Post #28 – 2Q18 Update

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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

Post #19 – Help, I Need Inspiration!

5/3/18

This is what I feared when setting my writing goal this year. I’d run out of ideas. That was part of the reason I set a goal of 50,000 words for 2018 instead of doubling that.  After a very productive first quarter, I’ve written all of 1250 words in April. I’ll need to average 5625 words each for May and June to stay on track, but inspiration is lacking.

That is not to belittle those 1250 words. I’m proud of them. Next week I will discuss how I wrote the last 650 under unusual circumstances on April 29. For the first 600 words, I received inspiration one morning from the title of a song I heard at work while listening to Google Play. During the walk back from a haircut at lunch that day, I ironed out the plot details. I then hammered out the story that afternoon. It must have been a slow day at work. I already finalized and submitted that story to a new market for me, one that only publishes flash fiction of 750 words or fewer.

If it weren’t for that flash of inspiration (pun intended) and the unusual circumstances on the 29th, I’d have written nothing the entire month.

I’ve kept up my submissions though. In addition to the 600 word story above, I submitted three other stories in April for the first time. I also revised two existing stories. The first was an flash fiction piece, which was a sequel to another story. Both stories have been rejected on their own a couple times, so I decided to make the flash story the last chapter of its predecessor. One of my beta readers felt the sequel wasn’t working on its own as a stand alone story, too much exposition to catch the reader up on the events of the predecessor, especially for a flash piece. By combining the two, I cut much of that exposition. I already submitted the combi-story for the first time and am hoping for more favorable results.

I also revised a story written in response to a call for submissions with a very specific theme. That market rejected the story. However, I am proud of that story too. It’s a humor piece I really enjoyed writing, and my beta readers all said it was funny. A couple also said a certain element did not go in the direction they anticipated, and they enjoyed that surprise. In anticipation of sending this story to other markets, I changed many of the details specific to that theme. I’m also including several revisions suggested by one of my beta readers, who was not able to review the story before I submitted it to meet the call’s deadline.

Now I must decide when to submit that story. In Clarkesworld‘s submission guidelines, the editor, Neil Clarke, has a list of hard sells, one of which is “stories originally intended for someone’s upcoming theme anthology or issue.” Everyone will be circulating those to other markets, so he suggests waiting a while. But how long is a while? It pains me to have a story finished and not submitted somewhere.

Unfortunately, these revisions don’t add to my word totals. If anything, they subtract from those totals since they usually involve cuts. Next week I also will discuss where I plan to find inspiration.

Post #16 – How Much Do I Write?

4/12/18

Given my limited amount of writing time, I’m obsessed with productivity. I’m not alone. Most writers I’ve read, who talked about the craft of writing, discuss either how they track their output or their productivity goals.

Mike Resnick in The Science Fiction Professional states each night (remember he writes between 10p and 2a) he writes one chapter in a novel or one entire short story.

Stephen King in On Writing starts at 9a and keeps writing until he reaches 2000 words. Sometimes he is done by lunch; sometimes it takes him until dinner or longer.

Leah Cutter, author of The Healthy Professional Writer, says she tries to write 1000 words hour. She claims to be able to write 2000 words in an hour when the words are flowing.

M.L. Humphrey (Excel for Writers and Excel for Self-Publishers) advocates tracking productivity for each writing session using Excel, noting the time spent and word count. For me, comparing year-to-year writing metrics or shorter periods is a fun exercise. Humphrey believes it is a useful tool for the professional writer because it allows the writer to calculate potential writing income. In other words, if the writer knows s/he can write this many words in this amount of time and sell it for this amount, then their income will be this.

Aeryn Rudel, a fellow short story author and blogger, lately has tracked his weekly word count towards a novel in progress, as well as the number of his short story submissions, acceptances, and rejections both weekly and monthly.

I’ve only tracked two time periods of my productivity, last year’s and last quarter’s.  Last year, starting in June, I wrote 42-43,000 words with a goal of 50,000 words. I have the same goal this year. I have no official short term goals, though I wouldn’t be upset if I hit 12,500 words each quarter just to stay on track.

If the story is flowing, I usually get about 800 words an hour. I often hit 1000 words in one sitting when I have a little longer.  Problem is I’m not writing something new every sitting.  Most sittings are devoted to editing and submitting. I’ve complained about that before in Post #15, but it must be done. The alternative of only finishing rough drafts and never submitting is not attractive to me.

Since seeing Aeryn track his submissions, I included that tally in my 1Q18 update and plan to continue to do so in future updates. I can’t reach my ultimate goal of three short stories published in SFWA-qualifying markets if I don’t submit. And you can see how quickly I’ve had to accept rejection.

Let me know in the comments how much you write and how you track productivity.

Post #15 – 1Q18 Update

4/5/18

I thought it may be interesting to post a quarterly goal update in addition to a year-end tally. When I started drafting this post a week or so ago, it had a significantly different tone. Then, after going 0-31 on acceptances since I started submitting, I received my first acceptance last Friday! That’s right folks, I’ll finally be a published author. Full details will follow once those are finalized.

Until then, for the first quarter of 2018, below are my totals.

Words written = 17,400

Submissions = 24

Rejections = 17

Acceptances = 1!

Of course, a lot of rejections means a lot of submissions.  The editor of Arthur’s Publish, Caitlin Jans, says she caps the number of submissions she has out at any given time to 20, but she likes to keep it roughly at that number. I’m fast approaching her number with 11 works out currently and four more nearing submission status. I feel tracking rejections, resubmitting, and tracking what I resubmitted and where now eats up much of what would be my writing time.

I spent so much of the beginning of this quarter editing I thought I wouldn’t get to a quarter of my yearly word goal. Luckily, I had a late quarter burst of productivity putting me over my 12,500 word quarterly goal. I’m pleased with my words written, but I’m more pleased that word count includes first drafts of five stories, four of which I started during the quarter. Each of these four I decided to write only after reading a call for submissions. I was pleased with how quickly inspiration struck and how quickly I worked through the first draft of each. Oddly, three are humorous speculative fiction pieces.

I’ve come to realize the number of words written is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the writing I’ve done. The amount of work that goes into editing and submitting stories is staggering. While I wrote 17,400 words, I edited seven stories and started submitting those this quarter. I also re-edited several stories finished last year, which were rejected by one or more markets, before submitting them to other markets.

All of that takes time and effort. It takes me a couple nights to edit a 6000 word story. And then another night to reformat it to comply with a specific market’s submission guidelines.

In On Writing, Stephen King says early in his writing career, he receive a form rejection for a short story but with a handwritten note: 2nd draft = 1st draft – 10%. As I track my word count from initial draft to final draft, I seem usually to follow that advice without realizing it. I rarely add substantially to a story after the first draft. I’m usually cutting it down. What I haven’t figured out is what word count to use towards my yearly goal. Do I use the higher first draft total? Or do I use the smaller final draft total because that’s what I submit? I’m leaning towards the former. Last year I used the latter most often, which I think cut about a thousand words from my total. I’m not heartbroken by this; another thousand wouldn’t have gotten me to my 50,000 word goal. Still, going forward, why not give myself credit for those first draft totals? I wrote them. Of course, if the finished story has more words than an earlier draft, I’m using that number. I wrote them too.