2023 Goal Update #1
It's been 4 months...
I write goal and goal update posts for transparency. Many writers don't want to share how much they are or are not writing, submitting, querying, etc. I strongly suggest you find yourelf a small writing group with goals similar to yours - whether it be short fiction or novels, indie publishing or traditional routes - because these groups will be more vocal about their goals, activities, and struggles than the average social media or blog writer.
I give an update after four (4) months because it's long enough for movement in some direction.
By the publication of this blog post, my goal was to submit thirty (30) stories to reach my goal of ninety (90) by the end of this year. As of today, I have submitted thirty-nine (39) stories. I'm quite ahead of my goal. This also means I've been a little lax in keeping my submission routine, well, routine. But I'm already nearly 1/3 of the way to my next update goal.
Giving this an On Course 🏃🏻♀️
Rejections and Acceptances
I have seven (7) submissions out at this time. I have one acceptance announced earlier this year. Manawalker Studios will be producing "Submerged" on their Flash Fiction Podcast! Earlier this week, I received another acceptance, which I'll announce after I have contract and information on announcement.
My goal is always 100% rejection because I win if I make my goal and I win if I don't because I'll have acceptances. Additionally, I'm a member of a group who sends rewards for rejection accruals in stickers. It's highly motivating to get stories submitted and rejections collected, which will also increase acceptances.
Giving this an On Course 🏃🏻♀️
Short Fiction Writing Goals
See the next section about what writing I have been doing, but my goal to write or polish a short story most weeks of 2023 is not going well. I've polished three (3) stories and either put them on a submission path or they appeared in my newsletter.
I've started another few stories, but my totals are nowhere near the seventeen (17) that a story-a-week would have gotten me.
Giving this a In the Weeds 🌿
I have requests out for the novel I queried April 2021 - December 2022, otherwise, I have CNR'd all remaining queries and basically trunked that novel pending any news on those requests. Rejection should come any day, good news could take five or eight or more months.
I finished revising a novel minutes before midnight on New Years Eve. I took a couple months to get and process feedback, and sent the full request I had from pitching the novel. Other than that, I'm not quite ready to dive into the query trenches with it. Should all of the above come back rejected, then I'll begin querying this novel, a YA SF tragedy, in earnest. I've started a query list and have my letter ready. But I have no firm goals other than wait until I hear back.
Here's hoping it's good news back well before my update at the end of August.
Why didn't I get my short fiction goals met? Well, I spent January and February writing about 22.8k words in a backburner novel I hadn't opened since August of 2020. At first it was more in that novel, and then a whole new set of characters came and I thought I was writing a short story I could pull out of the backburner novel. But, nope. Not sure what I'm going to do with that 22.8k right now. Let it sit for about six months and then look at it again. The last thing I need is another novelette or novella to find a home for.
On April 8, I woke up and came up with a novel idea. Normally, novels require some marinating. However, I wrote a general idea of it in my ideas spreadsheet and 100 words on a piece of paper while out at dinner with my family. The next day, I woke up and wrote about 4k words. I started my draft the way I've always drafted, in a Word doc. But I've been testing out a Mac after a decade of using Windows and I decided to see how drafting in Scrivener is. On April 10, I moved everything into Scrivener and all my words have been going into this new novel.
As of this update, I have 31k written in this novel. When I started 2023, I had no idea I had any expansions or new novels in me. I had a lot of ideas marinating. One of the oft-given pieces of advice while querying is to "Write the Wait" in whatever form you can. I'd expected to write short fiction, instead I've gotten another novel going - another novel that should be query-able if I finish it per my word count goal, 850 words per day for about 85k total, give it time to rest, feedback, revisions, in about a year.
For my novel writing update in August, I should have an update on revision status on that 22.8k and if I'm going to pull it out and work on another too long to sell story, and I should have an update on if and when I finished drafting this novel. It will be in the middle of my "let it rest" phase.
Unexpected Goals Achieved!
In the crumbling of Twitter, some of the writers I follow and admire suggested joining Codex as a way to find the community we were losing. So I applied and qualified! That's pretty cool. I haven't even introduced myself over there yet, but I look forward to being more active in that community.
A Word on Social Media
In short, I'm taking a break.
In September 2019, I stumbled off all social media. It wasn't a planned act. I just stopped visiting any of my social media sites and stopped playing online/mobile games. Instead, I started writing. It was amazing how much time freed up when I stopped looking at or trying to post on social media.
In about February of 2020, I went back on - to find beta readers. In August 2020, I started up pages dedicated to my author account because we supposedly need social media following to get published.
It had been a glorious 5-6 months off of social media.
Last month, after trying to extract myself from Facebook since 2019 and always having something that was keeping me there, I deactivated my account. My author page may still be sitting there. I have no idea. I can't post to it and I'm not trying to be on there. I tried briefly to be on Instagram and, it's too much. I used it and then had some life stuff happen that makes IG nearly unbearable for me to use.
