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?

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?

3Q20 Update

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Another light quarter, despite more staying-at-home. Let’s see where I ended up.

  • Words written = 3450
  • Submissions = 28
  • Rejections = 18
  • Acceptances = 1
  • Holds = 1
  • Publications = 0
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

The good news is I tripled my word output. The bad news is that’s not saying much when the prior benchmark was about 1100 words. The words last quarter were devoted to two new short/flash stories. The in-laws visited for a week, and all of a sudden I was able to be productive. If it weren’t for the End Times, that could happen more often, which my productivity would welcome.

The fourth quarter includes NaNoWriMo where I traditionally have my greatest output for the year. I’m hoping to continue that streak. My goal is to complete the work-in-progress by the end of the year. I still don’t know if the WIP will end up novel length or something shorter. After letting it sit since the Before Times, I’ve already started rereading it to familiarize myself with the work again.

I also won a registration to an upcoming virtual writing conference that included a slot to pitch an agent. The agent I was assigned doesn’t appear to be interested in my WIP’s genre but is interested in picture books and middle grade books. I have several of the former completed, and one of the latter started. Having never pitched an agent before, I needed to figure out what I am pitching. Then, I need to figure out how to pitch it.

The number of submissions and rejections last quarter weren’t my best but still serviceable. I need 34 submissions in the fourth quarter to reach my goal of 100 for the year. I haven’t hit that number of submissions in a quarter since the second quarter of 2019. I’m hoping to start submitting soon the two stories drafted last quarter. Fresh stories always increase the submissions number (and by extension the rejections number).

I was pleased my streak of one acceptance a quarter continued. I’m also hoping the single hold I received turns into an acceptance this quarter. The editor asked for a rewrite, which I happily obliged, and am waiting for the final decision. In the interim, that market solicited submissions for its next issue from presumable past and pending (since I received the email) contributors. The problems are it’s a genre I don’t dabble in often and a length I don’t reach that often any more (3-7k words). So I don’t have anything that’s a ready fit. I do have a story idea that would fit genre-wise and likely will be the right length, but I doubt I’ll have enough time to complete it before the submission deadline later this month, especially since I’m focusing on the agent pitch the first part of the month.

On the flip side, my streak of one publication a quarter ended. I had a work slated to be published in September, which would have continued the streak, but the published delayed the release until 2021. At least I’ll have that to look forward to. I have one more publication in the works, the sole acceptance last quarter, but there is no release date yet.

That was my July through September. Now it’s time to win over an agent with an as-yet-unselected-work and then attempt to finish a novel. No biggies.

How’d you do last quarter?

2Q19 Update

Well, that just happened, three more months on their way.  Let’s see how I did.

  • Words written = 9,300
  • Submissions = 38
  • Rejections = 31
  • Acceptances = 0
  • Publications = 0
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 1

The submissions are up, but the word count is down.  I should say the word count is down further.  I haven’t met my target word count either quarter this year.  I’m halfway through the year but only a third of the way to my word goal.

I realized recently I’ve taken on more in my personal life, such as being president of the Northern Virginia Writers Club, which has left less free time to write.  I’m also writing fewer longer stories, instead I crank out a lot of flash fiction these days.  I find I feel more productive when I can hammer out a 1000 word story in a day or two, rather than struggle to find the time to get through a 6000 story.

The submissions were up thanks to a backlog of flash pieces I finally started sending out the door.  That also helped the rejection numbers increase as those same stories started came back.

In addition, I had packaged most of my earlier sci-fi stories into a collection and submitted it to the C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize.  That got a bunch of stories out the door at once but also meant those stories stopped making the submissions rounds for a while.  I found out on July 1 that I would not be a winner.  I’ll count those rejections in the third quarter.

I did have one first — a withdrawal.  I had submitted a short story to a market in 2018 and received almost an immediate response thanking me for the submission.  Then nothing, though the market remains open.  At the year mark, I decided that was long enough and withdrew it.  It went immediately to the next market, where it sits currently.

Now I need to figure out what to do during the current quarter besides the usual rounds of submissions.  I still have the sci-fi novel I got 20k words into.  I also started plotting a middle grade novel, but I don’t want to start that one until it’s mapped out a little more.  I’d rather plug away at the sci-fi novel before starting anything else of that length.  And then there are always the random short stories that pop up.  Got to get those out of my head as they come along.

Let me know in the comments how you did with your writing goals last quarter and what your writing goals are for this quarter.

The First Sentence

How important is the first sentence? A Writers Path had a recent post on the importance of the first sentence setting the tone for the entire story. That blog also had a similar post on The Importance of a Great Literary First Impression.

Aeryn Rudel of Rejectomancy had a post as well where he analyzed the first lines from his stories that were published last year. And The Write, Already! blog recently had a series of posts promoting John Brueckner’s “892 Opening Lines” book. There’s even a publication dedicated to the first sentence called, not so coincidentally, The First Line. I’ve posted previously about that publication.

I also recall an editor of Asimov’s or Analog year’s ago discussing how important the first sentence was. What I recall, whether I remember correctly or not, essentially was if the first sentence didn’t grip him, it had little chance of being purchased.

Clearly, this is on a lot of people’s minds. So have I practiced this philosophy? I’ve certainly tried with varying amounts of success. I’ve also tried to vary my approach. Sometimes the first line is dialogue. Other times it’s the narrator speaking.

To date my favorite is from a story I’m still shopping around. Indeed, I hope to use it as the lead story in my short story collection submitted to the C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize. (I wrote about this contest here.) The line is: “The naked man ran screaming from the room.” Don’t you want to read on to know why he is both naked and screaming? I thought so; I haven’t gotten an editor to bite yet though.

Do you try to nail that first line before proceeding with a story, or do you not worry about it? Do you have any first lines you’re especially proud of? Let me know in the comments.