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?

2020 Update and 2021 Goals

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Last time, I caught up on my 4Q20 results. Now, let’s dive into how I did for all of 2020.

  • Words written = 34,027
  • Submissions = 91
  • Rejections = 82
  • Acceptances = 5
  • Holds = 1
  • Publications = 4
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

I also had a couple rewrite requests, one of which also was the lone “hold for further consideration,” and both of which turned into two of those five acceptances.

Let’s be honest; that first number isn’t great. That’s the second year in a row my total words written has decreased, setting a new low again in 2020 by about 3000 words.

Both the number of submissions and rejections were down as well when compared to prior years. The number of rejections were particularly low. I noted several markets were slower in 2020 reviewing submissions. Hey, those editors were living through a pandemic too, with all the issues that came with it. On the brighter side, I set highs in acceptances and publications. Can’t complain about that. And one of those acceptances should be published this year after a COVID-delay at the publisher.

How do those results compare to the goals set in January? I didn’t reach 50,000 words (again) and didn’t reach 100 submissions (for the first time). I did average at least one acceptance a quarter plus one! I would gladly trade fewer submissions for more acceptances.

Now for the hard part, what goals to set for 2021. I’m going with a lower 30,000 word goal. I want to focus on editing, at least at the start of the year. I have that middle grade book and several stories to go through from NaNoWriMo. Coincidentally, my fellow Northern Virginia Writers Club member, Darius Jones, who blogs over at Inside the Writer’s Mind, set a similar editing goal. Then I want to finally turn back to my work-in-progress novel, which I haven’t looked at in a year, and continue adding to my memoir. I find the latter fun and easy to write and therefore a welcome distraction when other projects get bogged down.

I’ll keep the submissions goal at 100 again. A couple stories were slow to get out last year after I finished them, which I think kept my submissions down. I need to do better at getting freshly edited stories out the door.

Then there is my reading goal. I like to include this since one of those pieces of advise you always hear is to be a good writer you have to be a good reader. For 2020, I set a goal of reading three 1000+ page tomes. What was I thinking? I got through one, and it took me from January to August, though I took a month break in the middle to read the stack of magazines that had built up. I also read (or listened to) eight other books. That latter number surprised me, so I’ll take it.

This year I’m scaling back the tomes. I’m going with reading one 1000+ pager. Then, I’ll add in another eight normal size books. That should allow me to make progress on the stack next to my nightstand that never seems to get smaller plus have room to squeeze in a couple new discoveries.

Now I’m ready to tackle 2021. How about you? Were you as productive as you hoped during the pandemic? What goals did you set for the new year?

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?

First Reprint or Another November Story

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I didn’t plan for several of my stories to hit the market in November, but here we are. The first reprint I ever submitted was accepted by the good folks at Smoking Pen Press for their time travel anthology. I like that the editors didn’t decide on a name for the anthology until they had selected the stories to include. That way they could see what common themes came through, and they found one. Nothing good seems to come from time travel, so they titled the anthology The Trouble with Time Travel.

My contribution is “Temporally Out of Service.” If you’ve followed this blog back to its beginning, you may recall this was the first story I every wrote. It was inspired by a misspelled sign I encountered on a hotel elevator. You guessed it, that’s where the story title comes front. If you like sci-fi time travel or private detective noir or both, this is the story for you!

After the rights reverted to me last year, I happened to see this publisher’s call for time travel stories. Since reprints were accepted, I took a chance. You know what they say, don’t self reject; and I’m glad I didn’t. You can purchase the eBook here from any of your favorite online retailers. A print version should be released in the coming weeks. If you’d like a little taste, read on.

***

Not really paying close attention to the clerk beyond learning which way the woman went, I raced past the desk and headed down the hall.  I hurried by the business center on the right and then what appeared to be a tiny fitness center immediately after.  I next passed the elevator.  It was in a recessed alcove on the left with a sign taped to the door, still fluttering a little as if someone had rushed by.  On the other side of the elevator was the door to the stairs.  At the end of the hall was the south entrance, the one I did not have a view of earlier. 

All was quiet, so where did she go?  I poked my head into the stairwell.  Nothing.  No footsteps racing up the stairs.  No doors to other floors above slamming open or closed.  I opened the door to the outside and scanned the area.  Nothing.  I backtracked down the hall to peer into the business and fitness centers.  Nothing.  I started to worry I would have to go door to door and floor to floor to track her down.

Not wanting to make that scene quite yet, I retraced my steps one more time to the end of the hall.  This time when I reached the elevator I read the sign attached to the door.

TEMPORALLY

OUT OF SERVICE

THX,

MGMT

“Temporally?” I asked aloud.  “The staff can’t even spell ‘temporarily.’”  I was about to launch into a long mental diatribe about the sad state of the public education system when I noticed the sign and entire elevator door had the same sheen that had covered everything in the parking lot earlier.  If you would ask me years later why I did what I did next, I’d tell you I don’t know.  But I did it.  I pushed the UP button.  The doors opened.  I walked in, and the doors closed.