I'm disappointed Twitter has not died completely yet. I did all the things to remove myself back in November and have been mostly using Buffer to post. However, publishing, both short and novel-length fiction, still operatores significantly on Twitter. The first week of April or so, I spent almost all my personal Twitter bandwidth participating in Moodpitch events.
As I write this, I'm debating even bothering continuing to post daily short story recs. Tweets linking off of Twitter are basically hidden by the algorithm at this point. So while it used to be helpful to short story markets and authors to post on Twitter, it isn't currently helpful.
I also barely get any interest in my daily short story posts on Mastodon or Tumblr. I was thinking I might finish out April, but those posts are probably dead in the water as of last weekend.
I will probably finish the April #WritingWonders prompts and #Writephant on Mastodon. I am having fun with those.
Unless something happens that requires my attention or to be on a specific social media account, I think I'll be mostly off socials in May. I have a lot of personal stuff I need to do in May. I also need to refocus on writing. Not having distractions will help. Of course, what I need may change in the next few weeks, but this is the plan for now.
We'll see what happens with TikTok. Videos are fun for me. I've been doing videos since high school (no, cell phones weren't a thing when I was in high school - only rich adults had car phones when I was in high school.) I might make some videos and post them because it is fun for me to do so.
So you'll see that what's fun and entertaining has a lot to do with what I'll keep. And the things that suck up my attention and energy need to be dropped for a bit so that I can refill my energy and well for writing.
Discord is also an exception. It doesn't feel like social media. If you want to chat with me even from today, I highly recommend finding a Writing Discord group that I'm also in. Send me a message through my contact form or email and I'm happy to direct you to some of them.
Discord is where my main writing community and friends are. Even so, I will likely pull back and mute a bunch of servers to narrow my distractions.
Writing Advice and Feedback #4
How to get or give good feedback
I have gotten absolutely horrendous feedback on my work. Often it's the format rather than the form. My goal in today's post is to give a few "what not to do when giving feedback" and also give some tips on how to get good feedback. Tips I probably could have used years and years ago.
Dos and Do nots
Everyone gets bad feedback. Everyone needs time to process feedback. However, some feedback is worse than others.
Do not give a 1* review thinking you are somehow giving helpful, actionable feedback. Yes, I received a feedback on an early work of mine that was essentially a 1-star review. She didn't like it. Okay, that's where she should have stopped. There was nothing helpful in her comments. The rest was just degrading.
My mistakes as a writer seeking feedback here were that I didn't have readers yet. I was looking for anyone to give me some feedback. When one of my readers said her friend wanted to read it, I jumped at the chance for another reader.
Be honest and be positive. These were going to be two different points, but thanks to Darren Groth, they are linked as a single tip for me. I really feel badly for people who think honesty is brutal. Honesty is not brutal. I once received a critique on my query package from another writer. Every single sentence had a negative comment. By the way, this query package had over twenty other writers go through it already. She had the polished and final package. The most "positive" comment she gave was that she also liked one of my comps. If there was a single helpful thing in that deluge of negativity, I couldn't find it. I knew enough to throw that entire critique away after reading through it, giving it a week, and reading through it again.
Give feedback in a way that the writer will be able to access. Before even agreeing to read and give feedback or accept feedback, you should have an agreed upon way in which feedback will be given. This honestly has been how I've always done feedback and how most people discussing feedback will approach it. But sometimes it still needs to be reiterated. This stems from two situations I've been in.
One in which there was an agreed way in which feedback was to be given. This person broke the rules of the group and unfortunately because the feedback itself broke another of my tips, it was disheartening in the least.
Another person insisted on calling me instead of writing anything down. She proceeded to yell at me for five minutes when she called me without much notice and then hung up on me because she "had another phone call she had to take." I literally could not process her feedback at all. It was a waste of both of our times, and also extremely hurtful for me.
Give feedback at the level of reader and friendship you have.
I had one reader, a new beta reader, who gave me homework, an entire craft book to read in order to receive her feedback because she frames all her writing feedback for particular advice from that book. I'm all for reading craft books. But requiring a writer to read a specific one to get your feedback means you are assessing above what your reading relationship is meant to be. Especially if you are a new beta reader for them. Work your way up to CP before assigning homework.
I had another reader who left comments all the way through that were "reaction comments." To be fair, reaction comments are awesome and often super helpful. However, if your reactions are negative and slightly nasty, maybe in a tone that you talk to your very good friends in, and you aren't reading for a very good friend or someone you have even read for before, maybe tone down your reaction comments or try to keep them framed positively. (I did ask someone else to read through those comments to make sure I wasn't being too sensitive and she said wouldn't accept comments like that from her CPs and BFFs let alone someone she doesn't have an established relationship with.)
Bad Feedback Advice
Related, some writers will tell you that you "have to learn" to take feedback like what I've outlined above. No, you don't! You only need to learn to throw it out and never discuss your writing with that person again.
