Post #41 – 3Q18 Update

10/4/18

The third quarter is in the books, and below are my stats.

Words written = 13,400

Submissions = 26

Rejections = 23

Acceptances = 0

Publications = 1

It was an interesting quarter. I spent July feverishly trying to finish a novella in time for Tor’s submission window, which closed mid-August, only to realize it wouldn’t happen. The novella had grown beyond my original intended ending, and there wasn’t time to develop a new proper ending. This project remains ongoing. I still haven’t figured out what that proper ending is yet.

August was bookended by a business trip the first week and vacation the last week, both of which offered opportunities to be productive, and I took them. During the business trip, I wrote a new children’s picture book manuscript, which I’m really excited about, added on to an in progress short story and started a flash fiction story. On vacation I finished that short story and flash fiction story, started a new flash fiction piece, and added 1000 words to the novella.

I was disappointed not to receive an acceptance this quarter. That broke my (admittedly short) streak of one acceptance a quarter this year. However, that was buoyed by the publication of my first accepted work in the Fall 2018 issue of Stinkwaves Magazine. Technically, that issue was not published until October 1, but I’m counting it because the issue was available for pre-order in September.

I’m comfortably on track to hit my 50,000 word goal by the end of the year. For the final quarter of 2018, in addition to the never ending cycle of submissions, I’d like to finish the novella and the new flash fiction piece. I’d also like to start and finish a new children’s picture book manuscript. In fact, my new goal is to do that every quarter. My list of ideas for children’s books isn’t getting any shorter.

The open question is what to do about NaNoWriMo. Do I attempt it? If so, with what? Do I try to hit the 50,000 words using a series of short stories, or do I finally work on my novel?

I doubt I’ll try either way. I still don’t have the time needed to devote to that challenge, so the pressure would just annoy me. I may devote the month to my novel anyway. I’m intrigued to see what progress I can make. A post last month on A Writers Path advocated writing 300-500 words a day for a year. Writing 300 words six days a week for 50 weeks comes to a respectable +90,000 words in a year, i.e. a novel. (Ironically, I’m excluding two weeks for vacation, which is one of my more productive times.) If I try that approach over the 30 days in November, I’ll at least net 9,000 words.

Let me know in the comments how productive your last three months were and how you plan to finish out the year. Do you plan on tackling NaNoWriMo?

Photo credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay

Post #32 – Submission Dilemma 2

8/2/18

I have another submission dilemma. I’ve talked for weeks here about the novella I’m writing for a Tor call for submissions. The submission window closes in mid-August.

The novella consists of three linked stories I wrote over the past year, the last of which I greatly expanded to meet the call’s minimum word count. Before combining and expanding these stories, I had submitted each to various markets. None were accepted.  That’s part of why I decided to go the novella route.

When I made that decision, I stopped submitting those three stories to markets as a rejection came in. The problem is one of the three is still under consideration at a market. It’s been there since the first week of May.

My experience with this market’s response time varies. Twice, this market rejected my submission in under a week, but another time this market took just shy of three months to reject my submission. Was the latter story held for further consideration? I’d like to think so, but the eventual rejection was not a higher tier one according to Rejectionwiki. Now I’m approaching the same three month mark with the story I submitted in May. The Submission Grinder says this market typically has a 24 day response time. (If that’s true, then my stories rejected in under a week must have had something wrong with them. Either they were terrible, or I didn’t follow the submission guidelines.)

Neither the market this short story is at or Tor accepts simultaneous submissions. What do I do if I don’t receive the missing rejection? Do I submit the novella to Tor on the assumption the short story will be rejected? Do I hold off on submitting to Tor and hope it has another call for novellas in the future? Do I submit to Tor and if the short story rejection turns out to be an acceptance, do I withdraw my submission from Tor or hope the short story’s rights revert to me before Tor publishes the novella (which assumes Tor accepts the novella)? In that case, is the novella a reprint? Does it even matter when the short story is about 5500 words of a 21,000 word novella?

Let me know in the comments what you think is my best course of action.

