2009 How it Went

In emulation of the inimitable Christopher Green, I thought I’d post some stats on how I did toward my writing goals in 2009.

I sent out 27 submissions this year.  Pretty modest compared to Mr. Green’s 75, but a personal best for me.  (In previous years I sent out no more than 20 subs.) The increase is mostly because I kept my New Year’s resolution to keep my completed stories in circulation. The rejections came in and I sent them back out – amazing how that helps to keep things rolling along!

I sold five stories – three new stories and two reprints.  Given that in 2007 and 2008, I sold, um, one story per year, this is definitely a record for me.  My acceptance rate was about 18% if you count the reprints, or 12% if you only count the new ones.  Either way, that’s ridiculously high for me considering my rate has been 0-5% up until now.  I think this is mostly because I had a streak of good luck, with several stories hitting the right markets at the right time.  I doubt I’ll be able to keep up that kind of streak in 2010. But, hey, very cool that I met my secret goal of selling five stories this year, even if I had to cheat a bit by counting reprints.

Of the stories I sold this year, on average they were rejected by 5.3 markets before they found a home.  There’s a widely quoted stat out there that the average story is rejected something like 20 times before it sells.  If that’s true (and it seems about right), 5.3 seems pretty good.  Either way, like Chris said, the clear lesson is not to be demoralized by a rejection or two.

In terms of actual writing, my goal was to finish five stories and I finished three.  I have a fourth one that’s close to done and another that I finished a draft of this year, so I was sort of close on this one. I had also hoped to finish the first half of my novel, and finished maybe a quarter of it.  All in all I’m not going quite as fast as I’d like, but I’m definitely doing slow but steady productivity, which I feel pretty good about considering what a hectic year it was and that my day job demands way more than 40 hours a week. 

Just to finish the rundown of how I did on my New Year’s resolutions:

  • Reading on subway: I kept this one, mostly, and did a lot more reading this year than last year. My unwritten goal was to read three books per month, and I came pretty close to that – it looks like I’ll be at about 34 books at the end of the year. 
  • Blog posting: My goal was 100 blog posts, and it looks like I’ll hit 54 or so.  Very hard to do any blogging when things get intense at work, and then so often when I do have free time I think I should be writing fiction instead of blogging.  I may just have to accept that I’m not going to be a super-active blogger any time soon.
  • Swimming: Totally flunked this one.  Really do need to get back to it, though – hopefully in 2010…

So all in all, of seven 2009 goals, I largely hit three, made decent progress on a couple others, and totally missed two.  Not too bad all in all…

More 2009 wrap-up and 2010 goals soon to come!

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Another Story Coming Soon

I recently got word that a story of mine will be published in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, a very cool zine published by Gavin Grant and Kelly Link at Small Beer Press.   LCRW is like the sacred madre patria for writers of weird stuff, so I’m pretty geeked out to have a story published with them.

I first wrote this particular story at Clarion in response to my mates’ saying that I needed to write more concrete, sensory details. “Ha!” I said, “I’ll write a story so filled with concrete details that it can only be titled ‘Concrete!'”  Alas, the story ended up being a surrealist story that demanded to be re-titled “This is Not Concrete.”  Ah, well…

Will post more when I know when the story will find its way into the wild.

Agatha Christie Oh How You Make Me Angry

OK, so I just finished reading Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and it made me oh-so-angry.  (In case either of the two other people who still haven’t read this 100-million-copy-selling book happen to be reading, I’ll try to leave this spoiler free.)

Simply put, no writer should be allowed to get away with writing a mystery in which you narrate from the internal point of view of all the characters and yet still manage to surprise the reader as to who the culprit is.  It’s clearly cheating!  And, yet, you go back and re-read the parts that made you think what you thought, and then you realize, oh, that’s how she did it, it actually wasn’t cheating after all, and then that only makes you angrier…

The technique that she seems to use again and again, to such great effect, is deflection. She puts the answer right in front of you, but arranges such a carnival all around it that you assume that can’t possibly be the answer, until, oh wait, it is.  Which makes the conclusion as superbly satisfying as it is frustrating.  Curse you, Agatha!  And please teach me how you do what you do.

(Side note: there are also all sorts of things going on in the book around race, class and gender – some of which is conscious and much of which probably is not, but that could be a whole dissertation unto itself.)

Story Coming Soon in The Tangled Bank

I recently got the news that my short story, “On the Entropy of Species,” will be appearing in The Tangled Bank, an e-anthology of stories on Charles Darwin and evolution coming out in just a few weeks.  The anthology commemorates Darwin’s 200th birthday as well as the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species.  I’m very excited to be part of such a cool project, and to have a story published in the theme-anthology that inspired the story – a first for me.

When I first saw the call for stories on evolution from editor Chris Lynch, nothing immediately came to me.  But then I started reading excerpts from Darwin’s journal, particularly from the time of his voyage on the Beagle, and found both his voice and personality inspiring.  I loved the unabashedness of his excitement in exploring new terrain and observing new species  – e.g., “The day has past delightfully. Delight itself, however, is a weak term to express the feelings of a naturalist who, for the first time, has been wandering by himself in a Brazilian forest.”  He was a totally glamorous geek-adventurer.  That was the initial springboard for “On the Entropy of Species,” the story of another geek-adventurer, on a voyage of exploration in a world where evolution doesn’t seem to work quite the way we’re used to.