P.37: My Submissions, a Year in Review

Time for my yearly retrospective.

This past year, I sent out 33 submissions, 7 of which were new stories, with another extensive rewrite. I have another 3 finished drafts that aren’t quite ready, and about 3-4 stories at various different stages of I’m Working On That.

And that’s in addition to the 50,000+ words I wrote for my NaNo space opera mosaic novel, and some work on my first novel.

Assuming all my current submissions from 2016 are declined, I made it 33% of the way toward some of the best writing advice I’ve read during the whole year: aiming for 100 rejections. Honestly, I’ll take that.

I didn’t sell any stories, but I got 2 rewrite offers,  2 honorable mentions for Writers of the Future, 7 personal rejections and published one of my shorts (which I think came out fantastic) with my writer’s group. I’m getting close to that first elusive story winning the Submission Hunger Games.

All that said, I’ve been feeling like this was a bit of a step back from last year — and in many ways, the numbers bear that out. I wrote 12 more stories last year, and sent out 17 more submissions. That was a very productive year. Even more disappointing to me, personally, is the fact that I almost never missed deadlines on submissions I targeted last year, and this year I missed 3…. in December alone.

That said, the quality of my stories have definitely improved: both in my new stories and in improving some of my stories from last year.

In 2015, I had 3 personal rejections in 50 submissions and no honorable mentions at Writers of the Future. In 2016, I more than doubled my personal rejections and have two HMs in my past 3 tries at WotF (and feel really good about my current submission).

I’m big on the school of glass half full. I didn’t write (or edit) as much as I’d have liked in 2016, but I still wrote quite a bit. Writing is tough and life gets in the way, but I’m getting better — and, most importantly of all, not giving up.

P.33: I wrote something you can buy

There’s something out there that I wrote and you can buy. That’s… like… kind of exciting, and I figured I should provide a link.

The details: About a year ago, I joined a writing group near where I live. Every few years, the writing group puts together a work of our short stories. With the writing group being based in Salem, Massachusetts, a number of our writers enjoy writing ghost stories — and, thus, Ghost Writers Volume 2, was born.

My story is called “The Long Arm of Satan” and closes out the book. It’s about a guy in hell who’s trying to escape. I hope people will find it both hellish and literary.

I hope you’ll agree that there’s a number of great stories in the collection. You can buy it in print or as an ebook from Amazon, and I do believe it’s available via Kindle’s lending library program for people with Prime.

P.30: A Year of Short Stories

I didn’t realize it, but today is about 13 months since I first started submitting short stories.

In that time, I’ve sent out 19 different stories and four poems, for a total of 50 submissions, including seven that are currently active.

I wrote another two shorts that I haven’t sent out yet (they need a little more work), and have another two that are about halfway done which I like enough that I plan to get back to them.

And that’s not counting the fifth draft of my first novel, and the first draft of my second, neither of which are ready to send out yet… but both took a good deal of work this year.

I have no idea where the time came to do all this…

Since I like to post where (and why) I send my stories every ten blogs, let’s take a look at what I have out now:

  • I have one story submitted to the Writers of the Future, from the 2nd quarter of this year. This was my fourth submission to the contest, and they’ve always either been my early work or stories that weren’t quite my best (but where what I had available to send at the time). They were stories I wasn’t necessarily hoping would win, but wanted to see if they’d survive early cullings (one of them did) or maybe get an honorable mention (nope). This time, I decided to send one of my best stories and while I still have some worry about fit (I haven’t really read enough WotF to gauge what the judges like), I’m crossing my fingers.
  • One at Tor.com. I had to get at least one story in before Tor.com closed its doors to unsolicited short story submissions forever, and sent the very best story I had available since I know Tor.com is the Crème de la crème. I’m pleased it’s still in the running.
  • One for Ghosts on Drugs, an anthology about ghosts on drugs, both terms broadly defined. I wrote this one specifically for the anthology.
  • One at Uncanny Magazine. I wrote two stories in November and December that I really, really liked. I sent one of them in, which toyed a lot with mythicism, focusing on character discovery. The story lasted a tad longer than average before it was declined — so I don’t think they hated it. Thankfully, it was rejected a couple days before their submission window closed, giving me the ability to send another (thanks, Uncanny!). I sent that second story, which had some of the same mythic feel, but with prose that’s a little more lyrical. I’ve seen some stories in Uncanny with a similar lyrical feel, so felt like it could be a good fit. We’ll see.
  • One at Let Us In, which is an upcoming anthology about horrors people invite into their lives — either consciously or unconsciously. Again, I wrote my story specifically for the anthology.
  • I have two poems out, both to Apex’s Undead poems anthology. I had one poem that fit, and another that I wrote for it. I don’t consider myself any kind of poet, only the occasional dabbler for personal fun, but figured I’d send them out because the worst thing that could happen is they get declined.

