The Planner Experiment: The last days of April

April final pages

Here we are at the final days of April. Since the month ends on a Tuesday, I went ahead and added the last couple days. For these pages, I decided to take a look at Submittable and look at journals with deadlines at the end of April and beginning of May that do not charge reading fees.

The pages

Since this month was National/Global poetry writing month, I feel inspired to add an equal focus toward poetry submission. Though I did not manage two poems a day (one for publication here and one to submit), I did write a few poems to start submitting. This equal focus idea may only change the pages on the monthly overview pages. I’m not sure yet.

I’m also taking another look at contests. I just got the May/June issue of Poets & Writers and the cover story is about submitting to Writing Contests. I came in sixth overall in the Writer’s Games and the work I produced was exciting for me. I think I may be ready to explore contests more thoroughly. As with reading periods, I will attempt to focus on when contests open and not on the deadlines to avoid procrastination.

2019 April Week Four to end

What other issues are coming up for you? What would you like me to change in the daily planner pages? What parts are you using and which aren’t useful? Do you like filling out the pages in your word processor, or do you like to print them out and fill them out by hand?

Thanks for playing along. I look forward to hearing your suggestions!

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The Planner Pages: Changing course

March week three pages

The Experiment

This month is flying by and I have very few submissions to show for it. My main issue is trying to read enough of each journal to get a feel for it and then when I’ve spent so much time reading the journal, I decide I don’t have a story that fits.

I’ve been debating if I want to continue to list deadlines, or reading period openings and I have officially switched to openings. This week, I finally convinced myself to submit to a magazine only to find they had closed submissions early due to too many submissions. I’m seeing more and more that journals that use submittable will only take a certain number of submissions per month due to costs which makes their deadlines indecipherable. I am also finding that I procrastinate, so deadlines are not really helping me plan ahead. It makes more sense, for all these reasons, to start looking at journals by when their reading period opens. So, after this week, I’m changing course.

This means I will have to redo all of the pages from this quarter for next year, but it was all an experiment, so I’m glad I’ve come to this decision now instead of in the fall.

Reading Discoveries

Though I have hit a slump in my submitting, I have made some fun discoveries through continuing the experiment. After reading an interview with the editor of Hinnom Magazine, I picked up a copy of The Nameless Dark: A Collectionby T. E. Grau. The first story, “Tubby’s Big Swim” is thoroughly entertaining.

In Blackbird I enjoyed Miniature Man by Carrie Brown and was excited to read This Is The Age of Beautiful Death by John Dufresne. I have read and enjoyed John Dufresne‘s books on writing and recommend them often. It was fun to recognize an author I admire as I was reading through the magazines.

In Shenandoah, I enjoyed Tender by Shruti Swamy.

I hope you’ll make some time to treat yourself to these great stories.

The Pages

Here are this week’s daily planning pages with new writing prompts and magazine information: 2019 Planner March Week Three

I hope you are finding the daily planning pages helpful, informative, and motivational. What do you think of the writing prompts I’m making up? Have you tried any of them? How are your submissions going? Do you think you’ll reach 100 rejections this year?

Happy Reading, Writing, Planning and Submitting!

The Planner Experiment: Here Comes March

Here Comes March

I apologize for not getting this out yesterday as I intended, but I did get my story off to 3 Elements Review, so I’ll call that a win.

The Experiment So Far

So far, this experiment is doing exactly what I hoped it would do. I am aware of deadlines ahead of time and able to plan ahead for more opportunities and not feel caught off guard. I am becoming more familiar with hundreds of literary magazines both in print and online. I recognize the titles listed in other writers’ bios. I’m reading tons of short stories, poems and flash fiction and beginning to recognize the work of writers who are published often. It took the whole month for me to start using all of the elements of the daily pages. I was very concentrated on the submissions section at first. I was beginning to wonder if I needed the hourly table, but now that I’m using it, I think it is necessary. Thus, for my own purposes, this experiment is a smashing success so far.

The other aspect of the experiment which is to get feedback from you, my readers and use your feedback to make the daily pages better each week is not as successful. I have received some positive feedback on the design. Thank you. I hope as you use the pages, you will begin to let me know how to improve the pages for you.

