“Fairy tales are more than true. Not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”
G. K. Chesterton

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

add-on benefits of a daily manuscript submission practice
Thu 2019-06-06 23:18:41 (single post)

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.

but why is this only paying off now and not like three years ago
Wed 2019-06-05 20:47:40 (single post)
  • 639 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today I want to talk about short story revision. But first: check it out, two days in a row of successful adulting! That's a surprise. Usually, after a day as successful as yesterday, I crash and burn; the pressure of having to live up to the previous day just does me in. But I seem to have evaded that trap today. Once again, I got everything other than this blog post done by 5:00 PM. And because tonight did not feature any roller derby practice, I finally found myself with time to thoroughly clean that gross covering of several years' dust off the magazine rack in the hall. I've been wanting to do that for months.

But. Story revision! Story revision and creation, actually; the story I'm working doesn't really have a finished draft to revise. It has the babble draft that came out of a freewriting session in a diner in Eagle, Colorado on the night before a roller derby tournament. And that's the trouble, really. I've already done the babble draft, so I have this innate sense that I'm not allowed to babble at it anymore. What I'm supposed to do now is create a draft that is shining and perfect, the story that is everything the babble draft dreams of being. All at once. Right now.

Not going to happen, obviously, but try telling my emotions/instincts/editor-brain/gut that.

This is what I meant yesterday about being unable to drag myself away from the procrastination method du jour when short story revision is the next thing on my to-do list. That nearly happened again today. With Merge Dragons being the procrastination method and everything. The only thing that saved me was knowing I said I'd get started at three, I was supposed to get started at three, it's three-oh-seven already, would I damn well get started already? Also, the next task after that needed to be done by 5:00 PM and would easily take up the full hour and a half I'd alloted it. So please let's not make with the holdups, OK?

Note to self: this particular brain hack has now worked multiple, repeated times on this particular brain. Continue with the hacking, please.

So I got started. But I fully expected to just spend half an hour futzing around with the opening three paragraphs again. I knew, plotwise, what would happen over the course of the story, but how to write those scenes down in a graceful, artistic, and compelling manner, that was a doozy. Hell with it, said I, just write it down any old how. So I did. And in doing so I tripped over a detail I had not hitherto considered, and wound up babbling some 500 words of backstory that turned the work in progress into a very different place.

Obviously all that babble will have to be ruthlessly whittled down--more revising! revising is hard!--but it's made the rough shape of the finished story just a little clearer and future revision sessions just a little less difficult. So that's something.

The thing is--and I keep going back to this point, I know--allowing myself to just put down terrible unreadable babble is a skill I'm learning from the Friday Fictionette project. When the story is due at the end of the week, there's no time to sit there staring at the page under the mistaken impression that if I just think about the story long enough it'll come together perfectly in my head. All I can do is throw words at the wall now and trust that something will stick.

The story I'm working on right now has no particular deadline. True, it's at the head of a very long queue of short stories that need work before they can be submitted to paying markets, so there is pressure to finish it sooner rather than later, but it's all internally applied. So it doesn't have its own supply of anti-procrastination jet fuel. It was sort of strange and wonderful watching it borrow fuel from my Friday Fictionettes practice.

It would appear that I have learned a lot more than I consciously realized from writing four new stories a month for almost five years.

adulting like a boss (is the exception not the rule)
Tue 2019-06-04 23:56:16 (single post)

What I really want to do with tonight's blog post is celebrate finally having completed a workday checklist from bottom to top. All my writing tasks, done, plus a few more household tasks besides. It's been a very long time since I managed that feat. Me and time management haven't been good friends. But today I wrote myself out a schedule, complete with target times for beginning and ending each task, and I kept to that schedule, by golly. Story revision at 10:00, come hell or high water; when the clock says ten, I gotta drop whatever I'm doing and get to it. Come 1:00 PM, as long as I've actually submitted a piece somewhere, I've putzed around enough with whatever I'm putzing around with under the rubric of Submission Procedures. Put it down. Put a bookmark in it for tomorrow. Go pay the bills that are due. Freewriting's scheduled for 3:00 PM, and if I'm not finished eating lunch when 3:00 PM rolls around, then fine, I'll shovel the last bites down my gullet in between sentences.

I got it all done, on time and according to schedule. And that despite waking up late after too little sleep then having derby practice in the evening.

Except crowing about that doesn't feel very grown-up. Crowing about it means admitting that this basic adult task of getting my shit done each day has routinely been beyond me. That rather stands as evidence that I don't adult so good, right? Which is embarrassing to admit. Basically, I feel like a high-schooler bragging to her classmates about having successfully used the toilet. In my mind's eye, I see them looking at me funny and saying, "That was kinda TMI, girlfriend," and "Yes, most of us manage that several times a day without comment. Should we be worried about you?"

