Friday, December 30, 2016

End of Year Writing Report

This has been a momentous year in my writing life, all of it fueled by plenty of coffee and quiet and supervised by these two. That's Cricket up on top and Tina down below, hanging out in the cat tree that sits next to the window near my editing chair. My computer is a few steps away, so the cats have taken up residence in this small part of the house, in order to keep an eye on me while I write. It's their job, you see. It's what cats do.

They've done a pretty good job keeping me on task. Our biggest accomplishment this year was completion of my MA in Writing degree from Johns Hopkins University. I've been working on this for almost exactly three years now, taking classes in fiction, poetry and "reading like a writer," which is quite different from reading for pleasure.

As part of the requirements for the degree, I wrote a thesis, which is a collection of pieces that I produced during the program--three short stories, an excerpt from a novel and several poems.The degree will technically be awarded in May, 2017, but I've finished all the requirements and happily participated in a festive celebration with other graduates where we read short selections from our work.

Here I am reading an excerpt from my science fiction novel-in-progress, "The Kiss Catastrophe." Hopefully you will be hearing more about that in the coming months, since I hope to complete it in 2017. I participated in NaNoWriMo last month and used that project to write a draft of the second half of the book. It's a mess at the moment, but there's a story in there somewhere! Lots of editing to do on this.

The other major thing I did this year was make a concerted effort to finish some short stories and start sending them out. I had a number of stories at various stages of completion when the year started and managed to bring 11 of them to a stage where I felt they were ready to send out. I submitted these 11 a total of 52 times in 2016, which was my goal at the beginning of the year--to submit once per week. I also created a packet of three poems (from my thesis) and wrote one book review, both of which I submitted a few times.

As a result of all this submission activity, 4 of my stories were accepted for publication. 3 have already appeared (here, here and here) and 1 is in press, due to appear in Gargoyle in 2017. My little flash fiction piece (a 101-word short story) was listed as a Featured Story in July, 2016, which pleased me, since this was a piece I started almost ten years ago.

I felt like I was sending out a lot of pieces this year, and I was, but this is apparently what's necessary to get things published these days. My acceptance rate was 7.3%, so not as low as it felt like when the rejections started rolling in. And there were a lot of those--35 pieces have been rejected so far, and I withdrew 2, but 14 are still pending, so who knows what the final statistics will show. My goal is to double my submission rate next year: 100 submissions in 2017! A friend of mine thinks of this process as "collecting rejection letters," so maybe that's the right attitude to take.

It's easy to get discouraged by what feels like failure, and there's a lot of it in this business. It seems to me that the secret to not letting the whole process get you down is to send your work right back out as soon as it's returned to you with a note along the lines of, "this isn't right for us, etc." Never let it sit on your desk when it can sit on someone else's desk!

I'll wait until next year (which is two days away) to write a more complete post with my writing goals for 2017. I've been thinking about it a lot, and I have a lot of plans--so stay tuned. And happy new year!