Welcome to the blog of science fiction author Eileen Rhoadarmer--where science fiction and Mommyhood collide!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January Stat Check

During the month of January, I wrote/edited on all 31 days
I made final edits on an older story, edited my novel, and wrote the first draft of a new story
I made 9 submissions
I received 6 rejections
I decided that one market was never going to respond
I took between 0 and 5 days to resub a story after a rejection
I have 11 stories currently in slush pile circulation
I made 8 blog posts (including this one)
I took no days off

January was a really good month.  I felt very productive.  Rejections were flying and I got everything back out, I subbed two new stories (though one technically belonged to December,) I did some good novel edits, and I got a new story written.  I've been very busy this month.  I could still vastly improve my time management, but I'm feeling on top of things again.  I'm looking forward to a similar February!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Three Stories Every Month

I got a good start on submitting a story every month, making my January submission on the 8th.  However, it didn't occur to me until that moment what a rigorous schedule making one new submission each month is going to be.

My normal process works something like this:  I write a story, taking as few or many days as the story requires.  Then I let it sit for at least a month, giving myself some much-needed distance so I can more easily spot problems.  I reread the story, make any revisions I feel are necessary, and then offer it to readers for critiques.  After receiving those back (this can take 4-5 weeks if I'm using Critters) I make any more necessary revisions and then submit.  Occasionally I will do serious revisions and then do another round of critiques before submitting.)  What this whole process boils down to is that I need a minimum of two months to work on a story.  What this also means is that if I'm to keep my goal of one new submission every month, I'll need to be working on three stories each month:  one to write, one to revise and offer for critiques, and one to revise after critiques and submit.

Whew!  That's going to be a lot of work.  Fortunately, I have a backlog of things that are nearly ready for submission, but I've already started on writing new stuff s that I'll have something to submit come April.

The biggest issue with this realization is that I'll need to start working a little faster.  It's very important that I continue to revise the novel, so I can't spend three quarters of the month concentrating on stories instead.  I've got my work cut out for me this year!

On a related note, I've decided to replace one of my 12 stories this year with a children's book.  It's an idea I recently came up with while my son was sick, and I think it could work really well.  Which means more learning this year too, mainly about how to write a picture book.  Whee!

How about you?  How do you handle balancing multiple projects?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Bad Luck

As you all know (I'm sure it's obvious from the title of my blog,) I primarily write science fiction.  However, I have not limited myself to this exclusively.  I have a mystery piece, a historical fiction piece, a zombie story, and a few mainstream stories in circulation.  I am also certain that I will write more deviations as time goes on.

Despite the fact that I like these stories-which-are-not-sci-fi, I dislike submitting them.  I am most familiar with the science fiction markets--of which there are quite a few--and I always feel out of my depth when trying to find a home for something else.  Some other genres like historical and, surprisingly, mystery, have fewer dedicated markets, meaning it's easy to run out of places to submit them (places that pay, anyway.)  I'm not sure which is worse, running out of markets quick or the random stabbing-out-in-the-dark submitting I do for my mainstream pieces.  There are just SO MANY general/mainstream/literary markets, and I'm not going to extensively read all of them to find homes for my few related pieces.  Suffice it to say, whenever one of my not-sci-fi stories comes back to me I give an internal groan before searching for markets.

I've had particularly bad luck with my historical fiction story.  I've been submitting it since April 2009 but it has only been to five markets.  The first gave a plain old rejection, the second said they liked it (but not enough to publish it,) and the third and fourth never responded.

Yep, two markets in a row gave me nothing but silence.  The first of these had it for about five months (2 longer than Duotrope's average) before I started querying.  After my queries went unanswered for a few weeks I gave it up and moved on.  The next market seemed promising and paid relatively well so I submitted there.  They claimed they would respond within a few months, but Duotrope put their average in the hundreds of days.  I forgot about that one for a while and focused on other things.