Photo credit: qimono via Piaxabay

Post #31 – Not Submitting Your Best Work

7/26/18

Have you ever submitted something that was not your best work? Maybe you were in a rush to meet a submission deadline. Maybe you knew a piece wasn’t working, but you didn’t want to spend the time to fix it. Or you didn’t know how to fix it then and didn’t want to put it aside for too long. Maybe you needed to meet a word count minimum and added unnecessary fluff to a piece to reach it. Or the opposite is true – you wanted to meet a word count maximum and cut prose vital to the piece.

I’m likely guilty of most of those.  I’ve rushed stories out the door before they were ready to meet a submission deadline.  I’ve cut words to meet the maximum word count for a writing contest.  I’ve sent a story out I knew needed its exposition rewritten to avoid the dreaded info dump.

I soon may be guilty of sending out a story that is not my best because I’m attempting to meet a word count minimum. As mentioned in Post #28 and #29, I’m working on a novella for a Tor call for submissions. The minimum word count is 20,000. I don’t have any one story that length. I did have three interrelated stories totally about 11,000. The last of the three was a flash fiction piece of only 1000 words. I decided to combine the three and flesh that last story out in the hopes of adding another 9,000 words to meet Tor’s minimum requirement.

I succeeded. The first draft of that fleshed out story came to 9,800 words. I’m currently editing the entire piece, and so far have only added, not subtracted, words. I expect the final version to be in the 21,000-22,000 range.

Here’s the kicker. When going back through the piece, I don’t think it’s my best work. I think the piece is better without the first of the three stories included. However, if I cut that part out, it eliminates 3,500 words, putting me under the word minimum.

What should I do? I could cut the first part and try to add a scene somewhere else to make up the difference. Trouble is I don’t have anything in mind, and the deadline is looming.

I could put off submitting, giving me time to devise further scenes, and hope Tor has another call for novellas in the future. Tor already stopped accepting short stories, so I wonder how much longer it will have calls for novellas.

Or I could submit what I have. I’ve submitted the three stories independently to various markets, all of which sent rejections. I’m not overly optimistic Tor will accept the combined work either. If it doesn’t, I may continue to submit the first part as a stand-alone story and the next two parts as a single story. Given the length of the latter, the available markets will be few. However, as I edit the combined piece, I’ve realized it’s not that bad. I think it will find a home somewhere, even if it’s not my best work.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve submitted something that wasn’t your best work.

Photo credit: blickpixel via Pixabay

Post #28 – 2Q18 Update

7/5/18

Unlike last quarter, I always intended this quarterly recap post to have a positive tone. That’s attributable to my having made my first paid sale! Details are below, but first here are my numbers for the second quarter of 2018.

Words written = 9550

Submissions = 43

Rejections = 40

Acceptances = 1!

I already updated the Publications page of this site, but I never officially announced my first sale from last quarter. My middle grade story “Cramping Your Style” will appear in the Fall 2018 issue of Stinkwaves Magazine. This is a non-paying market, but it now holds a special place for me as my first ever acceptance.

As for this quarter’s paid acceptance, my story “Temporally Out of Service” will appear in the January 2019 issue of Broadswords and Blasters. This also is a semi-pro market.

Regardless, I am ecstatic these stories found a home. “Temporally Out of Service” was the first story I ever started writing, though the second story I ever finished. After several rejections, I revised it to account for the many things I’d learned about writing in the interim. I think those changes made it a better story and lead to its acceptance at Broadswords and Blasters.

“Cramping Your Style” was the first middle grade story I attempted. The idea came to me one early morning while on a run, which is when I do a lot of the plotting for my stories.

Now that I’ve patted myself on the back, I should talk about my other numbers for the quarter. I didn’t have quite as productive a quarter based on word count. My goal still was 12,500 words to remain on pace to write 50,000 words for the year. Luckily, since I exceeded my goal in the first quarter, I’m still ahead overall for the first half of the year at 26,950 words.

The submissions and rejections were about twice that of last quarter. The market’s I submitted to had fast response times, and I had three new stories in circulation.

