Where My Writing Is Going in 2019

So, I was trying to figure out this upcoming year in writing for me. Where do I go next? What do I do?

writer hands

Well, I decided I just have to keep on doing what I’m doing. It’s as boring and exciting as that! But as they say, “In dreams begin responsibilities.”

Why do I feel this way? Let’s break it down quickly.


I Kept the Word Count Growing Last Year
I’m pretty satisfied with the growth in my word count last year. I could have been a bit more disciplined and consistent in my writing sessions. But overall, I am pretty satisfied with my self-discipline and focus. I have been adding to the word count consistently and that’s the most important thing.

I think my writing habit is strong, too. I have a consistent place I go to write (the same café). I have the same ritual I go through (workout, lunch, then head to the café, read a little, put on the headphones and start to write). That habit, or ritual, helps my get in the groove and keep adding to the word count.

So, if it’s going well, why change things?

I Need to Up My Number of Story Submissions—A Bit
I had one acceptance in 2018, but I would have liked more. Of course. That’s OK though, because I tend to write long short stories (at least 5,000 words, sometimes up to 10,000 or 12,000). So, I won’t be sending in flash stories (1,000 words or less) every week like some other writers.

That being said, I have a couple of stories that are ready to go and I need to up the frequency of sending them out to publishers. I’ve also grown more savvy in how to send these out and to whom, so I’m hoping that will help.

I Have a Bunch of New Ideas—Waiting to Turn into Stories
My hard drive is full of story ideas. I’m afraid I’ve reached the point where I have more story ideas than I will ever get around to. This is good and bad. The bad part is I feel I won’t get to see them become finished pieces. But there’s also a good part: I can be more selective about the stories I want to flesh out.

I think this is key because good stories start as good ideas. And those really good stories tend to write themselves.

I always think of Gogol’s Dead Souls when it comes to this. Now, there’s a great story idea that was literally given to him by a friend. The kernel of the idea is that there is a Conman who travels around czarist Russia buying up “dead souls”: those serfs who have died in the last year. Turns out (unbeknownst to the serf owners) the government gives a type of tax break on these dead serfs which the Conman is collecting. It’s a fully-formed, almost perfect plot device and it must have been a joy to write(?).

That’s what you look for in a story: something so clever that it will almost write itself. I like to think I have a few of those on the hard drive. But they’ll have to wait a bit longer.

Reducing Frequency of Blog Posts
One thing I did struggle with in 2018 was getting blog posts out. I managed to do so pretty well. But to be honest, I’ve lost a bit of enthusiasm for the blog.

I know all of us writers now are supposed to have a blog and I’m fine with that. But I’m not fine with it when it crosses a line and starts interfering with my fiction writing or just simply becomes one more thing to check off my list, or adds undue stress to my life. After all, isn’t writing new fiction the most important thing a writer should be doing?

If I didn’t have a 9 to 5 job, if I wasn’t writing fiction, if I wasn’t submitting stories—things would be different. But they’re not. And my economy of time (which is quite precious) dictates that I have to focus on things that really matter.

So, I will be reducing the frequency of this blog to once per month this year. I will endeavor to publish a new post on the first of each month. Or I might sneak in an extra post to announce major events—like publishing a new story. That way I can keep the blog going, but also preserve my sanity! Which is important, for any writer.


OK, all for now. See you on Feb. 1. Until then, keep reading, keep writing.

,Darius

 

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A Look Back at My Writing Life in 2018

Is that it? Is the year over already?

I guess so. And here I am playing catch-up.

1024px-Pessoacopo

Alright, before looking ahead I want to look back briefly at my writing life in 2018. It was a hectic year with lots of things drawing me away from writing. But I’m proud of what I accomplished. Here’s a quick breakdown.


