Saturday, June 30, 2012

'Days Waiting' Challenge & Submission Progress Updates

I thought I'd give an update to my 'days waiting' challenge.  Before receiving a rejection from Asimov's earlier this week, I'd managed to pump my wait time up to 258 day, according to my calculator.  I checked it twice, because it didn't seem possible that the number could have jumped so far in the course of less than a month.  Turns out that having multiple stories on the market really does make a big difference.  You would think this would be obvious, but math has never been my strong suit.

Basically, if you have one story and it sits for thirty days, you've got 30 days of waiting.  If, on the other hand, there are five stories all waiting those same thirty days, that's 150 days of waiting.  Color me educated.  There is a real world mathematics application!  (I kid--but this was still eye opening to me.)

Unfortutely for my numbers, the story that came back had been in the queue for fifty-one days, so that knocked my acculumated days waiting back quite a lot.

In the meantime, I now have two stories that have made it past their initial round of readings.  One, at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, has made it to the second round, and I should hear back in the next week or two with whether I have made it into the third and final round, where the editors make their choices from all the stories that have made it that far.  The other is at Musa Publishing: Penumbra, and it has reached the final round.  This story is for their September issue, which is Native American Folklore themed.  According to what I've read, they finalize the issues about a month in advance, so I should be hearing back from them probably within the month as well.

After a long dry spell, save for one nice personal rejection from a senior editor at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, this is making me feel like I'm headed on the right path.  There's every chance that neither of these stories will make it into the publications they are waiting to hear back from, but the fact that I've made it as far as I have is encouraging, and I'm looking forward to continuing to get stories written and submitted.

As I've been explaining to my son, the only sure way to fail is not to try.

I'm not going to go down that way.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Internet and Productivity

Recently, I asked the helpful folks at the Writers of the Future forums for suggestions on how to develop a business plan.  Martin L. Shoemaker, two-time WotF finalist and one of the most helpful people I've had the privilege to know, replied with a fabulous list of links.  I went to the first one on the list, Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Freelancer's Survival Guide.

The Freelancer's Survival Guide is available at that link as a series of blog posts, but as soon as I started delving into it--it's huge--I knew that I needed to have this in a more portable and permanent form, so I bought it for my Kindle.

I take a bath before I go to bed every night.  It's my downtime/reading time.  One of the few places where I can focus for an extended period of time (note the lack of an internet in the bathtub).  A perfect place to learn about writing as a business.

There is so much information in the Freelancer's Survival Guide that it is sometimes overwhelming.  I'm also not at a point where I'm ready to consider quitting my day job to rely entirely on my writing as my income.  Not by a long shot.  A lot of what I'm reading isn't immediately applicable, although it's knowledge that will come in handy when I'm ready for it.

What really speaks to me, though, is the necessity of focused, distraction-free writing time.

"But I write!" my little mind protests.  "I sit at my laptop and I open a word document!  I think about words.  I even write them!"

What I've been ignoring is how the instant I hit a snag--a plot point I don't know exactly how I want to approach, a scene that's uncomfortable to write, or I simply don't like the way the words look on the page--I immediately retreat to my happy place, the internet.

It's so easy to feel like reading or talking about writing is writing.  I've been able to convince myself that it counts.  But it isn't, and it doesn't.  My productivity has been low for years.  It was time to make a change.

I tried to set up parental controls on myself, to limit my internet access.  That led to frustration and a laggy computer, so I deleted the program and tried again.  What I found instead is called Freedom.  I can block myself off the internet for a length of time of my choosing.

Since I started using Freedom, for a minimum of one hour per day, I've experienced a significant boost in my productivity.  I've gone from 1,000 words every two weeks, if I was lucky, to closer to 1,000 words a day.

I'm forcing myself past the hard parts.  Those uncomfortable scenes get written, and it's amazing how the uncomfortable scenes are usually the most powerful.

So thank you, Martin, for pointing me to the Freelancer's Survival Guide, and thank you Kristine Kathryn Rusch for writing it.  It's been a sorely needed kick in the pants.

Now it's time to get this posted, then turn on my Freedom and get some real work done.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hurry Up and Wait

Last night I submitted my entry for the third quarter of the Writers of the Future contest for 2012.  The deadline isn't until the end of the month, but since I had a story ready that I felt good about, I decided it wasn't going to serve any purpose just letting it sit on my hard drive.  Besides, last quarter's heart-attack-on-a-stick of not finishing my submission until there were only four hours left before the deadline isn't something I'm keen on revisiting.

That said, my quarter two entry is still waiting in the slush pile there, so I now have two stories waiting at the same market.  And, there are people still waiting for results in quarter one!  Normally, this contest is much faster with its turn-around time, but the sad passing of K.D. Wentworth, the coordinating judge, near the end of the first quarter has caused a backlog.  The new coordinating judge, David Farland (Dave Wolverton), is now on the job and I'm sure we'll start seeing results soon.

It got me thinking, however, about how much of this writing world is a hurry up and wait proposition.  Admittedly, most short story markets don't have the same deadline system that the WotF contest does, but we work hard, write the best stories we can, send them out into the big world and wait.  Some markets, notably Lightspeed and Clarkesworld, have very quick return times.  I really appreciate hearing back within the week, as tends to happen in these markets, but most are much longer.

I decided to add up how long all of the stories I have currently under submission have been waiting.  Answer--one-hundred fifty-nine days.  That's for five total stories.  I'm not a speed demon writer, and I know there are many people who have significantly higher numbers, both of stories at markets and total days waiting.

So here's my challenge to myself--get more stories at market and increase that total wait time!  I wonder how quickly I can bring my wait time up to 365 days?  As I hear back from my current submissions, I'll lose days, so I'll need to get more stories out there in decent numbers to make that goal.

Time to get writing!

How many stories do you have at markets?  What is your combined wait time?