Here is my February in review.

February goals met:

I submitted stories to literary magazines

I submitted poetry to literary magazines

I wrote and submitted new stories

I read a lot of short stories

I became familiar with many literary magazines

February goals not met:

The number of submissions was much lower than my goal, but still higher than every year’s submissions in the past. I hope to increase the amount of submissions each month.

The Numbers

Journal Submissions: 15

Other Submissions: 1 grant application, signed up for the writers games

Rejections: 5

Stories Written: 4- 1 short story, 1 flash, 2 micro

Books read: 10

novels 2

short story collections 3

poetry collections 3

craft books 2

short stories in literary magazines: did not keep track

Lessons Learned: a couple of the rejections I received said the work I sent wasn’t a good fit. Getting to know the journal better is the priority, not the deadline. If I really want to submit to a magazine with a deadline I may miss, it’s okay. I can submit next year, or during their next reading period.

Keeping Track Of Your Submissions

As you increase your story submissions, you will have stories submitted to multiple magazines at once. It is very important to track your submissions in a clear and organized way. When one of your stories is accepted for publication, you need to immediately withdraw that story from the other journals you submitted it to.

Create your own submissions tracker: I create tables in OneNote (microsoft office). I have a table for my stories and one for my poems My table has columns for the date of submission, name of the journal, name of the story, date of response, response and notes. I update it every time I submit or hear back from a magazine.

As my list of submissions grows, I may transfer this information to a Spreadsheet, so I can organize the data by story, or date, or response, etc. as needed.

Submittable

These days more and more journals are using the online submission portal Submittable for all of their submissions. Submittable automatically keeps track of all of your submissions through their portal. You can also save upcoming submissions that interest you.

Other Online options

Duotrope

Writers DB

Writer’s Digest Downloadable Spreadsheets

Sonar 3 free download

Triple Tracking Method from Writers Write

Here Comes March

This month is going to be hectic for me. I signed up for the Writers Games, so I will be writing a story a week to fulfill the challenges. I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into, but it should be fun and rewarding. Expect to hear a lot about the Writers Games this month.

One thing I didn’t do last month was keep track of all of the short stories I read in literary magazines. At the end of February, I designed a story analysis sheet that I plan to fill out for each story I read. I should have a lot of data about stories and the magazines that publish them by the end of this month.

New Goals

My main goal for March is to write great short stories. Toward that end I will experiment with my story analysis worksheet, at least three stories every day, and look for  ways to improve my stories toward publication.

The Deadlines:

I’m playing around with a mix of deadlines and reading period openings. Which would you rather see in the month’s deadlines section? Deadlines coming in that month, or future deadlines you can plan for, reading period openings?

The Daily Pages

Please download the month overview pages and these first few pages of March:

2019 Planner March opening pages

I look forward to your feedback. I’ll post a week of pages on Sunday.

Reading

I have a stack of books on hold at the library that I’m going to pick up today. On Sunday, when I present the week’s planner pages, I will let you know about my reading goals for March.

Happy Reading, Writing, Planning and Submitting!

 

 

The Planner Project: Final Days of February

Feb final pages

Here we are at the end of the first full month of planner pages and looking toward the month of March. For these last few pages, I decided to try a background. I used a section of a painting I did for my niece for Christmas. I lightened it and set it as a graphic background in page format. What do you think? Is it too much? Do you like the white page better?

2019 Planner February Week Four

Please download the free planner pages and let me know what you think. Each page is full of valuable information and planning ideas. I look forward to your feedback, so I can implement your suggestions.

We still have five days left for you to submit. Here are the February and March 1st deadlines:

  • 3 Elements Review       2/28
  • New Myths                     2/28
  • Hinnom                          2/28
  • Black Heart Magazine 2/28
  • Crab Creek Review       2/28
  • Ninth Letter                   2/28
  • THEMA                             3/1
  • Gulf Coast                        3/1
  • The Idaho Review          3/1
  • Upstreet                            3/1
  • Copper Nickel                  3/1
  • The Cincinnati Review  3/1

Look at all those opportunities to find homes for your stories.