I Had a Story Traditionally Published (for the 5th Time)
My story, Breakpoint, was published by Kyanite Press in November. I was really excited to see it in print. This was one story I didn’t think would ever see the light of day, but it did. It just goes to show you: if you have a story you believe in, stick with it. Someday, someone out there will see the value in it and will decide to pick it up. (It was also my fifth story to be traditionally published, so I am starting to become an old hand at this story-publishing business).

I Kept Adding to the Word Count
In other, arguably more significant, news I kept writing. Many weekends would find me out at the café writing away. As a result, I’ve cranked out thousands of words this year working on various pieces. Nothing ready to share yet, but despite lots of work and other tasks, I’ve been able to add significantly to my word horde.

I Hit 100 Rejections and Kept Rolling
As I noted earlier, I finally reached a milestone of dubious distinction: I received my 100th literary rejection. Since then, I’ve sent out a few more stories and it hasn’t slowed me down. Here’s to the 200th, 300th and 1000th rejection: may they come soon, but not too soon!

I Kept the Blog Going
This one was tough and I faltered a bit towards the end. But I did manage to get a Post up nearly every two weeks. I plan to keep the blog going in 2019, but I might have to make a few basic tweaks.

All for now! See you next time.

 

100 Rejections…and Counting

I’m generally not one for self-laceration. But today, I have to share some important news. I have somehow survived a total of, count them, 100 literary rejections.

sideways rejection

Whew! I just received the 100th rejection letter today from a magazine I submitted my latest story to. Here’s the text of the letter:

Dear Darius Jones,

Thank you for giving us the chance to consider “The Number Thief” for publication in XXXX. While we have decided against this one in the end, it did get a positive response from our staff and we wish you the best in placing this work.

Sincerely,
The Editors

Thank you to the “staff!” Hey, I would have loved them to publish it, but OK, I’ll take it.

So, why share this? Why let it be known so widely? Well, the point is not the rejections themselves, of course. The point is that this is part of the game. That despite 100 rejections, I have kept going. There is no way (all the way back in July 2012!), when I submitted my first story, that I thought I would have made it to 100 rejections without going crazy. But as I mentioned earlier, the first cut is the deepest. Once you get past that first rejection you realize it isn’t that bad. And after about 25 rejections, rejections lose their sting.

And now I’m beginning to realize something else: 100 rejections is just getting started. Why, there’s Aeryn Rudel who just got rejected 16 times, by the same publisher! Way to go, Aeryn!!! And then there’s Rahul Kanakia who just received his 1600th rejection. Well, played, Rahul!!! The point is when it comes to rejection, I’m a Newbie.

And the real point isn’t the rejections, of course. It’s the tenacity, the ability to keep going. And the acceptances. I’ve got five of those so far. (By the way that also yields a nice mathematical insight: a 5 percent acceptance rate. Not too shabby.) And two of my stories are out on submission with five different magazines. So, no, I haven’t given up. Not even close. I had a great writing session this weekend and I’m ready to keep submitting my finished stories to magazines as more rejections roll in–and they surely will.

So, that’s what it’s like being a Newbie to literary rejection. But 100 ain’t a bad start. I’ll take it and I’m ready for 101.

See you next time…Until then…

Keep reading, Keep writing.

,Darius

 

 

A Time to Refocus–On the Writing

Hey guys, not much to report this month. True, true, things have been busy. But I haven’t had as much time to write as I’d like. No submissions to report this month. And, what’s worse, no word count. Yikes!!!

ReFocus 2

So, next month, December, is for getting re-focused. And for getting some words down and some stories written. I hate to make excuses, but I will…Briefly…This past month work and life have both been jammed pack. Some good, some not-so-good. The not-so-good has been day job stuff. You know, working the 9 to 5 thing. The good stuff has been travel out West (New Mexico) and a weekend trip to a Cider Festival in Virginia. And other fun stuff.

But now it’s done and it’s time to get back to the fiction writing. Herewith, I am promising myself to get some words on the scoreboard this coming month. It’s high time to get back to it. I also want to post a little something more substantive on the blog here–but that will  have to wait until next time. I’ve got to prioritize things somehow.