At the same time, I stopped submitting four stories. One, obviously, because it was accepted. The other three are tied together, so much so I plan to combine them into one novella. Tor has a call for 20,000-40,000 word novellas starting at the end of this month. My three stories combined originally equaled only about 11,000 words. However, the third of the trilogy was a 1000 flash fiction piece, my first ever one of those. The feedback from my beta readers on that one was the idea was good, but it was all exposition. They weren’t wrong, so I decided to expand that piece into a fully developed story in hopes of reaching the 20,000 word minimum.

That’s where the majority of my words this quarter wound up. Indeed, 7500 words went to that story whereas the rest were spread across two flash fiction pieces and one nonfiction (essay) piece. I didn’t start writing those 7500 words until Memorial Day weekend, but I got them out over the next month. I’ll try to stop back loading my quarters to take the pressure off.

For this coming quarter, I’m debating how to proceed. I have a story idea that met a call for submission, but that call ended June 30. The story is based on one of the flash fiction pieces I began submitting this past quarter. Do I still write it and see if another market will take it?

The other short story idea I have is one I’d like to collaborate on with one of my beta readers. I plan to take the first stab at it but haven’t started. I think that’s what I’ll attempt next.

Then, if I don’t get distracted by one or more calls for submissions, I think I’ll turn back to children’s manuscripts. It’s been awhile since I wrote one of those, and the ideas are piling up.

And, of course, I need to edit the story for Tor and send it to my beta readers. That story stands at 18,500 words currently. I’m hoping during the first edit I can eat up most of the remaining 1,500 words needed to get to Tor’s minimum.

A big thanks to all my followers who are along with me on this journey. My first paid sale is a huge milestone. Next up is my first professional sale. Hopefully, that’s sooner rather than later.

Photo credit: geralt via Pixabay

Post #23 – Cover Letters

5/31/18

This should have posted Thursday. Apparently, I’m still learning WordPress.

Submission cover letters for short fiction are an often covered topic, so I won’t go into too much detail. Instead, two excellent posts by Aeryn Rudel on his Rejectomancy blog are Back to Basics: The Cover Letter and Back to Basics: More Cover Letter Components. As the titles suggest, he addresses the minimum content (and often the maximum content) that should be in a short fiction cover letter and then addresses the few occasions when additional types of information should be included. I won’t rehash those.

I will talk about my on experience.  Looking back at my first cover letters, I very much violated these tenets.  As one example, I often included a paragraph explaining the inspiration for the story.  Like I said, cringe worthy.  Luckily, I made such faux pas only the first couple of times.  Then I found valuable resources online that pointed me in the right direction, which is the less, the better. Half the submission guidelines I’ve read even say a cover letter is optional. I still include one to make me feel better.

In fact, I’ve written so many I keep a folder of previous cover letters for each market. When I submit a new story, I simply change the story’s name, genre, and word count. This saves me the time otherwise needed to look up that market’s editor (for addressing purposes) and what, if anything, that market specifically asks be included in a cover letter.

In contrast, the sources I’ve read state cover letters to children’s’ book publishers are completely different. Since I’ve written and submitted a couple children’s book manuscripts, I’ve had to pay attention to these entirely different expectations. Maybe the differences have something to do with these publishers still requiring paper submissions. Their slush piles are actual piles of paper, not an electronic inbox of files or a dashboard like Submittable or Moksha.

For children’s book manuscripts, the cover letter not only includes the story’s title but a sentence or two describing the story. The cover letter also should explain why the manuscript is a good fit with that publisher. The guides I’ve read recommend reviewing recently published books by that publisher and relating your manuscript to those.  Also, if you have any relevant experience in the field in which the manuscript takes place, or other publication history, that should be stated. It’s almost like a query letter for a novel manuscript. That’s a lot of extra work compared to short fiction.

My first submissions were of children’s book manuscripts, so maybe I can chalk up my short fiction cover letter mistakes to applying different expectations.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve made any cover letter faux pas.

Photo credit: slightly_different via Pixabay