If you are new to The Planner Project, information about each of these literary magazines, including who the editors are, the reading dates, and whether they pay and take simultaneous submissions is available on the daily planner pages I’m designing. If you are interested in downloading the pages for free you can learn more about the project and find the pages in my previous posts:

See into the future: no more missed opportunities

Realistic Goal Setting vs. Creative Chaos

The Deadlines: Collecting and Organizing

Here Comes February- the first week of planner pages

Fantasy, Horror and Sci-Fi, Oh my! (week two)

The Planner Experiment: February week three planner pages

I hope you’ll join in my experiment to design a daily planner that helps writers get ahead of the game when it comes to submitting their stories and poetry for publication.

Next Steps

One of the tools I liked from Write Your Book in a Flash: The Paint-by-Numbers System to Write the Book of Your Dreams—FAST! by Dan Janal (my book review) was using charts, graphs and other info-graphics. I was excited to find them available in open office, but have yet to figure out how to put them in my design (so far, they don’t like to share the page). That’s something I’ll be playing around with in March. Since I feel like the magazine descriptions need the most improvement, maybe I can come up with a bar chart that gives you quick info about each magazine.

Toward this end, Julie Reeser of patreon/abetterjulie, inspired me again. She invited readers to follow her on patreon as she reads and analyzes 300 published short stories to get a better understanding of what magazines are publishing. As I am also reading in hopes to understand what each literary magazine is looking for and publishing, I tried to come up with how I could analyze the stories I’m reading to come up with the information I’m looking for.

Using some of the ideas from The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby, which I am thoroughly enjoying, and other story analysis ideas, I created a one-sheet form, mostly of check-able boxes to fill out as I read. Hopefully, as I read a number of stories from one magazine, I will accumulate data that may eventually be worked into a bar graph of useful information about what that magazine publishes. I’ll be working with and fine tuning this story analysis sheet over the next month or so. If I think it’s useful for our purposes, I’ll share it with you and perhaps add it to the front-matter, or appendix of the planner.

In my continuing quest to be a consistent blogger, I will be posting on Sundays and Thursdays for the foreseeable future. Look for the February wrap-up and new pages for March this Thursday. I hope you are enjoying this experiment as much as I am and I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Reading, Writing, Planning and Submitting!

Top 10 Reasons To Go To A Writers Conference

I recently attended the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference (PNWA18). I had a great experience. Here are my top ten reasons to attend a writers conference:

Cover Writing the Breakout Novel10. Autographs – At PNWA authors can buy a table in the “bookstore” to sell their books. There is an autograph party where you can meet the authors and ask them to sign their books. The week before the conference, a member of my critique group gave me a copy of Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider Advice for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level by Donald Maass. He didn’t know Mr. Maass would be at the conference, he just gave me the book out of the blue. I took itMaass Signature with me and was happy to see Donald Maass signing at the autograph party.

9. The speaker – This year’s speaker was R. L. Stine. His speech was funny and informative. He started off by reading letters he had received from children and followed up with some great advice. He said to always say yes to everything. He probably meant within reason, but I’ll leave that up to you. After his speech, he did a book signing. My friend Stevie was so excited to get her childhood Goosebumps book signed. It was a choose your own adventure about a mummy. I didn’t know he had done choose your own adventures. Mr. Stine was very kind and let people come behind the table for pictures.

8. Author panel – During one of the desserts, Robert Dugoni lead a hotseat style question and answer session with Donald Maass, Julia Quinn, Cat Rambo, and Christopher Vogler. They talked about how they got started and their careers. Mr. Dugoni did a great job of keeping it fun and lively.

7. Pitch fest pitch practice – This is a great opportunity at the beginning of the conference to meet other writers and hear about the stories they’ve written. Each round table has a coach to give feedback on your pitch, so it will be ready when you get your chance with the agents and editors.

