2020 Goals

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Before getting to my 2020 goals, here are my numbers for the entire year.

  • Words written = 37,016
  • Submissions = 125
  • Rejections = 134
  • Acceptances = 1
  • Holds = 1
  • Publications = 2
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 2

How does that compare to years past? The word count is way down and the lowest of the three years I’ve been writing. The submission total is almost identical to last year’s, while I have almost 30 more rejections in 2019. I had the same number of publications as 2018 but only a third of the acceptances (1 v. 3). The hold was my first, so I added that category in 2019.  Unfortunately, it eventually became a rejection.

The words written represent a hodgepodge of projects. In that 37,000, there were 12 flash fiction stories and one longer short story (about 5700 words). The rest went toward the work-in-progress novel and a short story I’m co-writing with a friend.

I was not pleased with the drop off in words written. I took on several more time consuming volunteer projects in 2019. Those ate into my writing time and will continue to do so into 2020. So I’m going back to my 2018 goal and see if I can’t hammer out 50,000 words in 2020. I already have 700 of those thanks to a flash fiction story idea that popped into my head on Monday.  Only 49,300 to go!

I’d like to stay at 100 submissions again. To do that, I think I’ll need some new material though. The old stories have made the rounds, and I’m running out of markets. I’m also toying with the idea of putting the old stories together into a collection this year. Now that will be a big project, but it will be great experience for when I want to self-publish the WIP.

I was more successful with my other goal in 2019: reading one book a month. Before kids, I’d read 2-3 books monthly but hadn’t had as much luck since. Last year, I not only had the goal of reading one a month but reading those books I already owned. Most of these reads were physical books, though I slipped in a few ebooks, again if I already owned them. I’m pleased to say I passed this goal and ended with 19 books read.

For 2020, I plan to do the same, except instead of one a month I plan to read several large tomes collecting dust on my shelves. These are the 1000+ pagers that are difficult to hold and impossible to carry around. I’ll set a goal of reading three of these and hopefully can slip a couple smaller ones in here and there.

That was my 2019 and my goals for 2020. How did you end last year, and where do you want to go this year?

4Q19 Update

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The start of the new year is the time to look back and see how I did in 2020 (like every other writer, am I right?).  But first I want to review how the fourth quarter went.

  • Words written = 9263
  • Submissions = 29
  • Rejections = 27
  • Acceptances = 0
  • Holds = 0
  • Publications = 0
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 1

The word count is almost exactly my quarterly average for 2019, which is much lower than my 2018 average.  The submissions and rejections were slightly down from my 2Q19 and 3Q19 numbers but in line with 1Q19.  The lone withdrawal was an odd one.  The market withdrew my submission stating it was closing its doors.  It’s the second time I’ve had a submission turned away because the market went belly up.  That’s more disheartening than a straight up rejection.

Once gain I didn’t have any acceptances, which is starting to weigh on me.  I’ll get to whether I achieved my acceptances goal in the next post, but (spoiler alert) I didn’t.

Most of the words this quarter went to the work-in-progress novel and were written during NaNoWriMo.  Actually, all but 50 words went to that.  The last 50 went to a dribble I wrote and submitted to a contest on a whim.  It was fun and may look to do more of those.  I already had the idea for a longer story and simply reduced it to 50 words.  I’m not a fan of writing anything lengthy on my phone, but there I was one night in bed furiously tapping with my thumbs and counting words over and over.  I still hope to expand the story to a longer form.

Next week, I’ll recap how all of 2019 went and set those goals for 2020.  How’d you finish off 2019?

 

3Q19 Update

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Another quarter is down the drain (or up in smoke or has passed us by or insert your favorite saying here). Let’s see how I did.

  • Words written = 7383
  • Submissions = 32
  • Rejections = 44
  • Acceptances = 1
  • Holds = 1
  • Publications = 1
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

You’ll see I added the new “Holds” category, since I receive my first of those this quarter. The words are down again (for the third straight quarter). The submissions are down slightly, but the rejections are up. I did finally have my first acceptance and publication of the year.

If you’ve read my (infrequent) posts this year, you know I’ve struggled to find the time to write. I’ve struggled to blog this year too. I find the two related. The more I wrote last year the more ideas that writing generated for blog posts.

After beating my 2018 words goal, I am no where near the pace needed to finish with that amount again with a fourth of the year left. I’ve gone from 1100 to 9300 to 7400 over the last three quarters. The numbers show that whatever I was doing before no longer worked, so I’m trying something new.

I’m attempting to steal 15 minutes a day to get 100-200 words down. I realize that’s not even a page a day, but it’s something. And I’ve made progress.

To get motivated, I reread the novel I started during last year’s NaNoWriMo. First, I had the disheartening discovery that I lost about 1600 words due to an errant backing up procedure. Once I cried a little, I set out to give the manuscript a once over. It needed it just to be readable. Due to the speed required to attempt NaNoWriMo, I had left numerous character and place name blanks simply because I couldn’t remember what I’d used before and I didn’t want to spend the few seconds to go back and look.

That initial polish also served as a reminder of what I’d written, which had mostly escaped me. It got me excited about the story again as well.

I’m happy to report the 15 minutes/100-200 words a day has worked pretty well. I still haven’t managed it every day, but I’ve managed to add about 5000 words already. I even managed to rewrite the lost 1600.

My goal is to sustain the 100-200 words at a time up to this year’s NaNoWriMo, and then see if I can do another 15,000-20,000 during NaNoWriMo like last year. I know some people write that in a week or two, and I say more power to them. I’d love to have time and motivation for that. I lack both currently, but I’m alright taking the tortoise approach. I’m only racing myself.

How have your goals gone with 3/4 of the year behind us? Let me know in the comments.

Netherlands-Belgium-Luxembourg Writing Adventure

Last year, I blogged here and here about writing while on vacation in France. Both the cultural experiences, mostly art museums, and the setting in Paris and the French Riviera were inspiring. Though my writing had nothing to do with either, I hammered out a good many words and better yet, felt productive.

This year, the family toured the Benelux countries. There was plenty of culture to soak up, but it felt different. The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam was impressive and should be inspiring to any artists out there. My oldest daughter enjoys attempting to recreate the works of famous artists and had brought along her own self portrait to compare to Van Gogh’s numerous ones. But I didn’t feel the inspiration, like the year before.

I still managed to get some words on the screen. Most of the trip I worked on a new short story. I’m continuing to work on that one now that we’re home. It needs one more scene, which just happens to be the climax, so not difficult at all! I also wrote a flash story that’s a little political satire.

One of the last days in Luxembourg, the kids got these chocolate eggs that had a toy inside each. My wife tells me it’s a thing. Well, one of the little toys was a miniature dolphin. Like any toy these days, it came with instructions and a chocking hazard warning—in 30+ languages. This thing is like Pit Bull, worldwide.

And darned if that set of instructions wasn’t inspirational. A flash story idea popped into my head, and I got it on the screen that night with a few tweaks the next day.

Before these vacations, I hadn’t thought much about locations being inspirational, especially since I don’t write stories set in these locals. Now I know the location itself can feed the creative drive even if your story is set out in the solar system. Going forward, I need to make sure our vacations are set in the appropriate locales, and we visit the necessary sights, to get the creative energy going. I also need to read more toy instructions.

Let me know in the comments if you derive inspiration from your writing locations—or toy instructions.

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.