A Look Back at My Year in Writing—2017

Wow. Another year is here and almost gone. I can’t believe it. I think, overall, it was a good year for my writing…But you always wish you could do more, write more, get a few more words down, get a few more stories accepted. old_school_reporter

So, how to sum up a year of writing fiction? It’s harder than you think. Here’s how I would like to divide this up: into the Hard Stuff and Soft Stuff. The Hard Stuff is easily quantifiable: stories accepted/rejected, word counts, that sort of thing. The Soft Stuff is more qualitative, it’s about style and technique, not stuff  you can easily quantify. Ready? Here we go!

One Story Accepted
Way back on January 1, I had a story published on Between Worlds Magazine. It’s called “So You Found Me.” It was the first flash fiction piece of   mine that was ever published and I was very happy with the way it came out. Check it out if you get a minute.

As for my others stories, will they were sent out, but they haven’t been accepted—yet. These are three other stories, two of which I think have really good chances of getting published. But before I move on, in the interest of normalizing literary rejection, let’s look at the stats for my stories in 2017 so far. Let’s break this down in all its stark brutality:

Number of times stories sent to magazines: 16

Stories rejected: 15

Answers pending: 1

Acceptance percentage: 0%

Ouch! I’m not letting that get me down though. Why? Partially because you have to soldier on through rejection. That’s what writers do. But also because these statistics don’t tell the whole truth.

First, it’s a woefully low statistical sample, which can be misleading. Let’s say many of these magazine have acceptance rates of around 5%. Some are higher, some lower. Now, think about that. It means given they all had a 5% acceptance rate, for every story they accept, they’re rejecting 20 (If my math is right. Is it? I’m horrible at math!). So you have about a 1/20 chance of getting your story accepted. Assuming this hypothetical magazine accepts all worthy stories equally, you would have to send a story 20 times before getting accepted. As it is, I didn’t even match that 20 number, sending my stories out just 16 times. In fact, many established writers I have talked to will send a story out between 20-25 times before trunking (abandoning and archiving) it. So, it’s partially my own fault, because I didn’t send out my stories enough.

Also, my submission spree doesn’t take into account what kind of rejections I received. Some of these were not blanket “form” rejections. They were rejections saying that my story got close to getting accepted in a couple of instances. In another instance a literary magazine rejected one of the stories, but asked for me to send future stories their way. (The first time that has happened with a literary magazine). So, what at first looks pretty abysmal, wasn’t that bad and in fact, gives me hope that these stories will finally find a home.

Word Counts—Keeping It Up
Best of all, I kept the word counts up. This was not an easy year to do this. It has been filled with distractions. But I have been able to remain focused. I have some reasons for this, which I will get into below—but I want to list one here. I think I have been able to keep my schedule and writing ritual consistent. I have minimized distractions from blogging and submitting work and sat down and focused on producing words. That is very important.

I will not get into specific words counts in this post, but bring that up in the next post.

Blog Writing
Blogging can seem like a chore—and it often is! But I kept it up this year: I blogged once every two weeks. Even if it was to say: “I’ll see you guys next time.”

I also changed the name of the blog from “A Writer Begins” to “Inside the Writer’s Mind” on its fifth (!) anniversary. And good news: that posting consistency is paying off. Blog readership is way up this year. The number of visitors is more than double last year and almost triple last year’s total. So, that’s sweet! Thanks for checking in, everyone.

And now for the Soft Stuff…

Writing the Story That Burns in Your Belly
I have written about this one a lot here. Story selection. How do you know which story to write? Which piece of all those in your pre-writing pile to pick out and actually get down on paper? It’s tough, but I think I’m figuring it out.

As I wrote, it’s that story that is “burning in your belly.” The one with the characters/scenes you can’t stop thinking about or embellishing with little details. That’s what you want to write. I’ve known this for some time now, but I haven’t always practiced it. That ended this year in March. When I said “Screw it!,” sat down and started writing the story(ies) that were on the top of my pre-writing pile. I finally started practicing what I preach and I think it’s helping me crank my word counts higher.

