inasmuch as it concerns Selling My Soul:
"Psst! Wanna buy a story? Hot new manuscripts, exclusively yours to publish! First American, First Serial, E-rights and reprints! Get 'em while they're hot!"
in praise of those arsonists who light fires under my butt
- 921 words (if poetry, lines) long
So my roller derby league does this thing where on Mondays they post a member profile to their public Facebook page, and this week the member being profiled is me. And that feels weird. Like, one, Anxiety Brain is sure that this makes me look like the biggest ego on the planet, despite how patently ridiculous that conviction is. I mean, it's not like I thought that about anybody else; why should anyone think that about me? ("But it's true!" says Anxiety Brain. "Doubly so now that you're boosting the signal on that post. You must want everyone to think you're a total narcissist." You know what? Anxiety Brain can take a hike.) And secondly, Perfectionist Brain is all, "Why'd you give them your Patreon link? Now everyone is going to look and see just how woefully behind schedule you are!"
Well. I'm a lot less behind schedule than I was. The Friday Fictionette for June 21 went up yesterday: "Thinking Outside the Dollhouse." It's kind of what happens when you cross Peter Gabriel's "Big Time" with Cat Steven's "Wild World" and then you miniaturize the result. (Patron-locked post: ebook here, audiobook here.) And today I got a metric shit-ton done on the Friday Fictionette for June 28; I hope to produce that one tomorrow night, then have the rest of the week to get July 5 done on time. Which means the only thing I'm really, really behind on are the Fictionette Artifacts for my $5 Patrons, who have been immensely understanding.
That aside, I am getting a lot done on the writing front. My week-daily submission streak continues with only one missed day since April 18. That missed day did not send me into a spiral of avoidance and despair; I got right back on the horse the next day and haven't fallen off since. So I guess we can cautiously pronounce that new work habit solidly implanted. This month I'm working on a new streak to carry simultaneously: at least 25 minutes of commercial fiction revision every weekday. It's not like that wasn't already in my list of Habitica Dailies for Monday through Friday, but it's officially no longer in my mental category of "eh, nice to have, but if I can't, that's cool--I'll just use my Stealth skill to avoid damage." Two days in: so far, so good!
Credit where credit is due: The support structure for both these endeavors comes from Guild Challenges hosted by the Habitica Guild "Ink Slingers". I won't bother linking it because you have to be logged in to see it, and if you're logged in, you can just search for that Guild by name. But, briefly, "Ink Slingers" is a Guild headed up by the fabulous, hard-working, and much-decorated writer Mary Robinette Kowal. In addition to writing top-notch science fiction and fantasy, she teaches writing classes and hosts monthly online writer dates via her Patreon. She's logged a number of years on the board of SFWA and has taken the reins as President as of yesterday. She's part of the team behind the podcast Writing Excuses. She's also an award-winning puppeteer. Somehow she still finds time to be active in various online writing communities, one of which is the aforementioned Habitica Guild.
Guilds serve as small communities within Habitica. And because those communities tend to share overall goals (like, say, "be a writer"), Guilds can create and host Challenges for their members. The Ink Slingers Guild hosts a lot of challenges, some created by MRK herself and others by enthusiastic community members. My recent successes at improving my work week can be attributed almost entirely to two Ink Slingers Guild Challenges in particular: the Rejection to Acceptance 2019 Challenge, in which participants strive to receive 100 manuscript rejections in a year, and, just now, the July Wednesday Writers Challenge, in which participants set a big goal for the month and then break it down into smaller weekly goals that will help them achieve the big goal.
The Rejection Challenge you already know about, because I've been yammering about it here for the last three months. But this is the first month I joined the Wednesday Writers' Club, despite having seen guild members reporting in and cheering each other on ever since I joined the Guild. So I set myself a goal for July of adding two stories to my stable of submission-ready manuscripts; and the weekly goal of sitting down to a 25-minute minimum story revision session every Monday through Friday. Tomorrow being Wednesday, I get to report on my progress so far, which, assuming I'm as diligent tomorrow as I have been today and yesterday, should be all smiles and thumbs up.
