Monthly Archives: November 2011

First Professional Sale & Short Stories #38, #39 Mailed


I’ve sold Story #26 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge– to write 40 new short stories this year– to Penumbra, a new speculative fiction e-magazine. And yes, they pay professional rates of 5 cents per word.

My story will appear in the January 2012 issue. I’ll post more details and a link to the magazine when I have them.

It’s also a milestone for me because it marks my first professional sale.

I decided to get serious about my fiction about a year ago. Really started to focus on finishing things, on mailing them out rather than endlessly revising the same unfinished stories. Started really paying attention to the advice given by professionals, especially Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. And yes, I learned a ton– and took in a lot simply by osmosis– when I attended the June 2011 Short Story Workshop (taught mainly by Kris, an award-winning editor and writer).

Now, I’m not sure I agree with every bit of advice they dole out. But you know what? They’re both established professionals making a living from their writing. They have been at this for decades. They know what the heck they are talking about.

So I listened, and I learned. And I’m still learning.

Making the sale is great, but it doesn’t fool me; I know I still have a ton to learn to bring my craft to a higher level. My job now is to write the next one, and the next, and the one after that. May sell or it may not. But I’ll keep practicing and learning new tools, how to tell a good story in a compelling way.

I have to admit the making the sale did get in my head for a few days. I found it hard to sit down and write. The idea that someone might actually publish these words I was writing, these practice sessions that I was setting down on paper, paralyzed me. Felt like the words had to be perfect, the story had to be great.

Well you know what? Some stories I set down on paper stink. I know that. I’m sure editors are sometimes thinking that when they send me form rejections.

But I also know that I’m wrong about that sometimes, and the only way to find out is to finish the story and mail it.

The story I sold is a perfect example. It’s a short, funny sci-fi story. In many ways the premise is ridiculous. I wasn’t sure the story even worked. I wondered if I should mail it out or just trunk it.

But I was wrong; it worked and it worked great, and an editor bought it. Sold the first time out, actually.

It feels great to have a story out there and published that never got rejected!

And really, it didn’t take so long:

  • I wrote that story just a little bit past 100,000 words of fiction written since I got serious about it. None of the stories from the first 100,000 words has sold yet, although I know at least one of them moved on to later rounds of reviewing (a piece I sent to ChiZine, a really tough market to crack).
  • It was the 73rd manuscript that I mailed out this year.
  • I wrote the story when my race score was at 20 stories in the mail; the acceptance came at 31 stories in the mail. (My race score at the moment is 32; the point for the story that sold doesn’t come off until it’s published).
  • The acceptance came after I’d hit 90 rejections.

Now it may be twice as long before I sell the next one, or who knows, one of the stories I have out might sell tomorrow. No way to know. But I feel like I’m on the right path and I’ll keep working at it. I’m sure I’m no exception and I have a million words of crap in me. Or heck, I’ve written so much non-fiction in my professional work that I may very well need two million words of crap to overcome that deficit.

But I know there will be some gems in there too.

I have gotten over the hump of the sale now and moved on to the next one. Mailed out Stories #38 and #39 in the last week or so.  Both are on the short side; #38 is about 1500 words, #39 is a flash fiction piece. But I’ve been learning a lot and having great fun writing a number of shorter pieces; one of them sold and another was shortlisted elsewhere before it ultimately got rejected. So it seems to be working for me.

I have story #40 nearly finished as well, so I’ll make my 2011 Short Story Challenge goal of 40 stories written and mailed probably by early next week.

So now I’m gunning for my stretch goal of 50 Stories finished and mailed by the end of the year, but it will be tough to get there with some upcoming travel for work plus the usual holiday distractions. But we’ll see. I’m going to take a run at this and see just how far I can get.



Filed under Accepted Stories, Dean Wesley Smith, Flash Fiction, Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

Short Stories #35, 36, 37 Finished

I wrote an ultra-short on Sunday night (the title is longer than the piece itself!). I dreamed the story in a state of semi-consciousness as I woke up, and jotted it down on the iPad. It’s so short I almost didn’t bother mailing it, but there it was, a bit of finished clutter taking space in my mental closet, so out it went.

I also finished off a 3,500 word story that I started last week, and figured out the ending for another flash fiction piece– a raw punch-in-the-face sort of story– that had been fermenting and just needed a bit of attention to reach that magical point of completion.

So, a little over 4,000 new words, and three more stories in my 2011 Short Story Challenge done. So, I’ll hit my original goal of 40 stories pretty soon here, and I’ve decided to go full out for the stretch goal of 50 stories. I’ve hit a pretty good pace recently so 13 stories in 7.5 weeks actually is looking pretty doable at the moment as long as I don’t get knocked too far off the pace by holiday distractions.

I also have some words in the bank already. There are first drafts of three or four more stories lingering from previous weeks that I haven’t mailed yet because they need some light editing work. I am discovering rather quickly here that I really hate editing, even though I have tons of experience doing exactly that for many years in my non-fiction writing. In the realm of fiction new words are king and that has been the constant focus of my attention this year.

In other news I received word that one of my stories has moved on to the final batch of stories being considered by a pro-paying market for an upcoming issue. So, it may sell or it may still end up getting rejected. Either way, my job is just to write the next one.

The mail brought six rejections (one story twice) and I mailed out five pieces. So, my race score has dipped to 27 despite the new work, until I figure out where to turn around some of those rejected pieces.

One of the new stories I also haven’t mailed yet because I wrote it with a specific market in mind that I wanted to sent it to first, but the market is temporarily closed. I will probably hold that piece until the market re-opens– if I send it out somewhere else it may not come back in time for the submissions window.

Or I may try writing another story for that same market and see which one I like best. I did this for the Borderlands 6 Anthology, which I mailed a story to a while back. I wrote and finished one story with the anthology in mind, but another idea was nagging at me, so I wrote a second, totally different story as well. Then I just mailed the story that I liked best to the anthology. Will the editors like it too? Who knows, but I feel like a took a good shot at it and sent them the best story I could write now.

UPDATE: Got all the finished manuscripts out in the mail (except the ultra-short; note to self: 25 word stories are not that marketable). Race score breaks 30 for the first time!


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Filed under Flash Fiction, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

Short Story #34 Mailed

Okay, I’m officially on a roll.  Short Story #34 (roughly 2,000 words) of my 2011 Short Story Challenge is out the door.  To be honest I had some misgivings about this story, and when I finished it I considered just filing it in my __CRIMES_AGAINST_LITERATURE folder. But this morning I took another look at it and decided it wasn’t so bad, and mailed it out after a light editing pass. The thing was done, so why trash it? I just write ’em, I’ll let the editors decide if what I’ve written is any good or not. Having it out the door also clears mental baggage, I find, and removes the temptation to edit or revise the story more to “fix” it.

That’s two stories done this week, and race score now at 28.

Can I go for three? Well, maybe, if it’s one more short one, or editing the 5,000 worder that has passed first draft and is just sitting there on my hard drive collecting dust. With that one, there are just some scenes that are too thin or missing altogether, so it’s more a matter of cycling through and adding than of wholesale revision, so I feel comfortable revisiting it.

Only six stories to go to hit 40 for this year, or sixteen more for the stretch goal of 50. It feels more and more doable by the day.


Filed under Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011