3Q20 Update

Featured

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.

 

1Q19 Update

The first quarter of the new year is done, so it’s time to check on the ole productivity.

  • Words written = 11,070
  • Submissions = 26
  • Rejections = 32
  • Acceptances = 0
  • Publications = 1
  • Awards = 0

Not terrible, but not great. A fourth of my 2019 word goal of 60,000 would be 15,000. I fell short of that one, but I did better than I thought. I found it difficult to write this quarter.  Free time was not abundant, and when I had it, I felt unmotivated to write. I even had two business trips–my favorite writing opportunities–and still got very little writing done.

So what did get done? About 4000 of those words were the result of flash fiction stories. I finished three of roughly 1000 words and then another four that were some amount less than that. In addition, I added a little to the WIP novel (1600 words) and about 450 words to various existing stories I edited before sending out again. I also wrote the first 600 words in a story I’m collaborating on with a fellow novice speculative fiction writer.  I hope to have the opportunity to keep adding to the word total in that work.

The largest chunk of writing went toward finishing my long suffering novella. That was another 4200 words. I am pleased to report that project is now done! Well, the first draft is done. This was a weird one. Most of the novella is in final form already having finished it last summer. However, the consistent critique from my beta readers was it lacked a proper ending. So that’s what I’ve worked on adding intermittently for the last six months. I’ll have to see what my beta readers think now.

My goal was to finish the novella and then break it up into its three component short stories. That way I could include all three stories in the short story collection contest I plan on submitting to by the April 15th deadline. The rules for that contest limit any one story to 15,000 words. The problem is, even with breaking the novella into three stories, the third story now clocks in at 16,200 words. Whoops! Don’t worry, I have plenty of other stories to include in the collection. Besides, the newly written part needs editing anyway before it’s ready for submission.

I also was disappointed not to have an acceptance this quarter. Admittedly, I didn’t maximize my chances, having taken several stories out of circulation, so they’d be available to include in the contest collection. Still, I’d really like to get to where I’m receiving at least one acceptance a quarter. Those are huge motivators.

I did have one publication in Issue 8 of Broadswords and Blasters. Buy the issue here!  It’s a noir detective story with a sci-fi twist.

So that’s it. How’d your first quarter go? Let me know if the comments if you had any triumphs or failures.

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?