See you next time and hope whatever you’re doing to stay creative is going well. Writing, painting, sculpting, coding, whatever it is. And I hope you’re making time for it today. Or at least, this weekend. Just know, soon, I’ll be joining you…

Until next time.

Keep reading, keep writing,

Darius

New Story Out Now

Hey Guys! Lots going on and heading out of town later today, so I will make this brief.

Kyanite-Press-1.2-FINAL

My new story “Breakpoint” is out now at Kyanite Press. So please stop by their website and look for Volume 1, Issue 2 with my name on the front (Darius Jones!). You can pick it up in eBook or print (And get all the smells!) format.

The story’s got a post-apocalyptic theme, it’s got some cyberpunk flair, a dashing of  deadly cyborgs and even a tiny bit of poetry. So, what’s not to like? Most importantly, it’s a story I’ve been improving and trying to get out for some time, so I’m really glad it’s finally going to see the light of day. So go, Kyanite Press! And thanks a ton to editor B.K. Bass for picking up this story!

Hope you check it out and tell a friend.

For extra fun check out the mini-interview I did on Kyanite’s contributor page. It’s my first interview anywhere.

Thanks! And catch you guys next time!

DJ

Writing Update for October

Is it October already? The month’s more than half over too? Where did it go? Why wasn’t I informed???

Lonely writer

Phew! Anyway, lots going on in my writing life and in real life. I will do my best to summarize all this excitement below.


The Writing
If you follow my Twitter feed, you’ll know I’ve mused recently about “stepping back” a bit from the writing.

And I did. A small step. But that small step helped me figure out a few things, namely where things are headed. Sometimes, you need a little breather, to let things settle in your mind and let the subconscious do its very slow-rolling (but effective!) attack on a subject. So, I did. Then, this past weekend I picked up the pen (really, the PC) again. I went back, did some editing and added some more words.

Wish I could have added more, but I’m pleased with the results. So, there you have it.

Total Word Count: 1,778 words. [Updated for month-end total.]


Submissions
So, no new submissions this month. Bad Writer!

These literary fiction magazines are tough to crack and as you probably know, they’re my main target for my story “The Number Thief” a piece of historical fiction. It’s a good piece, but not one that it’s easy to find a market for. It’s not speculative, so all the fantasy journals won’t take it. And its historical setting seems to be a turnoff/not a good fit for many literary magazines. That being said, it’s with a magazine now and I’m hoping to send it to others soon.

In other Rejection news, I HIGHLY recommend Rahul Kanakia’s recent post on his 1600th (you read that right!) rejection. That’s how you do it, Folks!

And now my Stats:

Total Submissions this Month: 0

Total Stories Out to Magazines (pending submissions): 3

Rejections: 0


Life
This real-life thing has been very hectic lately. What with work, vacation, more vacation, house guests, more work, etc., etc., it has been hard to squeeze in the writing.

But, there’s a change in the air and crisp days are beginning to descend. It’s my favorite time of year. And it’s a great time to get some Earl Grey tea, plug in the laptop, put on the headphones and get some fiction down. Let’s face it: it’s time.

See you next post!

,DJ

Writing and Living

Hey, everybody. It’s been a busy, busy couple of weeks. There’s been a road trip to New England. There’s been work and life drama (more on that later, maybe). There’s another trip this weekend, this time to the beach. In the midst of all this, my writing has dropped off a bit, but that’s O.K. I’m going to get back to it very soon.

autumn-colours-in-new-england

Just wanted to let you know I’m still here and still writing. I’ll come back next time with another Writing Update. And then, after that, a recounting of my first New England road trip.

In the meantime, check out the “Foliage Report” from Yankee magazine and start planning your own road trip.

See you next time,

DJ

Writing Update for September: A Story Acceptance

The short writing update for this month starts with some exciting news!

Astounding Stories

Story Acceptance
The big news this month: My story Breakpoint will appear in Kyanite PressNovember issue. I’ve tried for awhile to get this story picked up and I’m glad it’s finally seeing the light of day.