Eventually, though, I realized that they were taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r.  In addition, they had been "temporarily closed to submissions" for an insane length of time too (but not when I submitted--I know they were open when I submitted.)  Slowly the number of pending responses on Duotrope whittled down to two, and eventually, just me.  I queried them several times, to several places, and got nothing but stony silence.  Today I finally gave it up and resubmitted.

Certainly, other writers would have done this sooner.  If I had a greater amount of time to focus on writing-related activities, I might have given up sooner too.  The website is still active though, and they had a very slow response time anyway--so since this story has so few decent markets, I kept holding out hope.

I bring this up only because I realized, while getting this story ready to be resubbed, that between the two non-responsive markets, this story hasn't actually been considered by anyone since April of 2010.  That's almost two years ago.  How'd I end up with two sluggish, non-responsive markets in a row?

Well, this is (unfortunately) part of the writing industry.  Dust it off and send it back out.  That's exactly what I did.

Have you ever had something out for a long time only to have it be ignored?  How long have you let things linger for?

(I apologize if this post is disordered:  I can't get the theme song for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Hot Dog, Hot Dog, Hot Diggity Dog, both written for Disney by They Might Be Giants, out of my head--thanks to a certain three-year-old who wanted to listen to them fifty times today.  It's hard to write anything with those earworms in my head.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The End of Lazy Revisions

Back around Christmas, I finished entering all the hand-written edits I made during the first readthrough of my novel.  I celebrated having hit this milestone, but it was also somewhat sobering.  To be honest, I'd gotten into the habit of lazily looking at the hard copy, making mostly-simple text or wording changes, and looking for the next one.  It was actually a handy way to be writing during the holidays, when there was much business and chaos on all fronts--writing didn't have to add much stress of its own.

But now, well... now I can't be lazy anymore.  There are still a ton of things left to do with the novel (some that I recently noticed, some that are part of a huge to-do list that I made back when I wrote the first draft) not to mention all the stories I plan to write this year.  And none of them are as easy as making changes that were mostly already done, just not in the document.  In some ways that's frightening, as I still don't have a huge amount of time to myself without depriving myself of sleep.  In other ways though, it's rekindling my enthusiasm for my writing.  Being more active in my creating, even if it is the often-less-active revising stage, is just more fun (just like writing a story actively versus passively is more engaging for the reader.  Who knew?)  I've been spending more time writing, which means less time for other things (blogging for instance.  Or sorting through the digital mountain of photos I took on Christmas.)  It's been great, and (mostly) a lot of fun, although I've been feeling more pressed for time than I did before Christmas.  But then, when something takes, something else has to give.

Have you ever fallen into lazy writing ruts?  Do they help you recharge your batteries or pull you away from the more important parts of the craft?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I hate inventing technology

I suppose that may sound weird for a science fiction writer, but it's true.  Sometimes, anyway.  I don't always hate inventing technology.  Sometimes I come up with a really neat idea for a piece of technology and I just run with it (sometimes things I wish I had the ability to invent,) but when it comes to populating a story with environmentally-appropriate gizmos, I'm often at a bit of a loss.

This is particularly a problem because much of what I write takes place in the near future.  Technology (computers, tablets, e-readers, phones, etc) evolve SOOO frequently that I have a hard time finding a balance between what's familiar and what's realistic.  Thirty years from now, will we even still use the word "computer?"  As a more generic term it'll probably still be around, but the specific types we have:  desktop, PC, MAC, laptop, notebook, netbook, tablet...  They'll probably all be long gone.  By that token, I could make up any word I like for the gizmos my characters use, but if I use terms that nobody has ever heard of I then have to explain them.  Explaining that a Dooziedoo is a computer 1,000 times more powerful than anything we have today but it fits under your fingernail would be a complete infodump, taking the reader out of the story--at least if it's meant to just be background information that is only mentioned once or twice.  (Actually, fingernail computers could be fun.  But I wasn't planning on doing that...)  If I use more familiar terms the reader will be able to breeze past it easier, but it might make my society look old-fashioned.  I try to take logical leaps on where technology will go next, but thirty years ago, could anyone have guessed at the variety of gadgets we have today?

