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Writing — A Yearly Review

If you’re not into these “writer posts,” move along. I have sometimes considered putting these onto a separate hunk of blog, and separating them out from the main RSS feed as well, since I don’t think most people are interested, but I have writer friends who are, and no hordes of fans teeming in.

Anyway, for now, it’s here, and people who want to read more can click through to the post…

Last year, I got 7 stories accepted by 8 venues. (I use the word venues because seven are magazines — print or paper — while one was a postcard series, and one was a podcast reprint of one of the seven stories.) Only a few of these are so far in print, as a cursory examination of my Publications List reveals, but counting acceptances bolsters the ego a little.

This means 8 acceptances and two pending responses for the year (plus six pendings on poems). In terms of format this includes:

My ratio of [acceptances : rejections] for my fiction is [8 : 19], which means that out of 27 submissions (not including the pending ones), 8 were accepted. This is an acceptance rate of roughly 29.6%, which perhaps would have some people chuffed. Personally, I think it’s just a sign that I’m not sending my stuff out enough, and that for a long time was not sending my stuff to prestigious enough markets.

(But okay, I’m a little chuffed, especially since several of those are pretty big-deal acceptances.)

On the could-do-better side of things, I have not been nearly as cosmpolitan in my submission practices as I ought. I have thus far failed to submit substantially to new (to me) markets that have purchased work from friends of mine (such as Postscripts). I’ve also taken too long to send out manuscripts once they’re already set to go, mostly relying on excuses related to work to keep myself from printing them (a ten minute job at campus print shop, if that) and hurrying to the campus post office (another ten minute job at best). I’ve bought printable labels and I’m hoping this helps, though I’ll need to get my printer working again to find out. I ought to be sending something to On Spec as well… and, indeed, should make a concerted effort this year to get some of my many unpublished (non-genre, regular old poetry) poems into print.

Genre-wise, the stories are mostly SF: the exceptions were one fantasy/retelling-of-a-myth, and one short horror piece. The remainder were SF stories of a variety of types, ranging from goofy transrealist autobiography and quirky alt-history to dark (and/or angry, and/or violent) near-future stuff. Three of the stories were first drafted at Clarion West, and benefitted from feedback of people there who critted them.

Right now, I have six stories and a sheaf of six poems out to various markets. One is pending — I really need to revise another novella and submit there, as the editor was asking whether I had anything else of comparable length to submit — and the others either are at places with a long response times, or were sent out very recently.

But none of this is really about the writing. So here’s the deal:

So now, what are my goals for the coming year?

  1. I want to sell at least as many stories in 2008 as I did in 2007.
  2. I want to sell more than 2 pieces of “short story” length or longer to “prestigious markets.” (By which I don’t necessarily mean SFWA-approved markets. I consider Interzone and On Spec and LCRW prestigious too.
  3. I will be focusing on my stories this year… not things that are called-for by anthologies. When anthology calls coincide with things I have or plan to work on, or when they coincide with my interests (and allotable time on the schedule), I’ll got for it, but I won’t be cranking out as much as I did this year in hopes of spots in anthologies.
  4. I will be cutting back on external commitments. No editing two textbooks at once. Maybe one is okay, but two? Definitely no. I have to get better at saying no.
  5. I will finish the draft of A Killing in Burma and I will also get through at least one rewrite of Dead Abroad.
  6. I think I’m going to try to learn how to write spooky, creepy stuff. Because my ghost stories just aren’t, and I think even if I don’t believe in ghosts, I am creeped out by the idea of them, and should be able to convey that. (If that makes sense.) This will be useful since at least some of my SF is moving towards a dark, brutal vein.
  7. I’m going to explore new settings, especially working on using a couple of semi-familiar (to Western readers) settings. I don’t want to be the guy whose stuff is all set in Asia. This year, only  three stories that I sold were set in Asia, but there’s tons more pending or waiting to be written. But I need to try imagine what other places will look like someday. A Killing in Burma and Dead Abroad are enough for the Asia kick. (Plus maybe something in Laos, if I’m inspired by my upcoming winter travels there.) After that, I think, Europe. Russia. Britain. France. India, baby.
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