Writing with Music
Another thing that is helping the word counts, I think, is the decision to bring back my music. I go to cafes to write usually and they have their own music which is fine. And they usually also have somewhat loud patrons, which can be distracting. So, I went back to something I used to do a long, long time ago: writing with my music on.

When I go write on the weekends now, I bring headphones and plug in to listen to my music. It blocks out any conversations (most importantly), but it also lets me change my mental mood a bit as I pick a faster or slower or happier or darker music depending on the scene I’m putting down on the page. And again—if word count is any indication—this has helped my writing.

I love little tweaks like this that can up your writing game. 

Go to a Con?
This is one thing I said I would do last year that I didn’t do. Oh well. I would like to get to a good writing Con in 2018, but we will have to see. There are so many things to do and it’s always hard to fit this one in.

Overall
Overall, I will call 2017 a great year for stick-to-it-ness in my fiction writing. Did I get any stories accepted? Yeah, just one short piece. But I kept writing and that’s the most important thing. The standard by which all other successes have to be judged because it’s the one thing I can control and that comes down to me. If a story gets accepted or rejected, if people come to the blog or not—I have no control over. So, I’m glad the tweaks I made seem to have worked and the word counts are heading in the right direction. Now, I just have to hone in on editing and submitting more in 2018.

But that’s a post for next time.

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New Flash Fiction Story Published

Hey, everybody and Happy New Year! We’re starting 2017 off right: a new short-short So-You-Found-Mestory of mine has just been published. It’s about a self-conscious story. This is how it starts:

So you found me. Well done.

Don’t think for a moment that I’m merely a story. Oh no, not even close. I have thoughts, feelings, ideas, just like you. Just like any other sentient being…

If you want to read the rest head over to Between Worlds magazine and read the story, it’s called “So You Found Me.” You can also read the full new edition of BW magazine which has new stories from a bunch of up-and-coming writers. And, as always, I encourage you to contribute to the magazine which you can at the bottom of this page. Between Worlds is a paying market (for short stories, not flash) and we need to preserve and nurture these markets. Thanks!…Enough promo!

Hope you enjoy the piece and please leave a comment there or here on my blog. Would love some feedback on it. And thanks to Between Worlds for considering and publishing the piece!

See you again soon.

,DJ

Ending (the Year) Where I Began

Just a short post today. Feeling good. Not about the world so much, as my place in it. For what that’s worth…I was going to post about my resolutions for next year, but that’s going to have to wait. Here’s what I’m doing today, not tomorrow.

Prepping a story for publishingOcean Dawn
Good news: my flash fiction (less than 1,000 words) story “So You Found Me” will be published over at Between Worlds magazine. I loved this little piece from when I first sat down and wrote it, so it’s nice having it see the light of day. I will post when the story goes live.

This morning I sent my Bio and some other stuff along to the editor, so we should be all good to go. Nothing like starting the day off with a positive bit of literary business.

Wrapping another story
Right now, I’m in the café, hooked in and ready to start editing (as soon as I finish this post). With that, I should be done with “The Number Thief” a short story/novelette that I started working on this fall. It’s taken awhile, but I feel it’s a strong piece. I can’t wait to get this finished, proofed and off to editors.

Submitting finished stories
Well, this one might have to wait a day or two. I have a couple of other stories I need to send back into the arena. “Pacha-mama,” a play and a couple of other pieces will have get back in the fight and see how they do. I’ve been so slammed lately I haven’t had a chance to get them out there. Hope to submit them tomorrow.


So…I’m exactly where I started the year, in a sense. I’m living and writing fiction when I can. It’s a great experience and one that helps keep me balanced.

I know this year hasn’t been the easiest for everybody, but I want you to remember this quote from Heraclitus.

“The Sun is new each day.”

Remember, the sun will be back tomorrow and with it, a new day. The question is…What will you do with it?

Until next time…

Keep reading, keep writing,

Darius

Free Form

Need to feed the blog beast, need to feed the blog beast… Need to feed…the…

I’ve had a lot of good ideas for blog posts lately, stuff about Cervantes, aikido, Poe… But I’m not motivated to write any of them today. Feeling bleh and blah. And the rain outside, in about its 40th day, isn’t helping. Free Form

So…What to write? What to say? Nothing much. So, no theme or topic comes to mind. Might I just free-form? Ron Burgundy style? No. Instead, I will tell you where my writing is at. How about that? Here it is, broken down piece-by-piece.

