Advice on Writing and a YTD Self-Assessment, in Honor of NaNoWriMo

Writing Fuel

Sugar: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner of writing champions everywhere. (!Eek!)

It’s Friday. You know that that means. Time to retreat into your shell and hope school is back in session soon. Er, no. I mean, time to pile up those leaves and disappear into their crunchy kingdom–forever! [Insert Vincent Price “Thriller” laughter here, as appropriate.]

Only kidding.

In honor of NaNoWriMo, Six Word Memoirs/SMITH magazine (no relation) held an “advice on writing” 6-word special that ended, oh, about an hour ago.

But there’s absolutely no reason the party show that is freelance writing shouldn’t go on. Perpetually. (Thank you for the memories, Mr. Bulsara/Mercury.)

I penned some writing advice earlier in the week. See what you think; share your own; laugh; enjoy. Repeat tomorrow.

1. Sit down, shut mouth, shine on.
2. Sit down, shut off, shine down.
3. Shut mouth. Open mind. Listen. Write.
4. The 3 R’s: Re-Create, Revise, Re-Submit.
5. Reduce adjectives, repurpose words, recycle mind-matter.
6. Plant butt. Cultivate creativity. Repeat daily.
7. Live. Love. Laugh. Think. Sit. Write.


And now, for something not so completely different. A brief YTD note/assessment on the state of my writing endeavors, in case you’re curious. This way, you can see I’m entirely worthy of dispensing said writing advice (snark mode engaged).

Anyway, just this year, I started keeping an Excel file so that I could see submissions in an orderly fashion, as well as the results. It appeals to the “statistician” inside my noggin.

Yearly Manuscript Run-Down

  • Writing submissions (includes anthologies, contests, and magazines; some print, some online, some both; includes many genres, but usually either literary fiction or speculative fiction): YEAR-TO-DATE, from March 2015 through November 6, 2015: 25 submissions
  • REJECTIONS (or, how I learned to stop worrying and just love the times I bomb): 18
  • OUTSTANDING MSS: Keep in mind that a few of these were submitted in the last week: 7
  • UNKNOWN: A subnote. One of the 7 outstanding manuscripts, I’m not sure if I’ll ever hear back from, as the publisher seems to be defunct (although I’ve never seen it as such on Duotrope).

I could break down the rejections further. There have been a handful that have offered some critique to me other than the catch-all “does not fit what we are looking for.” But I think it’s fruitful to look back on these things as we drive forward, regardless of whether we’re involved in NaNoWriMo or not. (This year, I have opted out of the festivities, as it were.) Not as a discouragement kind of thing, but rather an honest self-assessment and noticing any areas that are in obvious need of improvement.

But that’s my spiel. What about y’all: any writing advice? Doing NaNoWriMo? Enjoying your November? But, most crucially, if you’re him and he’s him and he’s him and you’re him, am I still me . . . and is anyone eating this chicken? πŸ™‚


27 thoughts on “Advice on Writing and a YTD Self-Assessment, in Honor of NaNoWriMo

  1. I’m eating the chicken – yogurt marinated, roasted. But that’s later. Regarding rejections, I haven’t received one in two weeks (which means I’m due). πŸ™‚

    • Indian? Yum, either way. Yes, I look at it as if I’m obliterating the old submissions with new ones, replacing them, sloughing them off. Cheers to us both, although I’ve seen your post about Hermeneutic Chaos (apologies if I’ve misspelled). Another “yay, Bob” headed southward from me. πŸ™‚

  2. That’s very organised of you! I tend to believe I can keep everything in my head and then I forget it all.
    Good luck with the outstanding manuscripts.

  3. I started a spreadsheet, too. Rather than feeling like my writing was always rejected, I needed the affirmation that I was right. One of these days I might be wrong, but that requires writing, which has really not happened this year. Maybe next year πŸ™‚ I think the best advice is to just keep writing.

    • I’m not sure how involved my Excel sheet is; I feel it should be even more robust, but it’s got so many cells now, running off the side of the page (etc.). Plus, I’m not really adept at using Excel.

  4. This chicken looks tempting but is difficult to eat, is what I think. By the looks of it, I had it on my plate this year but I rather thought of enjoying this November also.
    Maintaining an excel sounds like a good and a wise thing to do, Leigh. I would like to ask, how many do you participate in?

    • I’ll look at my file later, Norma, but of the 25, at least two are repeats (that is to say, I submitted more than 1 manuscript to the same publisher or magazine/market). Is that what you were wondering or like how many are actual “contest”s or “competition”s rather than an anthology submission or regular submission in the reading cycle?

      • Thanks for answering Leigh. That’s quite a good number. I just wanted to know (purely for the sake of my curiosity).
        You might be writing a lot.

      • It kind of balances out, Norma. For instance, it didn’t start til March, but I submitted only 1 ms. in March, none in April, I think 1 in May, and then some months–when the kids were in school–I got up to 4 or 7 submitted (sometimes, they were ‘only’ drabbles, so they were short). Yeah, I find keeping some kind of running record of the writing progress helpful; also, with so many different manuscripts in play, I don’t want to submit the same thing to the same publisher twice (ugh! they would not like me for sure then). Thanks again for reading!

      • Actually, I think, I’ll be able to squeeze some (current) time for writing and submission of stories so just wanted to ask how to go about it. But this is really helpful Leigh. Now I think I can set in the right direction with some helpful tips of yours. Thanks again, Leigh. πŸ™‚ I was thinking of maintaining a file along with excel.

      • I’m glad to have helped in my own small way, Norma. I’m not an expert (yet!) on the freelance writing submission process (or being published as a FL writer, for that matter), but I’d be more than happy to answer any other questions if I can. at wordsmithery(dot)email@gmail(dot)com [so the spam bots don’t hit me; you have to replace the words in parentheses with the symbols] I think it’s also probably good for international authors, but I highly recommend a Duotrope subscription as well. It costs me $5/month, and every single week I get dozens of listings of writing markets (of all genres, with their theme, deadline, etc.; this comes in a weekly email, usually Sundays for me); you can also access their Web site and check out markets (from their acceptance rate, to genres, to average wait time on hearing back from them to the occasional interview–each week, they do between 1 and 4 new ones with an editor/manager of a contest or market). Duotrope also offers a way to track your manuscripts, but I haven’t used that function yet. I prefer my Excel files for now. Best wishes for future successes, Norma!

      • Thank you so much Leigh with the helpful tips and your email address. Right now still doing a lot of reading and research work but would definitely trouble you if need some guidance related to writing.You’ve always been so supportive and encouraging. πŸ™‚
        Thanks for your good wishes Leigh. Wish you too have all the success in your future endeavors. πŸ™‚
        Happy writing…till then….:D

  5. I love the fact that you use an Excel file to keep track of things. I do the same with my drafts, revisions and edits. It would be difficult for me to do anything different otherwise. Besides, with an excel file, I can pivot the results into something more manageable!

    • I had a feeling you were very precise and workmanlike with every part of your writing process, Jack! I only have to get ‘better’ with Excel now. It has already saved me many a submitting gaffe, so I’m really happy with it. Still, the creature of habit in me likes to write down some deadlines and such, too.

      • Thanks, Leigh! Yes, I do treat writing like a job. I clock in, clock out, keep track of my hours, and my writing progress. I’m project-obsessed where I plan the whole project timeline, where I’m supposed to be, where I am, and how much longer do I have to write the first draft before beginning the second, third, and the final fourth drafts. Excel really makes it all possible!

        Hurray for deadlines!

  6. I haven’t received any rejection because I haven’t sent out any submissions. Not being a coward here, because in the near future I will be at the mercy of reviewers and any that result in 3-stars and under will seem like rejections. I’ve entered a few competitions but none of them have been judged yet. Not getting shortlisted is a sort of rejection, but not as bad. Can’t compare the odds between winning a competition or finding a publisher, and I know that doing the former does not necessarily improve your chances with the latter.
    By the way, I was once madly in love with Freddie Mercury. Just as well I didn’t learn he was gay until later, as I would have been quite heartbroken, since I wanted to marry him when I grew up!

    • Cool story, Sarah. My childhood music crush was Daryl Hall (of Hall and Oates, if you’re not familiar). As to publishing, yeah, it seems like–to go to Queen–it’s a bit of a game. That is to say, although there’s some skill involved, it often seems more down to luck than anything. I like having a lot of irons in the fire, which shorter fiction allows me to do, and my hypothesis is that writing short will help me refine and improve my ‘chops’ for the longer works that I intend to write. BTW, did you ever find out the answer to your laboratory in the 1960s question (i.e., what might have been refrigerated/frozen)? I don’t get over to FB often but saw your question. I can do some research if you’d like. It’s holiday week here, but I’ve some help from relatives (and kids are in school for a couple days, at least). Anyway, long comment from me . . . hope all is going well!

      • I agree, Leigh, that writing shorts is very good discipline and lays down an excellent foundation for longer pieces later. When I have time, I still really enjoy writing flash fiction and think it has made me more mindful of wordiness.

        Re the 1960’s school lab question, one member of the FB group, who’s a marine biologist, said it was definitely the case that freezing was used in the 1980’s for the purpose I described. If you could come up with a definitive answer as to whether this was the case in the 1960’s, too, that would be really helpful, although obviously I hope it will be a confirmation of the fact, because I’d prefer not to rewrite a whole scene of my novel at this stage D:
        PS I don’t think you answered my question (unless I missed the reply) about whether you wanted me to call you Leigh W. Smith on my acknowledgments page, or spell out your middle name. I’m sure that somewhere I saw it written with the middle and last name hyphenated. Maybe not. I have a bit of an obsession with hyphens that I’m trying hard to quell!

        Enjoy your holiday week πŸ™‚

      • Leigh Ward-Smith is fine as my ‘official’ name; thanks for asking! I’ll do some checking and see if I can come up with good source(s) on 1960s science classes. Thanks, Sarah. Hope all is well there, at seaside!

  7. Oh, yes, Excel’s invaluable. I basically have three categories: no answer, standard rejection and nice rejection. Sometimes, if I look hard, I can find a reason to move an answer from category two to three. Makes me feel better.

    • That sounds like an excellent idea as far as stratifying the rejections! I have a “miscellaneous” cell I use to list any particulars–for example, if I get something beyond a boilerplate “this doesn’t fit what we’re looking for” rejection. Thank you so much for stopping by and taking time to comment.

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