I've encountered people who will haughtily assert that real writers don't need tricks or brain hacks or special challenges or communities in order to write. They just write! Because they can't not! And anyone who relies on the aforementioned list of crutches shouldn't dare arrogate to themselves the lofty titles Writer or Author. Well, I can say without hesitation or exception that every encounter with such a person has been an encounter I regretted having. Such people should own the claims they are making and absent themselves from any sort of community forthwith, is what I think, because who needs that kind of attitude? Look, brain hacks can be necessary. Community can be life-saving. And I am here to tell you that a friendly peer challenge can be a game-changer.
Hence today this post expressing gratitude for one those communities whose challenges have changed my game. Thanks, y'all!
i distract you with poetry and sanctioned violence
- 45 words (if poetry, lines) long
So have I posted the Friday Fictionettes that were due last week and today? No. No, I have not. They will not be appearing tonight. Fridays suck, this week has sucked, I suck. It's true. But hey! Let me distract you with the Summer Solstice 2019 issue of Eternal Haunted Summer! I think if you read the table of contents you will see a familiar name.
If you're local to the Boulder, Colorado area, I could also distract you with roller derby. We're playing the teams from Fort Collins and from Cincinnati tomorrow in a round robin tournament of full sanctioned games. $15 gets you in all day. Come check it out, it'll be a fun time! Also we owe our Cincinnati visitors just as much love as they showed us when we visited them last year. That means we need a great big noisy crowd. Don't you want to be part of a great big noisy crowd? I think you do.
If you're there, make sure to say hi--I'll be the one with the long braid, the upside-down fleur-de-lis on my leggings, and the tall hand-knit green and purple stockings that make everyone say, "Aren't you hot in those things?" (Friend, I'm hot in everything. It's a gift.) Also the great big 504 on my back and arm-bands, which might be the more significant giveaway.
My intentions at this point are to do my Saturday AINC reading tonight and be in bed by midnight. Tomorrow's gonna be a long day, what with skating in two games in the evening, helping to set up the track in the morning, and trying my darnedest to get some writing in--including on the overdue Fictionettes--in between. So I'll sign off here and get to it.
See you tomorrow or just as soon as possible thereafter!
confessions of an epicurean nature
- 10 words (if poetry, lines) long
So I'm in the bath right now. This is the sort of thing you find out about me when you read my blog. Sometimes, when I'm too cold, too tired, too reluctant or too neurotic--tonight it's the "too tired" case because of roller derby scrimmage--in order to write anything at all, I need a tub full of hot water and a selection of cold beverages. (Tonight it's a mango Waterloo and an Abita "Andygator".) As this is a habit of many years, I've perfected the process. I have a pressboard plank that sits across the tub and acts as my desk. On that desk are a wireless keyboard, a wireless mouse, and my drink de jour (de nuit?). My laptop sits on a tall stool near enough that I can read it without squinting. Oddly, no candles or beauty concoctions are involved. Sometimes a cup or two of Epsom salts, because derby, but that's it.
And eventually I do the damn writing. Something about sweating my brain out my ears in water that's just as hot as I can stand shakes something loose. Also, after so many years, the association is well and truly built up; I might as well use it.
Today was a good Doing All The Things day. Yesterday was not. Yesterday I was running on too little sleep and too many errands. Today went a lot better:
- I revised a very short poem and sent it somewhere that particularly likes short things (compressed things, in fact). (It is not actually 10 words long. It is 10 lines long. I still need to write the if/then case into the manuscript stat box so that it says "lines" instead of "words" if the manuscript is a poem.)
- During my freewriting session, thanks to the Writer Igniter prompt generator, I got very invested in a retelling of the folk tale known as Aarne-Thompson type 706 ("The Armless Maiden") involving an apprentice tattoo artist. It's going in the revisions queue, which means one day this millennium I might actually finish it.
- I didn't finish the draft of this week's Friday Fictionette, but I finally figured out how to finish it.
- I typed up the first page of the second of the November Fictionette Artifacts I want to put in the mail by the end of the week.
- And I did this blog post. Ta-da.
Obligatory running submissions tally in handy tabulated form (copied from the source of the handy PHP page I wrote to pull up these stats from my database):
Aren't you glad you asked?
piece of childhood reclaimed or something like that
- 55 words (if poetry, lines) long
I've been writing poems again. It feels good.