In some respects, writing technology that will exist a long way off in the future is easier than the things just coming around the bend.  The farther out we go, the less familiar we expect everything to be so we can just make everything up.  In the near future a lot of things will be the same, while others will be different.

Okay, so I don't always hate making up technology, but last night I decided I didn't like the name I'd used for a handheld computer in my novel, and it took me forever to come up with something better.  In fact, I'm still not sure I like what I came up with, but it will have to do for now.

How about you?  How do you handle advancing the future?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Kid Crafts - Christmas One More Time

Yes, it's more than a week after Christmas, but as we've not done any other crafts since then, and I didn't feel like blogging about it over the holidays...

We started crafts on Sunday, by decorating the cookies we baked.  My parents were over, and it soon became a family event. 
(It also took much longer than I expected, and I went through an entire bag of powdered sugar...) 
Zaxxon did a terrific job of keeping his hands out of his mouth--we didn't have to wash his hands once after we started! 
The Pampered Chef frosting thingies worked out great for little hands, too.  (I've had them for months, but this is the first time I've let him use them.)

On Monday, we started work on some train fridge magnets for Zaxxon to give to family.  We got one finished, at any rate, and knew how the rest would go together.  (Zaxxon LOVED the finished product and wanted to play with it all night.  Good thing it came in a package of 12 so we had more than we needed!)

On Tuesday we finished making the trains.  Zaxxon lasted longer than I had expected him to.  He helped me with the big red piece on every one, and then made it through four whole magnets before starting to play.  I sent him downstairs to watch Frosty the Snowman while I continued, and then he helped me finish up when the show was over.

We also made popsicle stick trees.  For the first time, I managed to get him to color something rather than just draw a line and/or scribble on it!  (We'll see if that ability can translate to pictures next time.)

I also let him use white glue (not a stick) by himself for the first time to decorate the tree.

The next day he stamped some wrapping paper for the magnets.  You can see the spots where he turned the ink pads over to stamp them directly too.

We used the foam scraps from the magnets to decorate a Christmas tree.  I hid the pieces throughout the living room and sent him out to find them.  He liked this so much, we had to make a wreath to decorate too.

Here I had him stringing beads on a pipe cleaner to make a candy cane.  He actually lasted for half the length of the pipe cleaner and only deviated from the red-white-red-white pattern once.  He did a lot more than I had anticipated.

Pretending to eat the finished product

We worked on some more candy canes the following day, some with larger beads.  He really seemed to like this project and requested more, even after he was obviously getting tired of it.

I had thought we were done with Christmas crafts, but on Christmas eve day hubby cut a bunch of paper into squares, gathered scissors, pinking shears, and craft punches together, and showed Zaxxon how to make paper snowflakes.

He seemed very happy that he'd come up with and orchestrated a craft all on his own.  It was cute.  I love my husband!

