1Q20 Update

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I am way behind on posting my quarterly update.  Unfortunately, I am not one of those people faced with boredom as life moved completely online.  If anything, it’s been the opposite.  Really, that is an excuse applicable only to March, but let’s see how I did for the entire quarter.

  • Words written = 2230
  • Submissions = 11
  • Rejections = 12
  • Acceptances = 3
  • Holds = 0
  • Publications = 2
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

That word amount is the lowest I’ve written in a quarter since I started seriously writing in 2017.  I took on a third volunteer position at the start of the year that has eaten even more into my free time.  Still, that’s not a great excuse.  I will be the first to admit I have not made writing a priority.  I’ll discuss that more below.

The submissions, and by extension the rejections, are down by about half.  At this rate, I will not make my goal of 100 submissions in 2020.  I need to pick that up.  I have plenty of unpublished stories.  I just haven’t spent the time needed to research markets and submit to them.  I don’t have an excuse for that either.  The Authors Publish Magazine sends an email every month listing numerous markets open to submissions that month.  I recommend signing up for their emails.  It’s a valuable (and free!) resource.

The best part of my quarterly numbers is the three acceptances and two publications!  I set as a goal only four acceptances for all of 2020, and I’m already almost there.  That’s incredible, and I am grateful for each of those markets.  I’ve listed them on my Publications page.

Of the three, the one that has not yet been published is my first pro sale!  For those who have followed me from the beginning, my overarching goal is to become a full member of the Science Fiction Writers of America.  For short story writers, such as myself, that requires three pro-sales.  Now, I’m 1/3 of the way there!  Hey, I’ll take it.

For 2Q20, I’d like to write more, you know, actually make writing a priority.  I expect my volunteer positions to quiet down over the summer months, though that may be more true in 3Q20.  Regardless, it’s time for my annual pivot back to the WIP novel anyway.  I’d really like to finish a first draft of that by the end of the year and not rely on this year’s NaNoWriMo to do so.

I’d also like to get submissions up.  I don’t know if I can make up for lost time to reach 100 on the year, but I’ll give it the ole college try.

That was my first quarter.  How was yours, especially during this strange time in which we live?

 

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.

 

Flash Fiction Workshop

My Writers Club hosted an excellent flash fiction workshop last week. We invited local author, editor, and teacher Tara Campbell to lead the workshop. Another club member and I had attended a writing salon she taught at the National Gallery of Art. Space is limited for those, but if you’re in the DC area, I recommend attending. I left with most of a flash story drafted. Though I’m still shopping that piece around, I’m proud of the outcome.

This time, Tara led a shorter workshop focusing on three types of flash stories. The first task was to produce a story about an ordinary, everyday ceremony but with a twist. The second was to write something autobiographical about a time in our life when we experienced anxiety. The final story was to be something procedural, like a recipe or some other set of instructions but embedding a story therein.

We were given 10 minutes to write each time. And darned if I didn’t come up with ideas for each immediately and get most of a story for each on the screen in that time. The next day I finished all three and polished them a little, but most of the stories were there already. I’d count that as a productive workshop, and if you need inspiration, I recommend using the same three scenarios as the basis of for three stories.

In the interest of full disclosure, these stories are not long. They aren’t even typical flash length. Two are 200 words and the third is 300. However, I think each is a complete, self-contained story. I don’t have any plans to flesh them out further. I like them the way they are.

I intend to shop them around to the flash fiction markets. I haven’t had a flash piece accepted yet. Maybe one or more of these will break that logjam.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve attended a flash fiction workshop and whether you were pleased with the results. Did you get one or more stories out of it? Did you have any success in getting those stories published?

Bouncing Around

I’ve been bouncing around a lot these days. I’ve lacked focus on any of my writing. I’ve even put off submitting those works that have received a rejection. So what gives? Good question. I don’t know.

According to Word, I haven’t worked on my WIP novel in over a month. I’ve finished three flash stories though, and I’m one scene away from finishing the novella I thought I’d finish last summer. That’s some progress, I guess.

I feel like I’m waiting for something, which is probably the wrong approach. If there is any upside, it’s by not resubmitting my stories, I have a catalogue worth I can combine into a collection for the contest mention in Submission Dilemma III. Needless to say, I’m going for it. I’ll spend the $25 on the submission fee and take my chances.

But, first, I need to finish the novella. The submission guidelines say no story should be longer than 15,000 words. The novella is longer but already broken down into a couple stories. I estimate the longest of those stories will come in just under 15,000 words. Regardless, I plan to spread the individual stories out in the collection to build tension.

Collecting my stories into a single work will reduce my number of submissions for the year while I wait to hear back from the contest, but I’m okay with that. I like the idea of having a collected works manuscript. Now I just need to finish the novella and organize the collection before the April 15 deadline.

How has your writing focus been lately? Have you been productive, or are you finding distractions? Let me know in the comments.

Do I Really Want to Hurt You?

1/10/19

The title of this post is not in reference to you, dear reader, but the characters in my stories. Since interesting stories require characters to be in conflict, that means they eventually get hurt. Of course, the hurt could be psychological, but the point of this post is physical hurt.

The Writers Path recently had an interesting post on How to Write an Effective Fight Scene. I found this timely. There is an escape scene coming up in my WIP where I expect an altercation will happen.

For the fight to be effective (or possibly even final for a character?), someone must get hurt. Thinking back to all my short stories, the worst a character has had it is experiencing a cramp. Having had plenty of those, it wasn’t too difficult a task to describe it.

What about more advanced and painful injuries? In 2017, I purchased the ebook version of Hurting Your Characters by Michael J. Carson as part of the 2017 NaNoWriMo Story Bundle. I have not yet made time to read it since hurting people hadn’t come up in my writing. I guess the time is ripe now.

Let me know in the comments how you describe an injury? Do you draw on personal experience? Research testimonials from others who have experienced the same injury? Make it up? (Always a solid option. We are fiction writers after all.)

Photo credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay