story. Yes, I took a 50 word “dribble” and increased it to a 100 word “drabble.” That drabble wasn’t accepted, but that same market accounted for one of my two acceptances discussed below.

The two acceptances last quarter were appreciated. One I discussed here. Alien Dimensions #22 contained my story “Field Log.” I’m still pleased that story found a home. It was difficult writing a “found footage” story, so I am glad an editor appreciated the effort.

I was pleased with the second acceptance, as well, which was the drabble market mentioned above. The story itself also was an experimental piece. Titled “Agenda,” it is told in the form of a meeting agenda. Plenty of markets ask for experimental forms, and I’ve seen plenty of stories told in the form of lists, which I enjoy. This was my attempt at something similar but different. Oddly, the story clocked in around 160 words, but to qualify for the market that accepted it, I needed to get it down to 100 words. That was another challenge altogether. When the publication date is released, I’ll share the details.

I also oddly had two withdrawals. One was a mere oversight. A certain publication had a lengthy submission window. Toward the end of that window I submitted a story forgetting that I’d submitted a different story at the beginning of the window. The submission guidelines clearly state multiple submissions are not allowed. Always read and reread the submission guidelines!

The second withdrawal was more bittersweet. I had submitted a collection of short stories for a book contest that I qualified for and that only comes around every two years. A story in that collection fit a market perfectly, the submission window for which opened a little after I had submitted the short story collection. I submitted a sim sub and went about my day, but then the standalone story was accepted! I spent days agonizing over whether to withdraw the short story collection, trying to determine if the exclusivity period for the short story would expire before the winners of the book contest were announced. The numbers didn’t add up. I hate math. Otherwise, I have no regrets. “Field Log” found the perfect home, and I can submit my short story collection in another two years.

What goals do I have for the current quarter? I already added 1000 words to the middle grade WIP. I’m maybe a scene and a half from finishing that book. I plan to complete the first draft, give it a good edit, and then have my oldest daughter read it while on vacation over the summer. She’s the right age group, so it’s great to get appropriate feedback.

Of course, I will continue submitting – always be submitting! I’d also like to finish a short story a friend and I started years ago. Such is life. Finally, I want to brainstorm the book I’ll write during this year’s NaNoWriMo. I have the germ of an idea for a story set between the two middle grade books I wrote the last two years during NaNoWriMo. Now all I need is some good running time before November to hash out the plot.

That was my first quarter of 2022. Let me know in the comments how yours went.

International Publication

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I am pleased to announce the next publication of one of my stories. “Field Log” will appear in Alien Dimensions #22. The ebook version will be released February 22 and is available for pre-order on Amazon here.

For some reason, I have it my head that this anthology series originates in Australia. That’s international to me as I sit on my couch in the United States. However, with the internet, aren’t all publications pretty much international these days? (*Stop stealing my thunder, Rational Self!*)

I’d wanted to submit to this anthology series for some time. It has exceptionally specific submission guidelines as to its content. The editor wants stories involving aliens in a futuristic setting. Nothing should be set on Earth, unless that version of Earth is unrecognizable, and the story should be adventurous and fun.

Luckily for me, I had such a story. I wrote it three years ago and had submitted it to a couple publications but with no takers. I suspected my story would fit this market well, with one exception. For the longest time, the maximum length in the submission guidelines was lower than what my story clocked in at. I thought about doing a little cutting but ultimately decided, in this case, it would do the story a disservice. (Trust me, I don’t always think that with my work. I have found on several occasions that having to cut a story down to meet a submission criteria has benefited the story.)

Finally, my patience paid off. The editor upped the maximum story length. I was in business! Thankfully, the editor agreed that “Field Log” was a good fit for the anthology.

This was a challenging story to write. First, the story involves a human interacting with members of two alien species. The idea for the alien species came from a couple science articles I read in the newspaper. So some of their stranger characteristics are taken from actual animals here on Earth.

Second, the story is in the “found footage” genre. Think The Blair Witch Project. It is told solely through what is seen in a series of recordings. While I typically write in close third-person or third-person limited, I had never written something that completely eliminated the narrator. I enjoyed the challenge but probably will not repeat it.

I am excited to start the year off with a great publication. I hope there are more to come, and I hope you will check out Alien Dimensions #22.

4Q21 Update and 2022 Goals

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It’s time to see how I closed out 2021 and then check in on how I did for the entire year. I also failed to provide my annual NaNoWriMo recap last month, so I’m tossing that in here too.

  • Words written = 16,100
  • Submissions = 24
  • Rejections = 17
  • Acceptances = 0
  • Shortlists = 0
  • Publications = 0
  • Rewrites = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

The amount written was significantly higher during the fourth quarter, which has been typical for me the last several years thanks to the NaNoWriMo bump. The submissions were only a couple off my usual of 25-30 during a quarter. Rejections matched that of 1Q. Based on my numbers last year, editors plow through submissions during 2Q and 3Q but took it easy the other two quarters. Most disappointing was the lack of an acceptance during the fourth quarter. That torpedoed my goal of at least one acceptance a quarter.

The bulk of the quarter’s writing (about 15k) went to the middle grade novel I started for NaNoWriMo. It’s a sequel to the one I wrote during last year’s challenge. Unlike last year, I didn’t finish; and I still haven’t finished. December came, and all those things I had put off in November to write came home to roost. I did manage to crank out three flash (or shorter) pieces, two of which in the last week of December while on vacation. Even so, my vacation wasn’t as productive as usual. Something else to work on in the new year.

So how do the numbers for all of 2021 look?

  • Words written = 24,725
  • Submissions = 108
  • Rejections = 97
  • Acceptances = 3
  • Shortlists = 1
  • Publications = 3
  • Rewrites = 1
  • Withdrawals = 1

The numbers don’t lie. My volume of writing was pitiful. At least I kept up with submissions, and once again cracked the 100 mark. I came close to that mark with rejections as well, but I have less control over that number. Three acceptances/publications isn’t terrible for me, but every writer wants more.

I don’t plan to make many adjustments as far as my 2022 goals. I’d like to hit 100 submissions again. I already submitted one yesterday. 99 to go. On the flip side, I already received my first rejection of 2022. I’d also like to average one acceptance a quarter. Acceptance droughts are never pleasant.

As for words written, that’s a tough one. My total has decreased every year since a high in 2018 (my first full year of writing). I’m going for it and setting a 40,000 word goal. One of my three volunteer positions ends this month, so I’m hoping that will free up a little time. Now if only the day job would cooperate.

By way of specific projects, I intend to finish the WIP started during this year’s NaNoWriMo, as well as a short story I’ve been co-writing with a friend that took the back burner last year. I’d also like to complete another pass through my first middle grade novel and maybe get that professionally edited before starting the whole querying process. And, of course, fire out various short stories. Fresh stories always means more submissions.

How productive was your fourth quarter and 2021? What writing goals have you set for 2022? Let me know in the comments.

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?