Category Archives: Rejections

2012 Writing Goals & 2011 Short Story Challenge in Review

I haven’t had time to post in a while, but I did tweet (@aainscott) my progress on my 2011 Short Story Challenge– to write 40 short stories in a year, which I revised on the fly to shoot for 50 stories instead– and this is how it went:

  • Dec. 1st: Short Story #40 mailed (flash fiction)– challenge met! How many more I can get done in December? Race score=33.
  • Dec. 2nd: Received rejection #100 on the year, mailed short story #41 of (another flash fiction piece). I don’t give up easy.
  • Dec. 12th: Finished stories #42, 43, 44. Two flash fiction pieces mailed to professional markets and a longer story which I moved direct to e-pub.
  • Dec. 22nd: Mailed stories #45-48 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge (three flash pieces, one longer short story).
  • Around this time I also got a really nice personal rejection letter from Flash Fiction Online, a professional SFWA-qualifying market: “I really enjoyed your story. It’s well written, with a lot of powerful imagery, and a compelling voice.” The problem? Oops, I exceeded the PG-13 criteria for the publication.
  • Dec 31st: Mailed story #49, about 7,000 words, to the Writers of the Future contest. Struggled with this one, the story just wouldn’t flow, but got it done.

Alas, I didn’t quite make 50– but I came really, really close because the short novel (~30,000 words) that I wrote earlier in the fall is incredibly close to being ready to go up. But my priority was to get something mailed to the Writers of the Future contest, so I had to bump that back to January.

My overall 2011 results were:

  • 49 new pieces of fiction completed
  • 152 manuscripts mailed
  • 122 rejections
  • 30 manuscripsts currently still in the hands of editors who might buy them
  • 14 personal rejections
  • 1 story currently shortlisted
  • 1 acceptance (“Piss Match,” Penumbra Vol. 1 No. 4, a professional-paying market)

So overall I’d have to say that 2011 was an unmitigated success on the writing front even though I fell just a tad short of the updated goal of 50 stories finished & mailed to professional markets or e-published online.

The 2012 Hundred Fictions Challenge:
Produce 100 New Pieces of Fiction.

For 2012 I’ve decided to go all-out. I hit a nice rythym the last quarter of 2011 so I think I can produce a lot more this year than last year.

My goal is 100 new pieces of fiction. Any length counts as long as I mail it to a professional market (or e-publish it). I like to write at flash lengths and to be honest I have had the most encouraging comments from the pro markets with my shorter pieces, so I see no reason not to keep at it, so long as I am writing a mix of longer pieces as well to keep building those storytelling muscles.

Because I want to stay on the learning curve for e-publishing I am also going to include in that count any e-pubbed collections of short stories, to give me an incentive to assemble those. But individual stories e-published don’t count.

I also will have 5 short novels in that count of 100 pieces, including the one just about ready to go up. Any length of about 15,000 words or more counts, i.e. any works that I would put up at $2.99 or higher. And at least one must be 60,000 words or more.

Other goals for 2012, in no particular order:

  • Do at least one POD (print-on-demand) book because I want to learn how to do that.
  • Practice writing faster. My typical pace is around 500-800 words per hour, sometimes up to 1000 or 1200 words/hour when things are going well. I’d like to more consistently hit that 1,000 words plus per hour range.
  • 250,000+ new words written.

My main goal for 2012, however, is to keep firing short stories at the professional markets. My race score topped out at 35 in 2011. I want to see how much higher I can push that this year, while still producing a number of novella/short novel length works.

So that’s it and I’ll look forward to shooting off short stories side-by-side with you as you progress on your own writing challenges. We can have a bit of a wild west short fiction shoot-out here on the rugged coast of the Pacific Northwest!

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Filed under 2012 Hundred Fictions Challenge, E-Pub, Flash Fiction, Novels, Short Novels & Novellas, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

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

Success!

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.