Sludge Ship Chronicles
Got this beast done. Plays…What a strange medium! Take the strict plotting from short stories, the length and scope of a novella and the oral elements of poetry—Mash them all together and there you have it: a play. I have to say my wonder at this medium has only grown after writing one.

Anyhow, starting to submit this to local playhouses and looking for festivals or other venues to submit too as well. This is a very chancy, risky business, but I’ll let you know where it all nets out. Wish me luck.

Pacha-Mama
Still submitting this piece. Still believe in it. Still think it’s good. Lots of bites, but no editor has really chomped down on it yet, so that I can reel them in. Time to cast again.

Breakpoint
This science-fiction story is still with consideration with a magazine, still waiting to hear.

So You Found Me
Decided on a market for this flash piece, will be submitting it soon.

…For My Next Trick
Have a good grip on a new short story, even did some good pre-writing on it. I’m fired up to write it, but have to take vacation first. Hope to get to this in the middle of June and bang it out. Its bones are good, now I just have to put some flesh on it.


That’s it. Another quick, dirty blog post. Putting the writing and submitting first. Which is important to me. I hope to be back in a couple of weeks with another post.

See you then,

Darius

Writing Update—An Acceptance

Well…Well…Well… Prince_SelfTitled

Here we are two weeks later and I feel like I could be blogging again about the passing of another music legend. Sigh. Big Sigh. Losing Prince sucks. Just as much as losing Merle Haggard or David Bowie…But I don’t want to make this blog too much of a downer. And there are others who are bigger fans and far better placed to do a proper homage to the Purple One. And also, these guys wrote songs about “this thing called life.” And we, the living, have to continue, must continue…To live, to love and to write—great music or great stories as suits our personalities. 

So, reflecting on that, and more importantly, acting on it…Here’s a little good news: one of my stories was accepted by a magazine. That’s right, “Barabanchik” has found a home. I don’t want to get into the details, but suffice to say, the editors wrote back and are excited about including it in their next issue. I will share more as things solidify, but I wanted  to get this good news out there. Barabanchik means “drummer” or “little drummer” in Russian and it’s perfect name for the character in the story. I’m glad he’ll finally walk out of Kazansky Station and onto the pages of a magazine. Can’t wait to see him there.

And while we’re at it, here’s an update on other stuff I’m working on:

Pacha-Mama
This long short story/novelette came darn, darn close to being published by a magazine. It made it into the final round of consideration, but in the end it didn’t make the cut. This weekend, I’m going to proof it one more time and send it off to magazines again. I love the Pacha-Mama character as much as I love Barabanchik. 

The Sludge Ship Chronicles
This play…Man, it’s so close to being done. I have to sit down with a hard copy of it again this weekend, mark it up. Then, input the changes and it should be essentially done. All that will remain is a good proofreading and marketing the piece.

In fact, I have decided upon what I’ll call the “apex market” for the piece: the most selective market out there that I still think it’s got a shot at. It’s a local theater known for putting on eclectic, modern plays. And they accept submissions from local playwrights, which is rare. But it won’t be easy. I have a feeling they are very, very selective. A perfect apex market to start with and see what happens.

So You Found Me
Was waiting in the airport one day and this idea just hit me. Or should I say an idea that had hit me a long time ago finally and suddenly coalesced, popping out of my subconscious into my conscious. So, I wrote it out right there on my officially-licensed work computer. Smuggled the piece out later and have been polishing it since. It’s a short-short piece, a piece of flash fiction at under 1,000 words. Never written anything that short before.

Will be editing this further and see what I want to do with it.


A Little on Prince
Didn’t think I was going to completely short change you, did you? This is a speech Prince gave upon being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He talks about two of the most important things for artists: freedom and friendship. I especially love these lines:

Without real spiritual mentoring, too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay. And a word to the young artists … a real friend or mentor is not on your table. A real friend and mentor cares for your soul as much as they do the other one.

But really, you should check out his music. As much of it as you can.

Until Next Time,

Darius