Here’s hoping.

P.29: World Building and Cuts

When it comes to writing, there’s almost nothing that I love more than to create new worlds, filled with interesting characters and locations in them.

I also love to create beautiful prose, that flows well on the tongue.

I say all this because I just sent out a short story. It was a story I first finished and sent out in December, but it wasn’t quite ready then — it was one of those situations where I would have liked to spend some more time with it, but had a deadline to hit.

I didn’t really know what was quite wrong with it in my head, but I figured out those problems this past week, prepping it for a new outlet.

There were a few points in the story — just a few — where I was trying to do a little too much. I loved the character details I had, but they were bogging the prose down, making the writing feel clunky.

I didn’t want to lose those details, though. They really did add a dynamic to my main character that otherwise doesn’t quite show.

I tried rewording the writing, I tried to move things around… but nothing worked.

Ultimately, I had to let the writing win, and so I made the cuts.

At the end of the day, no matter how many wonderful ideas you want to try to incorporate in your story, you can’t have clunky prose. Some of them will almost certainly have to be cut.

Be merciless, my friends.

P.19: I’m a Grammar Rebel

I have a quirk in the way I like to punctuate dialog. Most people use a comma before they write ‘he said’ or ‘she said;’ I prefer a period.

For example, if a character heard something that sounded good to them, here’s how I’d write it:

“Sounds good to me.” She said.

Here’s the technically ‘right’ way to punctuate it:

“Sounds good to me,” she said.

I like to use a period instead of a comma because I think the line of dialog completes a thought. The fact someone said it is a separate thought.

It’s also about consistency. If a line of dialog was framed as a question or an exclamation, proper grammar dictates that he said or she said would start a new sentence.

It’s “Sounds good?” She said. Not “Sounds good?” she said. So why would it be “Sounds good,” she said? What makes question marks and exclamations so special?

I’m sure many others would feel differently — some passionately, no doubt — but I think I’m right here.

P.18: The Crazy Sh*t We Research for Stories

I’m continually amused by just what I have to look up to get a particular story right.  Writing fiction, you’re inevitably going to come up with interesting ideas that you want to explore — ideas that would feel flat if you didn’t do your homework.

Sometimes it manifests in weird ways.

For example, I’ve been working on a short story that takes place on an alien world, about someone who finds the remnants of an extinct civilization. I had to laugh when I realized I needed to research what makes ancient Roman concrete so damn good (here was the best link I found, btw) — all so I could write a scene about ancient ruins.

The same story required that I really brush up on Norse mythology, too, and not just the basics like the pantheon. I was thinking about how it was interesting that Norse mythology has so many different worlds and planes of existence, and it made me wonder if that influenced how far and wide they explored (and pillaged, depending on the century). Reading up on the mythology, I came across the concepts of the utangard and the innangard, concepts that really fit my character and the story, helping flesh everything out.

Research takes a lot of time to even take the most cursory of glances. Sometimes hours of research may amount to a few lines in a short story. Other times, the hours of research may not even make it into the story, amounting to little more than helping flesh out character’s background.

It’s all worth it, though, because it’s the little things that can separate a mediocre story from a story that will catch a reader — and there’s no better way to do that than doing your homework as a writer.

P.16: Getting Ready for my first #NaNoWriMo

I think I’m going to try to take on NaNoWriMo this year — the National Novel Writing Month.

It’s a challenge for writers to write a 50,000+ word first draft of a novel over the course of November.

50,000 words is about 150 pages in 30 days, which amounts to about 5 pages a day, which is about what I’ll generally write in an evening.

Have I written at that pace for 30+ days before? Yes, definitely.  I wrote my first novel over 2-3 month-long spurts over the course of a year or so, and that was 115,000 words.