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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

VOMIT SETTING ONTO THE PAGE. (and 100th Submission, 75th Rejection, & Short Story #31 Mailed)

It’s been a while since I last posted but things have been busy. Since Oct 7th I received 9 rejections (one piece rejected twice) and mailed out 11 pieces. That brings my race score to 25.

I also passed some milestones this week, with the 75th rejection of the year coming in and the 100th mailing of the year going out.

I still also have one piece being held by an editor for possible publication. No clue when I will hear back about that, but it’s for a market that pays professional rates.

I mailed off Short Story #31 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge several days ago, a short strange one about a character with phantom limbs.

I have also finished a first draft of the short novel at about 31,000 words as well as a first draft of a 5,000 word short story that I was thinking of submitting to an anthology call. So, lots of words coming through the keyboard, but finding time to do some editing (as opposed to producing new words, which has been my priority) has been a challenge.

I started a new piece this week as well where I decided to have fun and follow explicitly the directions that Dean Wesley Smith gave us for one excercise at the June 2011 Short Story workshop when he was none too pleased about the results of a previous assignment about story setting:

VOMIT SETTING ONTO THE PAGE.

So I went and did just that and have a 2,500 word start on another story where the first six pages do nothing but layer in a creepy setting bit by bit, filtered through the viewpoint and opinions of the main character. I rather like how it has turned out so far.

The reason to “vomit setting onto the page” is that, as an early-stage professional writer, it is too easy to focus on plot and other story aspects and leave the setting too thin. That leaves you with a white-room story full of fake details (“the bench” vs. “the grubby oak-planked bench capped with wrought-iron finials,” for example). This also brings particular and concrete details into your story that evoke the five senses.

On this new story, I’m admittedly a bit stuck on where it will go next. But I have a solution for that, as well, thanks again to another bit of advice that Dean pearled out during the dinner on the last night of the workshop.

One of the students asked Dean how to flesh out a big idea, how to get going on it, how to develop it to its full potential. Dean had a great, short answer that might seem trite at first glance but actually encapsulates a lot of wisdom:

“Just start typing.”

The student looked at him incredulously and started to rephrase the question. To which Dean said, “No, really, just start typing.” His point was that the place to do world-building is at your keyboard, with probes and bore-holes drilled in the form of stories. If a particular story veers off of your big idea, well so what. Let your subconscious, creative mind take you where it will, finish off that story, and take another whack at it with your next story. And then the next. And the next. Soon you’ll understand your “big idea” better, and through the process of exploration in story form, likely come up with many twists and turns and improvements on your idea that you never would have otherwise.

Now, I may have little track record as a fiction writer but I’ve worked in advanced R & D for my entire professional career and so I could see the wisdom in Dean’s words. It’s way, way to easy to paralyze yourself into inaction because an idea seems to big or too difficult or too vague in its present form. You just have to build stuff, try things out, and gradually via exploration-through-experience something interesting will come out of it– as long as you trust yourself and permit yourself to have some whiffs along the way.

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Filed under Dean Wesley Smith, Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Novels, Short Novels & Novellas, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011, Workshops

Short Story #30 Mailed

I sent short story #30 of my 2011 short story challenge, another bit of flash fiction this time, off into the electronic void a couple days ago. I’ve been writing alot of these short-short / flash fiction pieces lately, and at some point soon here I’m going to start running out of pro-paying markets to mail them off to.

But I’ve been having great fun with them, and it’s been a nice counterbalance while I work to complete the novella that I have pounding away on. I wrote 3,600 new words on the novella this week and I’m close to having that elusive end-to-end first draft completed. Then I will go back and layer in a few things here and there to properly set up and motivate the plot twists and character development and so forth that come later in the short novel.

Two more rejections since my last post, and three pieces sent out, so my short-story race score now stands at 24.

I want to e-publish some more short stories, collections of flash fiction pieces, and of course the short novel before the holiday season to see if I can pick up a few sales from all the new e-readers coming onto the market. But, I also need to balance that with my main goal right now of making some professional sales to the short fiction markets, which will help to get my name out there and give me better fiction credits for my cover letters.

