Reprints, the Gift that Keeps on Giving

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When I first started writing – all of four years ago – I didn’t give much thought to reprints. I didn’t even know what a reprint was. I should have though. I own a bunch. Every anthology of classic science fiction stories I’ve bought through the years contains nothing but reprints. I had no idea at the time, but all those stories had appeared previously, likely in the pulp magazines during the Golden Age of Science Fiction. (As an aside, I’m currently reading Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee; so this era is very much on my mind.)

As a novice short story writer, acceptances still don’t come all that often. I’m sitting at a baker’s dozen at the moment. When a publisher accepts a story, I’m elated. I promote the release. And I move on, primarily focusing on writing new material and continuing to submit my other stories that still need a home.

Maybe I should rethink that after my most recent acceptance. The good folks at Metastellar: Speculative Fiction and Beyond accepted my reprint “Cramping Your Style” for publication on August 18. For those keeping county, I’ve submitted a total of two reprints one time each; and both have been accepted. That means I’m batting 1.000 on reprint submissions. Gotta like that average.

“Cramping Your Style” is a middle grade soccer story with a speculative twist. If you want to read it for free, come back on the 18th. I’ll have a link to the story on my Publications page. And give some love to MetaStellar on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mag_meta, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MetaStellarMagazine, and on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MetaStellar.

2Q21 Update

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Another quarter makes like a staked vampire and bites the dust, so it’s time to look back at my writing exploits (or lack thereof).

  • Words written = 2,050
    • Submissions = 29
    • Rejections = 31
    • Acceptances = 1
    • Shortlists = 0
    • Publications = 1
    • Rewrites = 0
    • Withdrawals = 0

My submissions were right in line with last quarter (28 v. 29), and I’m on track for my goal of 100 for the year. I was sitting at 57 as of the end of the quarter and have sent two more since.

Rejections were up. I suspected my rejection number from 1Q21 was unusually low. While I hoped that meant a couple submissions were under further consideration, no such luck. More likely several editors pursued other interests away from the slush pile. How dare they!

I technically had one acceptance, thus meeting my goal of one a quarter. My story, “Lottery Winnings,” appears in the Summer 2021 Journal of the Virginia Writers Club, a publication of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry written by members of the Virginia Writers Club. The bar for acceptance wasn’t too high, but I appreciate being included.

The amount of actual writing I did was pitiful. Those 2050 words went toward three projects. About half were spread across two existing stories that needed a little editing before heading off for their next submissions. The other half went to a new horror flash fiction story. It’s based on a gate that I saw while on vacation to the Smokey Mountains in March. In fact, it’s pictured in the featured image for this post. I knew the first time I drove by (it was on the way to our rental) that I needed a picture and it would inspire a great story. And it did! I just need an editor somewhere to think so too.

Other than that horror flash story, I’ll admit I’m in a bit of a creative funk as far as ideas for new stories go. However, I have been doing a lot of editing. I’m even finally editing my middle grade WIP. I went old school and printed out a copy, and now there are blue ink edits all over the clean, white pages. I prefer blue over red. My beta readers, who were awesome, for the WIP consistently had two comments. First, I should mention a couple characters early on, who play a larger role later in the story, so those characters don’t appear to come out of nowhere. The second was I should flesh out the description of a couple scenes. The latter point I had suspected and had asked my beta readers specifically to look at. I thought the former point was spot on as well, and I’ve done just that. There happened to be a perfect spot in the story early on where I could name drop those characters.

Despite consistently adding to the text, with the few cuts I also made, the WIP only grew by about 900 words. But I’ll include those in the tally for 3Q21 since I finished editing in July. I plan to ask my oldest daughter and her cousin, both who are in the target audience for this middle grade book, to be my final two beta readers. I’ll see how these harshest of critics react.

This is where I outline my goals for the next quarter, but I’m drawing a blank. Once I get comments back from my two young beta readers, I plan to do another thorough edit of my middle grade WIP. I also have an idea for a story, but I’ve been debating whether it’s of flash length or a more typical short story length. Part of this may be related to my laziness. It’s much less time consuming to work on a flash story. I should simply start writing and see what length the story wants to be. The family is going on vacation again later this summer. Maybe I can find several quiet nights to hammer out this story and see where it takes me.

That’s it on my end. How’d your quarter/month/week of writing turn out?

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?