Tot School

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 Recap/2012 Goals

2011 doesn't feel like a year in which I did very much when it comes to writing.  There were a few notable landmarks along the way, certainly, but not much that really propelled my career forward.  Here they are in no particular order:
  • I finished the first draft of my first novel--although since the bulk of that was written in 2010 it isn't much of a 2011 accomplishment.
  • I had a baby!  (Nothing to do with writing, but it was a big event!)
  • Apart from my maternity leave, I wrote or edited on every day of the year.  This is definitely a good one, although I must admit that many days have only met a bare minimum requirement--still, it's something.
  • Hubby and I wrote a screenplay together which feels pretty solid, and I'm hoping something might come of that in the next year.
  • I received an Honorable Mention from the Writers of the Future contest for my story Child of the Sun.
  • The most exciting thing to happen was receiving a copy of an anthology with my published story, Night Terrors, inside--and although that was wonderful, it came from a story I sold in 2010.
Some other elements of 2011 look less jolly:
  • The other story I sold in 2010, Pandora's Time, never made it into book form as the press fell apart, and that story is back amongst the slush piles.
  • I made no new sales in 2011, so I still have only one credit.
  • I began getting my children's Christmas book ready to submit, only to completely ignore it come Kal'El's arrival.
  • From mid-May until November I made only one submission, meaning that many of my stories didn't have any chance of publication because no one was considering them
  • Although I worked on eight different short stories in some form or another, only two of them got finished and added to my canon of submissions
Some raw numbers:
  • Days on which I wrote:  322 (all year minus 43 days during my maternity leave)
  • Submissions:  25
  • Rejections:  20
  • Markets that never responded:  2
  • Critiques:  15
I had a good year in 2011, but in 2012 I want to step up my writing.  Kal'El has been around for long enough that we have a semblance of order in our lives.  The boys nap at the same time provided I wake up early enough in the morning to make sure Kal'El doesn't sleep late (you'd think this wouldn't be a problem but sometimes it is--and I'm usually so tired that if he doesn't wake me up, I want to sleep in a bit.)  I've discovered Google Reader, which greatly speeds up my blog browsing, and I've found a schedule that (mostly) works for writing and internet browsing.  I want to use that time wisely, and take solid steps toward making more sales.  I seem to work better when I have deadlines, so I will incorporate some of them into my year.  To that end, my goals for 2012 are:
  • Get the children's Christmas book submitted to publishers/agents.  I want to get this started soon.  I don't really know much about publication schedules yet, but I do know that if there is any hope of it being available by Christmas 2012 the process needs to start soon.  So my deadline is to begin submitting by the end of February.
  • Get my novel edited and offered up for critiques.  This is the one for which I'm not setting a deadline because I really have no idea how long it will take.  Much of it takes place near Kennedy Space Center and I will have the opportunity to visit this summer, so even if everything else is done by then I will probably make some tweaks once I've seen the layouts and the surrounding town.  Summer seems like a decent target, though I'm leaving this one open.
  • I want to see more progress on stories this year, so my last goal is to get one new story submitted every month.  This can be an old story that just needs a little push, one that needs revising, or something completely new, but by next year I want to say that I made 12 new story submissions.  Actually, I want to say I made 13, because I sent a new one yesterday--but I had hoped to get that done on Dec 31 so I'm not counting it as January's story.
I hope that this last goal, in addition to giving me much-needed deadlines, will also keep me from growing bored while editing my novel.  I don't know yet if I'll need to make a schedule (novel on weekdays and stories on weekends) or if I can just move as I feel motivated, but by switching between topics I hope to keep things fresh.

There are two more things that would be nice to see happen, but I'm not going to plan on them until I see how things pull together.  The first is, if I get my novel edited early enough, I'd like to start writing another one.  The second is I would like to start shopping the screenplay around and see if we can garner some interest.  I'll have to see when hubby wanted to get that done too, since he knows more about that business than I do and we have to work together on that.

So that's what I'm aiming for, and I hope to do better at these goals than I did 2011's.  How about you?  Are you happy with what you accomplished last year?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

December Stat Check

During the month of December, I wrote/edited on all 31 days.
Primarily I edited my novel, although I also worked on the first draft of a new story, read through and tweaked the screenplay hubby and I wrote together, and did final edits on an older story.
I made 3 submissions
I received 2 rejections
I took between 7 and 27 days to resub a story after receiving a rejection
I have 9 stories currently in slush pile circulation
I made 12 blog posts
I took no days off

Editing was slow and somewhat boring this month.  I have some plans for that, but I'll elaborate in my 2011 recap/2012 goals post (hopefully tomorrow.)  My progress in all areas was nothing to shout about, but it was acceptable.  Probably the biggest thing I accomplished was I think I've settled into something of a schedule that gives me more/better awake time in which to write.  If I can keep that up, my progress ought to improve.

Goals for January are to get a new story into submission circulation, make good progress in editing the novel, blog more about writing-related things (instead of primarily my kids, cute as they are,) and to get stories resubbed within a week of receiving rejections.  More on goals in my 2011/2012 post.

Happy 2012!