On the other hand, after days and days and days of late night efforts just to get to eight-five percent; of reaching the end of my ability to even sit upright three hours after travel team practice and at last resigning myself, with mingled relief and shame, to a larger failure than the failure I'd already resigned myself to; of pushing through exhaustion while chanting "Do a little if you can't do a lot, do a little--seriously, just this little bit more, OK?" ...it feels really good to come home from derby and think, "All I have left to do is a blog post, and I don't even have to do that if I don't want to. Everything else, all the hard stuff, is done."

Besides, it's worthwhile to look at the failures, and look at the successes, and look at the differences in my process between the two, and say, "All right, if I want more successes, this is what works."

What works: Getting up on time, more or less. Doing my morning pages immediately, more or less. Not even opening the computer until after morning pages are done. And using that time on the page to scan my day ahead for obstacles, to slot each task awaiting me into precisely delineated windows of time. Then following the plan as much as possible to the letter. Where deviations occur, taking notes. I've made two new columns in my daily time-sheet: "Plan" and "Outcome." Pretty self-explanatory. I fill in the "Plan" column at the beginning of the day, then, as each task is completed, I write my observations about how well I stuck to the plan in the "Outcome" column. Having to actually type out "started freewriting a few minutes late because I wanted to finish up the lunch dishes" or, heavens forfend, "Half an hour late to story revision because I couldn't pull myself away from Merge Dragons, probably because I know story revision is going to be difficult" forces a concrete sense of accountability. And it adds to the data. More data is good! More data about how I function, how I screw up, and how I succeed means a better chance of success next time around.

So, hell with it. I'll admit to my tendency to fail at being an adult. I'll put it right out there, so y'all can see how huge it is that today I actually completed my workday checklist. Go me.

according to plan
Mon 2019-06-03 23:30:29 (single post)

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
Tue 2019-05-28 23:59:59 (single post)
  • 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
Mon 2019-05-27 23:57:00 (single post)

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
Fri 2019-04-26 23:57:37 (single post)
  • 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.

Ahem.

  • 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
Wed 2019-04-24 22:56:55 (single post)

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.

what does not kill me yadda yadda yadda
Wed 2019-04-03 23:57:20 (single post)

This is not an actually writing blog post. It's more of a not actually writing post. Or at least writing very little. I'm getting to my daily freewriting, at least, but what's the point of that if I'm not converting the resulting story ideas into, y'know, stories? The point appears to be to point at it and say, "At least I got my damn freewriting done."

Why is so little writing actually happening?

Well, yesterday the problem was a failure to get up on time, followed by intense panic over how little time remained in the day before roller derby practice.

Today, as it turns out, the problem was getting up on time and then utterly crashing in the early afternoon because apparently I'd used up my daily ration of oomph.

Some weeks you just can't win for losing.

It is possible that today's early afternoon crash owes less to an embarrassing innate inability to last through a full day, and more to a reasonable inability to do a full day in a week that contains nearly double the usual number of roller derby practices. In which case there's hope. Though initially exhausting, this double-practice schedule should be making me stronger in the long run, thus more able to stay upright all day long. Theoretically. If not, I can at least look forward to returning to my regular practice schedule after Tax Day.

Speaking of which, I've got my annual appointment with the tax accountant tomorrow. And, as usual, I still have to gather all my documents and line up all my sums. Every year I tell myself I'll do it early, I'll open up the tax organizer the moment the accountant mails it to me and get right to work filling everything out, and every year I completely fail to live up to those good intentions. So tomorrow's going to feature the traditional mad scramble to get everything together before noon. Yay.

Maybe I'll manage to do some writing after my appointment. Maybe. If I can manage to avoid the early afternoon crash.

"Thank you for tuning in to another episode of This Week In Whining. If you have enjoyed tonight's installment, stay tuned, 'cause the week ain't over yet..."

your daily dose of me stating the obvious
Tue 2019-04-02 23:58:42 (single post)
  • 1,285 words (if poetry, lines) long

I am contemplating a short story rewrite.

I originally wrote the story in response to a specific prompt in the submission guidelines of a themed quarterly publication. I submitted it; they rejected it; we move on. I rewrote it before submitting it elsewhere so that it wouldn't look so obviously like a story written to some other publication's prompt and theme, but, looking at it now, I'm forced to admit, the thing's still pretty darn skeletal. And incoherent. And obviously written to a prompt.

(I feel like a lot of things I write these days are skeletal. It's like I suddenly don't have the stamina needed for writing the actual story, so instead I write a really verbose story outline and call it a story. I'm a little worried about this.)

So I need to revise the story again. But I hardly know where to start. I've been staring at the draft and jotting down questions to myself in the margins: "Does this scene really serve the story? How?" "What's this story really about?" and "How does the homing device/angels/aliens thing interact with the lives-you-wished-you'd-lived theme?"

I have not jotted down any answers yet. I've taken fountain pen and spiral notebook and babbled out a series of possible directions in which I might choose to take the story. I have yet failed to choose any of them. I kind of suck at making decisions sometimes.

So... yeah. Short story rewrites are hard. In other news, water is wet and ice is cold. Good night.

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