I used write poems a lot when I was in school. I mean, elementary school. When I was wee. Maybe that was the problem--as I got older, I associated the writing of poems with the production of the specific caliber of poem I wrote when I was just learning how to do creative writing at all. So maybe I got more embarrassed about it as I got older. Maybe I never felt confident in my sense of what made a poem good. But I could always tell when one of my poems was bad. I'd read it and cringe; that was how I knew.
But at least in high school and thereabouts I had teachers and other students giving me feedback. I had other people giving me the feedback I couldn't give myself, which is to say, they told me if they thought it was good. (I will always treasure the time a teacher told me, "Your poems almost always have that moment toward the end that makes me gasp." Not primarily because it was a high compliment--it was!--but because she had put her finger on something that makes a reader like a poem. She gave me a yardstick I could use. I learned to look for those "gasp" moments after that, though as always it's harder to give them to myself than to get them from others' poems.)
After I got more exclusively into short fiction workshops, I got out of the habit of writing poetry.
It may also be true that when I no longer had a regular writing workshop, I temporarily got out of the habit of writing short fiction.
I'm making headway getting back into both habits now. I'm dedicating a little time every workday to coaxing a manuscript toward publishable shape. And I dedicate one freewriting session every week specifically to poetry. I've been using the weekly poetry prompts on the Poets & Writers blog when they come out on Tuesdays, and I'm responding to them in verse. Maybe bad verse, I don't know. Maybe I'm choosing my line breaks in a sophomoric manner or falling back on cliched metaphors. Maybe there isn't enough sensory data to captivate a reader. Maybe the themes are preachy. But I don't know--that's the point. If I don't feel like I have a grasp on what makes a poem good, maybe I should be less self-assured in my sense of what makes a poems bad. Or at least, one of my poems. I generally know whether I like someone else's poem, and why.
Obviously I should be reading more poetry, too.
I'm certainly thinking in poetry a lot more now since I've dedicated Tuesday freewriting to verse. It'll sneak into my other freewriting days, too, right in there amidst the prose and the babble and the streams of consciousness along the lines of "I don't like this prompt and I don't know what I'm going to write but here are the thoughts I'm having right now."
And between yesterday and today I wrote a brand new poem. And I submitted it to a paying market. And that market turned right around and rejected it in under two hours flat. Which means I have a brand new poem that has already made a complete two-way trip to slush and back, and I can send it out again.
It feels good.
Meanwhile, I just got paid for the poem that got accepted last week. I'm told that means it will go live sometime next week. I'll be sure to let y'all know when that happens.
(Obligatory submissions tally: Submissions in June, 8; in 2019, 44. Rejections in June, 9; in 2019, 26.)
add-on benefits of a daily manuscript submission practice
Today is Day Three of Doing All the Things On Time. More importantly, it's Day 37 (counting weekdays only) of Submitting a Manuscript Every Weekday. And besides that one acceptance (so far) and the accelerated progress toward my goal of 100 rejections in 2019 (I'm up to 20 now! Woot!), there've been some unexpected add-on benefits.
First, I am no longer avoiding my email. I have been horrible about email for a while now. Which is awkward, considering, oh, bills to pay, league business to take care of, friends looking for cat sitters this weekend who don't need to hear a month later, "Oh, I'm sorry, I just found your email..." But the thing about daily submissions is, I gotta check daily to see if there are responses to submissions. Which means not only checking email regularly but also cleaning out the spam folder regularly too, just in case. Also, I use Thunderbird's calendar function to keep track of when submission windows open and close, creating events with reminders that go off and tell me things like "Escape Pod opens to submissions in 15 days, start revising that flash story up to their minimum word count," stuff like that. And those reminders won't pop up if Thunderbird isn't running. So.
(By the way, have you met Escape Pod? They're the science fiction wing of the Escape Artists podcast network. There's also Podcastle (fantasy), Pseudopod (horror), and Cast of Wonders (young adult, all genres). From a listener perspective, they constantly publish well-produced episodes of absolutely fantastic fiction. From a writer perspective, they pay pro rates for both original and reprint fiction. But they have very definite submission windows. Hence my Thunderbird event reminders.)
I'm still not exactly wonderful about this email thing; the temptation is to check the author email inbox (the one associated with this domain here) and just ignore the email for regular personal business and household stuff (the ones associated with littlebull.com). But I am trying not to do that, OK? At least I'm opening Thunderbird regularly.