I have been told as an ND person my entire life that I need to grow thicker skin. You know what? That's not how my brain works no matter how much others want to belittle and bully me and just have me take it. I'm not their punching bag. Everyone has a different line for what is not approrpriate. But "oversensitive" has long been applied in a derogatory way to ND people, and I am who I am. So, those who feel like writers are egotistical snowflakes who can't take criticism? Maybe you are just being mean and not actually being critical in a manner that is remotely helpful and actionable. Yes, there are writers who are ovelry precious about their work. But make sure that's what's actually going on.
All of the above examples I showed to people who have thicker skin than I and they all agreed those were way over any sort of line of acceptable feedback to give or receive.
The through-line you might have caught above is that I threw away the entire set of feedback when someone gave me feedback in the form of a 1* review, a way that was completely inaccessible to me, 100% negative, or just inappropriate. Because they went so far into a place that I couldn't pick out even a single helpful or actionable item from it. And I never will be. There might have been something helpful embedded in all those tangled thorns, but I don't need to bloody myself trying to get it.
You and I can both get constructive feedback, positive and honest feedback, that is useful.
I have read fifteen (15) books this year so far. It puts me 63% of the way towards my goal of 24 books read. I'd chosen 24 books because I didn't want to tempt another reading slump by setting goals too high despite a strong end to my 2022 reading year.
A lesson I learned some time ago, I apply to both writing and reading: Do not move the goal posts. So, I'm hoping I finish well above my goal this year and can make a better goal next year.
So What Did I Read?
My "Moods" can easily be explained by the next few graphs - Fiction/Non-fiction and Genre. In effect, "informative" is because I've read a bunch of non-fiction this quarter, especially craft books and some books to learn other new skills. "Adventurous" and "dark" are because I primarily read SFF. The rest happen to be sprinkled in.
I've stuck with mostly medium-paced books, but every-so-often, I sneak in a fast or slow paced book.
Best Books of the Year - So Far
I've got three (3) books that I've thoroughly enjoyed this year.
I read Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, Narrated by Moira Quirk in January. I adore Quirk's narration. If I didn't have a group who chatted about The Locked Tomb series, I would have been a lot more confused and maybe not enjoyed it as much. I can't wait to re-read Gideon, Harrow, and Nona in preparation for Alecto.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros has been on my physical Mt. TBR for many years. I read the audiobook in March, narrated by the author. I said it before, hearing an author read their own work is powerful, especially in audiobook production. This book I wish I'd read back in the '80s when it came out. It would have meant so much to me then and would have definitely made a favorites list then.
The craft book I will whole-heartedly recommend is Never Say You Can't Survive by Charlie Jane Anders. She starts out big picture and hones down to sentence-level craft. Excellently explained, written, and read.
Other Reading Challenges
I only read one book a week-ish. Despite managing to add a second book to the Trans Rights Readathon, I didn't complete it within the March 20 - 27th window, so only one book was counted. I would never have been able to complete three books in a week. Even at my most-read year of over 100 books in 2019, I didn't get through three books in a week.
I've read three (3) books by Black Authors in 2023. I do not expect to read 20 books by Black authors in 2023. If I read only 24 books (my goal), I will likely read books by authors that fit my other challenges and may not be black. But this does hold me accountable to keeping my reading of books by Black authors high.
I've read books that filled ten (10) prompts out of the thirty-one (31) for the Decolonize Your Bookshelf Reading Challenge 2023. I do not expect to read books that fulfill all 31 prompts. Again, my goal is 24 books. Some books are pulling double or triple-duty. But I don't count on that. Plus, I'm subject to when books become avaialble for reading. I hope to get at least 2/3 of the prompts completed.
And on it goes!
My next reflection should happen in about three (3) more months. By goals, I'll read six (6) books. But if my current pace keeps up, I'll have fifteen (15) more to tell you about and six (6) months worth of data to show off from StoryGraph.
Short Fiction Round-Up #73
In March, I suggested eighteen (18) stories. I took the last week of March off from story suggestions due to various and sundry life stuff. Nothing major. Just enough to keep me from getting stories out via social media.
I also removed my personal Facebook page which also removed my ability to post to my author Facebook page. Right now, you can only get my suggested stories and announcement via my Newsletter, here at my blog, on Twitter (yes, still), Mastodon, and Tumblr.
ZNB Presents published:
The Smell of Sawdust by P.A. Cornell in March
Eugie and the Last Angel by A. Katherine Black in February
It's the End of the World (As We Know It) by Crystal Sarakas in 2022
Cossmass Infinities published Carrying Stones by Avi Burton in February
We Died Sleeping by Andrew Kozma was published by ergot
Cat Rambo published an Untitled Poem from Seven Years Ago (in 2022) on their patreon
I hope you enjoy these stories, mostly from this year. See you on the next first Monday of the month for another short fiction round-up.
Writer of spec fic.