That said, part of NaNoWriMo is having a complete first draft — not just 50,000 words. Most novels are considerably longer than that, especially those aimed at adult audiences or young adult. If I write Adult or YA Sci Fi/Fantasy, that’s closer to 300 pages in 30 days, or 10 pages a day — YA a little less, adult a little more.

I’m not sure I like my chances of sustaining 10 pages a day over 30 days, so I’m leaning toward writing something for a younger audience.

NaNoWriMo will create another big challenge, though — getting ready for it.

  • I have 4 submission deadlines I’ve written drafts for, that I need to finish up and send out between the end of October and the end of the year. Some of these will be more work than others, but most will require at least a few evenings.
  • I have another story with I’ve started a draft for that isn’t finished yet. That one’s not due until the end of the year, but I don’t want to go into December exhausted from NaNoWriMo without a finished first draft.
  • Then, after all that’s done, I’ll have to invest serious and quick effort into getting ready for NaNoWriMo, creating my characters and at least some kind of outline for the plot. Writing 50,000+ words is one thing, but writing it without having at least some basic understanding of my characters and plots is another, and potentially a big waste of time.

So, there’s a lot to do and a lot to think about, but I’m excited about the challenge. If I can get a firm idea down, I think I can get it done without real life getting in the way.

If you’re taking on NaNoWriMo, feel free to say hello and add me as a buddy.

P.15: Friday, Bloody Friday

Witness today’s Interfictions-sponsored mass culling of their submissions:

Interfiction Bloody Friday

It’s from a snapshot I took at The Submission Grinder, a site where writers keep track of their short story submissions.

Usually rejections come out in a trickle, with a wide assortment listed on The Submission Grinder’s main page at any given time. Yet, today Interfictions really unleashed the kraken, gobbling up almost all the space on The Grinder’s front-page while they were at it.

And, of course, one of my stories fell victim to the mighty beast.

For those who aren’t aware: Interfictions’s a wonderful biannual genre-bending speculative fiction online magazine, officially recognized as pro-rate by the Science Fiction Writers of America.

It’s no shock that they rejected many, many stories for their upcoming issue — it’s a great venue, only open a couple times a year.

It was only a surprise, to me, that so many came out all at once.

And since I can sometimes have a dark sense of humor, I got a huge kick out of it.

One of the things you quickly learn about the submission process is that you need a way to deal with rejections — and humor can be a great approach.

Maybe I’m weird, but it’s one of my ways. Being able to laugh at yet another rejection is better than getting upset or frustrated by it, since being upset and frustrated isn’t conducive to writing — but laughing is a wonderful fuel.

For anyone who can’t find the humor, though, just remember: Sending out submissions isn’t a rejection process. It’s an acceptance process. Having your story rejected doesn’t mean you, personally, failed. It just means some other people had a story that, for any number of reasons, was a better fit.

I hope people out there will, like me, keep at it. Keep writing the very best stories you can, and improving your craft along the way. You are my competitors, but I want my story to get accepted because it’s the best — not because people felt frustrated and gave up.

Rejection is only a failure if you stop writing, and the only story that can never get accepted is the one that’s never submitted.

So, thank you, Interfictions, for allowing me to be a part of your Bloody Friday. I look forward to your next submission period.

P.14: The Other End of Word Counts

Two posts ago, I wrote about that frustrating moment when you write something you really like, but it comes out too long.

I forgot that there is a moment even worse in word count agony. It’s when you write something you really like, and it’s a full and complete story — and it’s too short.

As frustrating as it is to cut, it’s even more difficult to add. Adding enough words to a story to create a whole new scene or more changes a story in a way cutting rarely will. When a story feels finished, I never never want to add. But you can cut in ways that don’t change the spirit of a story, and often will make that story better.

Normally, it wouldn’t matter too much — if you have a story that’s not right for one outlet, you can send it to another — but it is a bigger pickle when you specifically wrote that story for a submission call.

Like I did with this one.


Thankfully, the deadline for the submission call isn’t for a while, so I have time to cook up some other part of the story, but it’ll probably take me almost as much time to figure that out as it did to write it in the first place — because I have to figure out what that new component will be and where it could possibly fit, to make sure it feels like a natural part of the story that was always supposed to be there.

Back to the drawing board for me, trying to think up possible new scenes and figuring out ways to squeeze them in.