We’re in the wild, wild west of reading, writing and publishing these days and there’s heady times a-coming. All I need to do is hold on tight and just keep writing no matter what, and the rest will follow.

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Filed under E-Pub, Flash Fiction, Novels, Short Novels & Novellas, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

Short Story #28 Mailed

I was on travel with the family this weekend, so no time for writing really, but I did whip out one short-short on the iPad for a short fiction contest. It’s the shortest story of this year’s challenge so far, but finished, titled, and mailed, so I’m counting it :-). I also wrote a 500 word fragment in which I have no idea where I am going, so I will shelve that for now and may or may not return to it.

This week I am focusing my effort on working up something to send to the Writers of the Future contest. The deadline is midnight on Friday so I’ll have to write this one fast and hard. This one will be a complete redrafting of a story that I wrote at the Kris ‘n’ Dean short story workshop. By redraft I mean I’m not even looking back at the original manuscript, just starting from a similar idea of what the story will be. It was a story with a nice rich, lush setting– setting is probably what I do best as a writer– and Kris commented that it was beautifully written but left too many story questions unanswered. And actually, at the time, I remember being relieved at her comments because all the same questions had been nagging at me as I wrote it– I knew I had left them dangling– but under a tight time deadline I hadn’t been able to figure out the answers. And a number of people at the workshop liked the story even as it was (we all read each other’s stories, in addition to a hefty writing load). As Kris said repeatedly during the workshop, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be finished.” Where “finished” means at least 3,000 words, with a beginning, a middle, and an ending– as well as that closing validation that gives the reader permission to leave the story.

My daughter was sick last night, so there was little time for writing, but I did manage to pound out an 800 word start on the new story for Writers of the Future, again on the iPad. I never would have imagined that the iPad would be such a useful tool for writing, and to be honest I only downloaded the iWork Pages application to study and experience how Apple handled a multi-touch word processor– professionally, I work in interaction design– but I’ve noticed that a hefty percentage of my stories are getting their starts on the iPad. So it seems to encourage lowering the mental filters that let words flood onto the page, and it’s a great “shim” device for wedging into those little crevices of writing time that appear here and there in daily life.

In the past week I also received 5 rejections and sent six manuscripts back out in the mail. That brings my race score for manuscripts in the hands of editors at pro-paying short fiction markets up to 22.

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

Short Story #27 Mailed

I finished off a story during my lunch break and mailed it off to notch Story #27 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge.

It was a story I started over the weekend on my iPad. I was really tired over the weekend and didn’t do much writing other than that, and I didn’t even crack open the laptop to work on the short novel. But I think it’s pretty cool how the iPad has become a shim for me that I can wedge in against the oh-my-goodness-I-just-need-to-be-horizontal fatigue that sets in late at night sometimes. I just grab the iPad and type my 500 words and then go to sleep.

And heck, some completed stories are coming from that– and one of those even looks like it might sell– so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Since my last post, I recieved one rejection back on a story that had been out forever, and received news that one of my iPad-written stories is being held for further consideration– on the first time I mailed it out no less– so there’s a potential professional sale brewing there. It was also one of those stories that I initially thought might be destined for my “Crimes Against Literature” folder, so once again, what do I know. I just write ’em and have fun with it.

My story for this week might have an even more ridiculous premise than the one I whipped up last week, but I think it’s a fun story nonetheless. Should be entertaining to see what happens with it, and I won’t be letting the cat out of sight, just in case…

There’s about 15 weeks left in the year to write 13 stories to reach my 40-story goal, which seems pretty doable (even with a missed week here or there) given my recent pace. And if I do a bunch more shorts, another 23 stories to reach my stretch goal of 50 stories in one year is not yet impossible, but unlikely if I continue to write a bunch of longer stories as well (like the in-progress short novel…).

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Filed under Novels, Short Novels & Novellas, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011