My Writing, Writing

The Millennium Enters Adulthood

Happy New Year Everyone! A warm welcome to the 18th year of the current century and indeed, of the millennium!

Each December I undertake a detailed review of the year gone by. You can read my past year-end summaries here, here and here. 

The first quarter of the year whizzed past in adjusting myself to a regular workday routine after six months of maternity leave. Glancing through my records, I observe that I actually began writing and submitting around April. 

I finally took the advice of this article and started sending out my stories to multiple venues at a time, and I’ve hit 100 rejections for the year! 

I also have 8 acceptances to show for my efforts. 

The growth I see this year is in my writing which I believe has improved. The evidence is visible in the form of a few personal/higher-tier rejections I received from some of the most reputed literary journals. It may sound strange to brag about rejections but anyone who writes and submits will know exactly what I am talking about. 

On the other end of the spectrum lies my disappointment at not placing in the contests I entered though I believed the stories were of good quality.  

I had hoped to close the year on a win, but by the onset of the festive season, that hope blurred and eventually died down. I imagine all the editors shut down their laptops and headed out for the ragged mountains or sandy beaches, or simply snugged close to the loved ones while tearing the wrapping off their Christmas presents under the light of the tree. 

I’d have shared more detailed stats for the year but I’m not really sure they are that useful. The main thing to note is that submitting your writing amounts to a numbers game. The more you submit, the higher the chances of acceptance. 

I will continue to plod my way through 2018, trudging through my archives digging out stories to be revised and submitted, and hoping for the best. I remain, as always, incurably optimistic.

What are your resolutions for the new year?

Writing

5 Tips & Tricks: Lessons learned from a year of writing and submitting

HNY Folks!

You know how great minds think alike? Around the time I was toying with the idea of publishing one post related to writing/reading every week, my friend Payal went ahead and built a whole thingie out of it! So I’m colluding with her in the grand 52 Weeks of Reading and Writing challenge! Feel free to join in!

Without further ado, here’s my first post of the series:

In 2013, I wrote and/or revised 12 short stories and essays. I made a total of 48 submissions (primarily short stories, with a few essays thrown in). For your edification, here are a few stats:

Submitted – 48

Accepted – 2 (+1 acceptance received in Jan-14)

Rejected – 31

Waiting on a response – 12 (-1 if I count the ’14 acceptance)

Withdrawn – 3

So my acceptance rate is 2/48 = 4.2% which is lower than the acceptance rate of most literary magazines! I’m not sure if this should thrill me or kill me, but the good thing is that I’m hooked to the ‘Write. Polish. Submit. Repeat’ pattern.

There have been a few lessons learned along the way. This is one of those moments where you go:

Life Lessons

But if you’re not learning, you’re dying. Well, at least, decaying/rotting/stagnating etc. So here are a few tips to help increase your chances of publication:

  1. Know the market you are sending to

Your chances of publication in a magazine of your choice vastly improve if you have read previous issues and can gauge that the tone/style of your piece matches theirs. Most back issues are available online, so there shouldn’t be any excuse for this. If back issues are available only at a price, then for once, splurge. It is a worthy investment. Trade with other writers or chip in to purchase. The time you invest in perusing the archives will be worthwhile.

My new policy is I do not submit to a magazine if I can’t picture my story fitting in. Note that this approach doesn’t guarantee an acceptance, but the probability of the editor liking your story climbs up a few notches.

More than anything else, this lesson carries the most weight.

  1. Maintain a calendar of upcoming deadlines/themes

Use Duotrope. It requires a paid subscription which I have taken for a few months and found it quite useful. Other free sources of listings include NewPages and The Review Review. I recommend signing up for The Review Review here.

You can use the themes and prompts for later stories if you are unable to submit by the deadline for that particular magazine, if for nothing else but to get the creative juices flowing.

Try Grammarly if you have issues with your grammar.

  1. Story Length

How long is a piece of string? Short stories lie anywhere between 1001 to 10,000 words. Probably anything longer would be a novella.

If your story is just over a thousand words, I suggest to boost it to 1500 words or more, or chop it to less than 1000 to make it flash.

  1. Literary value

This is especially a lesson for me. Earlier I tended to write more raw pieces, bereft of depth and beauty. I’ve consciously moved towards slightly more literary writing. Now I’m really immersed in the experience and after a long time, I’m enjoying my writing and am able to write purely for the pleasure of it.

  1. Critique partners

DO NOT hit submit on a story without getting it critiqued/read/reviewed by at least one other writer. We miss the most obvious and simple things in our story. Note that we would pounce on these mistakes in anyone else’s story without a second thought. Your Internal Editor may be awesome at catching grammatical mistakes, but I find that only a fresh pair of eyes can zero in on flawed plotlines, illogic and fallacies.

For further reading:

Nathaniel Tower, editor of Bartleby Snopes, has just written a great post on when not to submit a story. Check it out.

Travel, Writing

HNY

Happy New Year, everyone! 

Last year, I wrote about my year in review and set goals for this year too. This year, I thought of checking how I’ve fared. 

What I intended to do in 2011:

  1. Attempt all the recipes in my Italian Cooking cookbook – I’ll consider this done! The only things I haven’t attempted in this cookbook are the recipes for making pizza base.
  2. Complete at least one of the novels swirling in my head – Not done, but got around 10k done as part of Nano. You can check out the first page here.
  3. Call up a piano teacher and resume the lessons that I dropped 15 years ago – Haha! In my dreams!
  4. Break into five new markets. I say this every year and last year I managed three – Managed two, both for fiction which was my focus this year.
  5. Write/complete at least one short story per month – Shockingly, I’ve written 9, count them, NINE, brand new full-fledged short stories this year, and two more that I’ve started. I’ve astonished myself with my output!
  6. Work out in gym minimum 3 days a week – I have done this fairly regularly, except for weeks in between when the cold/cough/viral/flu got the better of me. 

What I didn’t intend to do but did anyway:

  1. Visited three new places this year – Kashmir, Goa and Jodhpur/Jaisalmer.
  2. Rode a horse for the first time
  3. Jet-skied in Goa
  4. Rode a camel in Jaisalmer – never had so much backache in my life!
  5. Attended a Writing Workshop hosted by the awesome amazing Anil Menon! Two weekends full of writing and discussions related to writing – best experience ever!
  6. Prepared some of Nigella’s recipes, including her meatloaf and back-from-the-bar snack, among others.

 

That’s all for 2011! Here’s to hoping 2012 is awesome and inspiring for everyone!