Still writing…

My day job has segued into Lunacy: Part 2, and I’m back to working 60 hours a week. I’m reasonably proud, however, that I’ve still managed to write most of a short story. It’ll probably end up being 5,000-5,500 words long (I have about 4,600 words done), and I’m really pleased with what I’ve got so far. And tonight, after a week and half of procrastination, I finally sat down and powered through the chunk of story I was stuck on. I’ve got the climax done now, and it’s just clean-up and denouement to go. With any luck, I’ll be able to finish it by the end of the week.



Useful Tools – tracking spreadsheet

I have a new toy! It’s a word count tracking spreadsheet built by novelist Daryl Gregory and lovingly titled ‘The Spreadsheet of Shame.’

Tobias Buckell re-tweeted the link to the original post, which is how I stumbled across it. Mr. Gregory has very generously made the spreadsheet available to download from his website (for free). I read the blog and got curious, so I downloaded it, just intending to tinker. But I’ve found it’s kind of like an advent calendar for writers. I look forward to putting my word count in at the end of the day. And it has helped encourage me to write every day, so I have something to fill in. Even if I only manage 66 words.

You can set your own target word count as well as daily goals. It will calculate weekly totals and percentage complete, among other things. It’s not rocket science, but all the excel fields are pre-programmed, which makes it really simple to use. It also has graphing functions already set up, so you can see your progress in pictures. And Mr. Gregory provides simple, clear instructions on the website for how to input your own specific information.

My own little NaNo

I did participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) once. I was between contracts that particular November, so I had the time. And I did write my 50,000 words, so in a way I feel I’ve ticked that particular accomplishment off my list and I don’t have a lot of need to do it again.

That said, there are some wonderful things about NaNo. It sets a deadline, for one, and I am a writer desperately in need of deadlines. It also makes you declare your goals in public, and creates a community that will hold you accountable for those goals, as well as encouraging you along the way.

So I think I’m going to have my own mini-Nano. The big, bad fiction story I’m wrestling with is going to be my goal. I’m not going to make this about word counts like NaNo does. I’m guessing the final story will be somewhere in the 15,000-20,000 word region – too short for an official NaNo – but length isn’t really an issue. So I’m just going to make it about finishing.

I’m going to finish a draft of my fiction story by the end of November. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be ‘right.’ (Yet.) It just has to be a completed draft.

There. I’ve declared myself out loud. Anyone else want to play?

Cut, cut cut. Snip, snip, snip.

The piece I’m working on at the moment is targeted for a specific publication. They have a call out for stories on a topic about which I feel I have a lot to say. I was poking around on their website yesterday, to check deadlines and such, when I realised that their word limit for creative non-fiction is 3,500. This became a problem, since my piece was sitting at 4,100 words and wasn’t finished yet. Continue reading

(6 + 4) * 2 – 1 / 18 + 1 = ?

There is a neat white 9″ x 12″ envelope sitting by my front door. I spent the afternoon getting one of my essays ready for submission and putting together a cover letter. It took longer than I expected to make sure I had name, address, and word count in all the right places and none of the wrong ones, and to set everything up with the correct font, spacing and margins. I swear the submissions guidelines for some of these magazines are designed as skill-testing questions.

This isn’t my first submission, but it’s the first one I’ve had to do in hard copy. Back in March I submitted a different essay to two magazines using Submittable. I have a matched pair of rejection letters for that one that I’m actually quite proud of.

The first one was the best possible rejection:

Thank you for submitting your Creative Non-fiction to [such-and-such] magazine. While we are unable to accept Character Sketch for publication, we would like to see more of your work.

Your work was almost there. We liked it, but felt it was not quite ready to be forwarded to an editor. We would like to encourage you, however, to send us more of your writing in the future. You can find out what themes might be under consideration by visiting our website.

We look forward to reading more of your work.

I’ve written two more drafts of the piece since then – they were absolutely right, it wasn’t ready yet – and I’m confident it’s getting closer. I’ll find a new home for it when I’m satisfied it’s good to go.

The other rejection was more generic:

Thank you for submitting your work to [such-and-other]. We have read and considered it, and have decided it isn’t right for the magazine.

Our editorial decisions have more to do with our own tastes and preferences than the quality of your submission, and we hope you find the right home for the work.

I knew the essay was borderline when I sent it. The piece is a lyric essay with a unique structure, and the magazine had occasionally published non-traditional essays, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It was gratifying to hear they didn’t think it was bad, just not right. I can totally live with that.

So yes. I’m ready to add to my collection of rejections. I’ll take my envelope to be mailed in the morning. And now, to work on the next piece.