Secondly, I have reconnected with my online writer community. I'm in there reading the market reports, reporting my submissions, logging my rejections, and crowing my non-rejections. And, since I am no longer avoiding that community because of that nagging sense of guilt that comes with knowing everyone's submitting things and writing things and getting published WHAT ABOUT YOU, NIKI, WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING LATELY, HUH? ...I'm hanging out in other parts of the forum in my free time, too, just having conversations with other writers about A. writing stuff, B. non-writing stuff, and C. everything else. Not to mention participating in their contests! Because I'm not failing to read the announcements until it's too late to enter!
Lastly, I'm getting all my daily shit done. I mean, this week's drive to Do All the Things On Time each day didn't begin this week. It began with the daily submissions goal. Because you don't just go from zero to 100% overnight. Well, I don't. It's been baby steps all the way. First, make sure to submit something every day. Next, find a way to submit something every day without sacrificing time to actually write--get at least one of the rest of the writing tasks in, OK? Friday Fictionettes if nothing else, since they're on a schedule? Freewriting too if you can manage it? All right, now can we add in a story revision session? We're running out of stuff to submit, here!
If I've finally managed to get to the point where I'm reliably submitting something every day and doing all of the rest of the writing tasks too, it's only because I started with this: Submit a manuscript for publication every day.
according to plan
Today I had two submission responses that had arrived over the weekend waiting for me to log them during today's Submissions Procedures session. However, I only got to add one rejection to the year's tally.
That's because I appear to have sold a poem.
When the email came in Sunday night, y'all, I kinda screamed a little. Also I might have bounced up and down in my seat and shaken my fists in the air in a "I don't know what to do with this sudden rush of energy especially not at 11:00 at night but I have to use it somehow so here we go" sort of way. My first acceptance of 2019! And it came... let's see... about 45 days, more or less--33 of which were weekdays, therefore 33 submissions--since the beginning of my weekdaily submitting streak.
IT'S WORKING, Y'ALL. The submit-every-work-day initiative is WORKING.
And then another submission response came in this afternoon, and it was a slush reader at a pro market which accepts Patreon reprints telling me that they liked the Patreon reprint I submitted so well that they'd passed it up to the editor.
The Friday Fictionette thing I was talking about last week? THAT'S STILL WORKING TOO!
And the other day I got a rejection letter from a market that doesn't even send rejection letters. The kind of market that says, "If you haven't heard from us in X amount of days, consider it declined." Even though the story wasn't enough of a fit with what they were looking for, for them to buy it, they went out of their way to tell me that they liked it. That's big, y'all. If you don't live and breathe this gig like I do, it might not be obvious, but, trust me, it's big.
ALL THE THINGS ARE WORKING! *flails and falls over in a faint*
So.... yeah. I'm a happy writer right now. And this is shaping up to be quite the week.
why i do this to myself
- 739 words (if poetry, lines) long
Today I rediscovered why I keep plugging away at the Friday Fictionette project.
There've been times when I've wondered exactly that. The project has certainly been an additional source of stress, especially when I get behind schedule (and some aspects of it are still very, very far behind schedule). It has taken time away from other writing I could be doing. Hell, I've only just now got anywhere close to a workable, sustainable daily process that accommodates both the Friday Fictionette project and my commercial freelance goals, not to mention keeping up with this blog. And I mean just now, like, in the past week.
But every once in a while a reason to persist shines up brightly out of the mess of my day-to-day like an encouraging beacon that says "Keep it up! You're going the right way!" Or maybe it's more accurate to say it blinds me with its obviousness. WHATEVER.
Oh, there are the official reasons. It gives me practice meeting regular deadlines. It forces me to write a new thing with a beginning, middle, and end four times a month. It's motivation to meet myself on the page every day. But these are the medicine reasons, the bran flakes and lima beans reasons. The half hour of strength and endurance conditioning at the end of each roller derby practice. "Eat it up. Drink it down. Struggle through. It's good for you." I tell myself those reasons all the time, and I only kinda sorta believe them.
But there was that time last year when a Friday Fictionette release went on to be included in the Toasted Cake podcast. Nothing like listening to Tina Connolly read my little story to make me think, "I'm so glad I'm still doing this!"