It’s a science fiction story set in a future world that has recovered from a devastating conflict, but at a horrible price. It also has a thread about reclaimed memories–but that’s enough for now! For the rest…You’ll have check it out yourself.

So, please stop by Kyanite, pick up a copy and tell a friend. The issue should drop November 1.

Thanks!

The Writing
Had some vacation this month and lost a little time, but overall I’m still making progress. The word count is a little off, but that’s OK. I have had a lot of non-writing/life stuff that’s torn me away from it. You know the usual suspects: work, work and work.

Also, to be honest, I have been a bit low energy lately and I want to turn to the stuff I’m writing with lots of energy and fired up and ready to go. So, instead of forcing it and having stuff turn out a bit flat, I’d rather wait, re-energize and then hit it. So, that’s where I’m at. That being said, I made some progress this month:

Total Word Count: 1,169 words so far.

The Submissions
Submissions are pretty status quo. Why? I’m waiting to hear back on a speculative fiction story which is at a market that doesn’t accept simultaneous submissions. So, it will stay there until it’s rejected/accepted. No word yet.

Then, there’s the literary fiction story (The Number Thief). I was waiting for the Literary fiction-style mags to open up around Sept. 1 to send it along. Now it’s September and I have to find an afternoon where I can sit down and send it off to a couple of them. But I haven’t had a chance to do it yet! So, there you have it.

Total Submissions this Month: 0 [This may change, I will update you!]

Total Stories Out (includes same story out to different markets): 3

Acceptances: 1 …Huzzah!

Rejections: 0


Whew! That’s the short, sweet update. Great to see another story published. If you want to see more day-by-day updates on that story, make sure to follow me on Twitter: @DariusJonesWrit.

See you next time!

Darius

The Craft: The Benefits of Critiquing Others’ Work

Recently, I was able to critique my old friend, Daniel’s, book while it was in its second draft. So, pretty early on. It was more like being a Beta Reader than doing a critique. He just wanted overall impressions and thoughts, not any line-by-line edits or thoughts. So, I was light on the line edits and heavier on the thoughts about plot, characters, setting, etc. And I think he found it useful.

It was a great experience, just to catch up with his creativity. But it was also great for my writing.

ratatouille-Critic

Why exactly? Well, let me explain…No, there is too much. Let me sum up…Using bullets. Here are my top three reasons you aspiring writers out there should critique/Beta read others’ works in draft stage:


When you put criticism in words you start to understand what needs to be changed.
It can be hard to go from a strange feeling that something isn’t working, to realizing it isn’t working, to verbalizing why it isn’t working.

Let’s take an example…Let’s say there’s a character and she says something off, it might strike you as a bit strange. Pull you out of the narrative a bit. Then, she says something more and it’s more revelatory about herself or motivations, a bit too revelatory too early on. And then you think, “Wait, why is she saying all of this, revealing all of this in the first couple of chapters? Isn’t it too much?”And you realize it isn’t working.

So, your verbalization of this/actual feedback to the writer might be: “Hey! I think this character, Alice, reveals too much about what her motivation is too early. Maybe if you subsume that a bit and have her reveal it later, it will keep the mystery and suspense alive and drive the reader onto the next chapter…”

In fact, something like that was one of my suggestions for Daniel’s draft: a female character spilled the beans a bit too early.

You see flaws in others’ work that you don’t see, or won’t admit to, in your own.
In any early draft you’re going to spot some flaws or mistakes. These will range from minor (misspellings, grammatical) to large (plot holes, inconsistencies). Somehow, psychologically, we’re all also flawed (surprise!) and we more easily discover imperfections in others’ work. When it comes to our own work, we seem to more easily skip right over the bad parts or not see them. I think this is true even for well-intentioned people: we invest more in our own work.

That being said, I did, of course, find flaws in Daniel’s stuff: some minor, some larger, like I said. I carefully made notes for the major stuff and ignored most of the minor things. And then I shared that in a constructive manner (forward-looking and improvement-focused) with him. But as I was adding these notes, I was constantly wondering: “Boy, I must do a lot of this, too.” And I bet I do. I just need to dig up my stuff to see it.

So, I hope as I go through my early drafts in the future, I can depersonalize things a bit and think:

“Hey, am I telling here and not showing?”

“Is this character revealing something they normally wouldn’t?”

“Does this next plot point really makes sense?”

And then, make the appropriate change.

You realize all early drafts are about 70% crap, 20% good and 10% solid.
This is a big one. As you read a draft, any draft, you come to realize that about 70% or more of any early draft is crap. That’s what makes it a draft. This is true of any writer’s stuff. Any writer (Yes, Shakespeare, I’m looking at you!).

So, the takeaway here is not to get discouraged when you go back and read your first draft and realize it’s mostly crap. That’s completely natural. The trick is…to slowly turn down the “crap-ratio” down as you advance through your following drafts. Every writer thinks this and every writer struggles with it. Again, it’s easier to see when you remove the ego and critique someone else’s stuff.

The key: not listening to that inner negative voice, taking the draft for what it is and moving onto the polishing stage where you turn that crap into solid gold…


Alright, enough for today! Got to get back to work and life! I hope that helped and I hope you offer to critique/Beta Reader a fellow writer’s draft soon. So you can learn and hone your craft in the process!

Until next time. Keep reading, Keep writing.

Darius

Writing Update for August

Ok, everyone. The clouds are starting to part a bit, things are getting back to normal. Feeling good…Turns out August has been BUSY, really busy. I hear that other people are out there, taking vacation…Right now. But sadly not true for yours truly. As they say, “No rest for the wicked.” So, my vacation will have to wait for until mid-September…So…

Let’s take a peak at the writing I managed this month.

Writing Process

The Writing
Alright, warming up, getting limber and getting back at it.

A little slower this month, but, like I said, life and work have chewed up a lot of attention this month. So, this month I’ve managed 4,061 words. Not a lot too bad for me. I usually aim for about 4,000 a month with all the other commitments I have taken into account. And I will add whatever I do this weekend to the total, but that still leaves me a bit behind…But…

I think the words are good and the story I’m working on is solid and growing. I also stopped a little prematurely on latest writing day at a high point, so I could pick up the story easily where I left off. And, today at the gym on the literal treadmill (well, actually, the bike), I figured out the perfect ending to the chapter. It’s got emotional lift, character development, bittersweet-ness. Agh! Can’t wait to write it…Damn!

So, that’s coming this weekend, Y’all!

Total Word Count: 4,061

The Submissions
Also did some more submitting this month. And waiting for Sept. 1 to come so I can start flogging my literary story more vigorously. Did get two submissions out there this month, but heard nothing back from editors, negative or positive. I also have one story still out there which I submitted last month…

…So, just waiting, waiting, waiting.

Total Submissions this Month: 2

Acceptances: 0

Rejections: 0

Total Stories Out: 3

The Pre-Writing
So why is it I get my best ideas when I should be doing something else? Why is it that all these ideas assault me on the street? At the gym? At lunch? During meetings? In the bathroom? When I’m minding my own business?

Ideas

Well, thank God for: Post-It Notes, the Notes App on my phone, pen and paper and good, old-fashioned short-term memory. I have captured 2-3 solid story ideas this month. And I have this weird feeling it’s because I am deeply engaged in writing something that commands all my attention.

Oh well, that’s the way it goes. The good thing is I have captured and fleshed out a couple of cool ideas that I can’t wait to get to some day…And that’s a great thing!


There we go! My writing update for August.

Not that much to it. Still writing, still thinking, still submitting. So, I’ll take it. Let me know what you’re up to in the Comments.

See you next time,

Darius


[Original post was updated to reflect true word count for August of 4,061 words. I also deleted the words “a lot.”]