And then there was that time yesterday when I realized that the fictionette I was just finishing up, three days late and counting, was a perfect fit for the themed submission call I'd been contemplating with a certain amount of despair. I kept looking sadly at the submission guidelines and lamenting, "I don't think I have anything suitable..." Well. Now I do. It just needs a bit more of a polish and a trim is all.
And would I have written it at all without the Friday Fictionette project to maintain? Well, yes. Like all fictionettes, it began with a daily freewriting session. But would I have remembered that particular freewriting session in time to write a submittable draft if I hadn't had this four-times-a-week assembly line demanding to be fed on the regular? Probably not!
To be clear, not every flash fiction market accepts reprints. And among those that do, very few accept reprints of self-published material. And then you've got the audio markets who don't care if it's been printed before or where, but if it's ever been broadcast in audio, they can't take it. So it's not like there's a lot of places I can send my short-shorts that began life as a Friday Fictionette.
So you can see I'm very pleased to find one that does, and for whose themed call my most recent release is a more or less perfect fit. And even more pleased that I've continued the Friday Fictionette project these past nearly five years.
More details later--after the submission resolves itself one way or another!
still collecting those merit badges
And, more than a month later, another blog post. Hi. Please rest assured that my streak of daily story submissions (for weekday values of "daily") has continued unabated through the radio silence. I am up to 33 submissions and 14 rejections for 2019. In May, that's 20 and 10 respectively. Three rejections came in over this past weekend alone, and a fourth even as I was logging those three. Only 86 rejections to go 'til my goal of 100 for the year!
(Remember, rejection letters are merit badges you earn by submitting manuscripts! That said, so is publication. WHATEVER.)
I'd like to briefly highlight one of the places I recently submitted a story: StarShipSofa, purveyor of fine science fiction for your ears. Over the years they've featured stories by both new and established authors (sometimes very established authors). Their narrators are also top-notch; some of them are extremely well known in film and stage. Recently I had the pleasure of hearing my story "First Breath" narrated on their (at the time) sibling podcast Tales to Terrify; if you listened to that, then you know what a good job the District of Wonders community of podcasts can do. I'd be thrilled to hear something of mine included in the StarShipSofa line-up. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to listening to SSS's latest offering next time I've got a solo drive or a 20-minute stint in the traction chair at Cafe of Life.
In the course of maintaining my workweek submission streak, I've learned several things:
- More markets accept simultaneous submissions than I'd hitherto realized
- I have more potential reprint submissions than I'd been acutely aware of
- The previous two observations notwithstanding, I desperately need to get more of my stories submission-ready pronto.
I have had mornings when I simply did not know what to submit where, and I finally just threw up my hands and said, "Let's do a search on the Submission Grinder for yet another simsub- and reprint- friendly market I can submit Story X to." It's not very satisfying. It feels like cheating, and it gives me a sneaking submission that I'm using up appropriate markets for Story X rather more quickly than I should. I'd almost rather just get a rejection letter that frees up one of my unpublished stories for exclusive submission somewhere else.
I've got a bunch of stuff ready to revise or soon to be ready, and after that an infinity of new stories I could write. I just need to make sure I take the time every day to do it.
In other news, I'm a smidge late on Friday Fictionettes again. Look for the May 24th release to go out tomorrow. Thankfully, this week belongs to a fifth Friday, when no release is due. So I'll still be able to get an early start on the one for June 7th while also making some strides towards getting caught up on the Fictionette Artifacts for my $5 Patrons.
Thus the workweek begins!
rejections += 1 (yay) and so do submissions
- 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,285 words (if poetry, lines) long
I got a rejection letter today! That makes four of the one hundred I want to acquire in 2019, and the first in response to the avalanche of daily manuscript submissions I began sending out mid-April. It's working, it's working!
Meanwhile, Hi. I'm in a hotel room in Eagle, Colorado. Tomorrow I skate with the Boulder County Bombers "All Stars" in the Melee in the Mountains tournament. Our first game, against the Chicago Outfit, will be at noon. And I am super tired and ready for bed.
It doesn't help that I just walked down to the Park 'n Ride to retrieve my car from where I left it charging at the free public charging station, only to discover when I got there that I'd left my car keys in the hotel room. So I decided the car can just stay there until tomorrow morning. I'm not unhappy that I went for the extra walk, though. Walks are nice.
But now I'm really tired. Therefore the rest of today's writing update will be super fast and super brief.
- Still way behind on the Friday Fictionettes, but I got a decent nibble in just now on the one for April 19.
- I kept up my daily submitting streak. Over lunch, I sent "First Breath," with its Colorado ski-town setting, to a Denver-centric anthology that might reprint it.
- Over meatloaf at the Eagle Diner, I managed a brief talk-to-myself session on the current short story revision.
- Also at the diner, I did some similarly brief freewriting, resulting in what looks like a solid "zero draft" for a brand new short story.
To be painfully honest, I have to admit to overestimating my submission streak the other day. At the time, Habitica reported a 9-day streak on that particular daily task, but it's very generous in preserving my streak so long as I use my Rogue powers of stealth to avoid damage from uncompleted dailies. Looking at the Submission Grinder, I see that today's submission brings me up to seven days of daily manuscript submissions, one each weekday from April 18-26 inclusive. Also I did one April 16. So it's not like the ongoing achievement loses any impressiveness after the correction. I'm still pretty damn pleased.
So. Today I did a Boulder Food Rescue shift, packed for a weekend trip, and drove three hours from Boulder to Eagle, and I still managed to do all my weekday writing things. That's pretty darn cool. Here's hoping I can do the same Monday despite Saturday's tournament, Sunday's drive home, and Monday's much-needed recovery activities.
more story submissions than you can shake a reject-o-stick at
This, for once, is not a whiny post! This is a post where I say, Yay! I did a thing! I'm perpetually behind on the Friday Fictionette project, I've hardly blogged at all this year, and I'm still working on the same infuriating short story revision about which I was complaining early this month, but I did a thing. Here is the thing I done did:
Each day for nine sequential weekdays running, I have submitted a story for paid publication. That's more story submissions in April 2019 than in the entire twelve month period preceding April 2019. Go me!
It's not like I hit any particular landmark that ignited a fire under my butt about getting published. I've been frustrated with myself for doing so little on that front for quite some time; that hasn't changed. But a few metaphorical pebbles got knocked loose recently that may have contributed to an optimistic avalanche. To wit:
- I joined a Habitica guild challenge to acquire 100 rejections in 2019. I joined the challenge specifically in response to the frustration outlined above: that day after day went by without my ever hitting the "Submission Procedures" item on my to-do list. And then week after week went by much the same as before. Frustrations increased but somehow I couldn't seem to do anything about it because I was busy with derby, busy catching up on the Friday Fictionettes, busy keeping up with household tasks, busy submitting our tax returns, busy just doing my best to get out of bed and get upright and get functional.
- I saw birthday number 43 approaching (it was yesterday) and caught myself thinking, "Another birthday. And still no novels on submission and very few short story publications since the pro sales I celebrated in... what, 2012? 2013? What the hell have I been doing with my life?" This is not my favorite way to celebrate birthdays. (I had a pretty good roller derby practice yesterday though. I think roller derby is an auspicious thing to do on one's birthday.)
- And then I just got fed up.
"Fed Up" is kind of magical. Like a city in Fairyland, it doesn't exist in one reliable place on a map, but rather follows the needs of the narrative. You arrive there when it's time, when circumstances are both right and wrong, when you're ready, when you just can't go anywhere else anymore. I arrived in the glowering metropolis of Fed Up (without benefit of toy car, magical tollbooth, or time-keeping dog) and I damn well did a thing:
I reversed my daily checklist.
I swapped the so-called Morning Shift and Afternoon Shift. Now, instead of beginning my day with a timed freewriting session followed by some work on the current Friday Fictionette, I'm jumping right into Submission Procedures first thing. Followed by short story revisions, another task I'd been accomplishing far too infrequently.
I've done this before, but I gave up on it when I started failing to get to the freewriting and Fictionette work. And, well, that's kind of been happening again. But I can sort of see what's causing the problem, and I feel hopeful that the steps I'm taking behind the scenes will address that. (In short: my sleep schedule's been all effed up, which has effed up my ability to function in the mornings, not to mention my overall energy level, which in turn effs up my chances of putting in a full work day. I'm working on the sleep schedule thing.)
So. Submitting stories! Every day! It's a revelation. It's led to several Thoughts and Observations, which I will lay out in future blog posts because this one's quite long enough now.