Cover Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell6. Question and Answer sessions in your genre – This is a great opportunity to hear agents and authors talk about working in your genre. I volunteered to moderate the literary fiction section. The three agents who were looking for literary fiction talked about how they find and work with their authors, their favorite recent titles and gave great insider information about the literary journals they read when looking for new talent. Hint: Start reading Tin House.

5. Classes – One of the reasons writers really like the PNWA conference is that it focuses on the craft of writing. There are many great sessions to choose from. I got a lot out of “A Novel in Four Drafts” presented by Lindsay Schopfer and “Words Matter. Writing the Literary Novel” with Robert Dugoni.Dugoni signature

4. The agent and editor panels – This is a very important part of the conference. Finding the agents and editors most interested in stories like yours will help you make a successful pitch. It’s important to research the agents and editors before going to the conference, but even when you’ve done your homework, hearing the agents talk about what they’re looking for specifically gives you a much clearer picture if they will be a good fit for your work.

3. Pitching to agents and editors – Here’s the actual professional work of going to the conference, pitching your novel. If your manuscript is complete and polished, or you will have it polished by next year’s conference, I recommend buying the early-bird tickets as soon as they become available. The ticket is less expensive and comes with two pitch blocks. I think it’s important to have two pitch blocks because there is less pressure and if things do not go well in the first block, you can adjust your pitch and try again. Make sure your pitch is about 90 seconds long so there is time for questions. Include a quick description of your main character, the inciting incident and the crisis of your story, but don’t give away the ending.

2. Inspiration / Filling the well – Writing can be a very isolating and introspective vocation. Spending time with writers at every stage of their careers, listening to their personal stories and the stories they’ve written, and going to the sessions all help to get your creative juices flowing. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron calls this “filling the well.”

And the most important reason to go to a writers conference is . . .

1. Relationships with fellow authors – I have met some amazing people at PNWA. Meeting other writers online is nice, but it is not the same as meeting in person. There’s just no substitute. Make sure to make business cards that not only express something about your novel, but also show your personality. Make sure to include all of your online platform information and hand those cards out to everyone who will take one. Be open and have fun meeting everyone. The joy of going to a writers conference is the concentrated evidence that everyone has a unique story to tell. It’s amazing.

Getting excited? A good place to start is heading over to pnwa.org and becoming a member. Not in the pacific northwest? That’s okay. You can attend the meetings online and the conference is open to everyone. If you would like to find a conference closer to your hometown, I created a map of US conferences to get you started in your search.

Remember to support your local authors.

Another First: McKenzie’s New Boyfriend

bokeh photography experiment with a wide angle attachment on a zoom lens

Galactic Unions                                                                                                    photo by Maria L. Berg

McKenzie’s New Boyfriend is my second story published by Fictional Pairings. They paired my story with a song called Recover by Second Still. I’m listening to it while I write this. It feels perfect for my story–spacey road trip–and on Second Still’s site it says the album was released on my birthday this year (coincidence?).

This is another first in my writer’s journey because this is the first time I have published twice in the same magazine.

When building a publication history, why the same magazine?

When I first submitted to Fictional Pairings, I had two stories that I thought might work. I chose the shorter and more obviously sci-fi because I thought it was a best fit. The moment I received my acceptance letter from Fictional Pairings for BAM-AG Home, I shot off an email saying that I thought I had another piece that would be a good fit. I asked if they might be interested and how long I should wait before submitting again.

Why did I do this? Because I love the musical pairings with flash fiction. It is a great fit for me and I think it will grow. It also shows a growing readership that your first piece was so good that the magazine wanted another.

Like I said in New #LitMag+, finding the right place for your stories can feel elusive, so once you find a good match, I recommend submitting more than one best fit.

#Writerslife: The Key To Persistence? Celebrate every accomplishment.

An Urgent Note On The Floor

My short story “An Urgent Note On The Floor” was published in Sick Lit Magazine today. This marks an exciting milestone in my writing journey. Though I have had a flutter of publication recently, this is the first of my published stories that is long enough to leave the flash fiction category and fit in the short story realm.

I hope you’ll give it a read and let me know what you think.

Happy Reading and Writing

 

 

More Fun Discoveries – #LitMag+ The Sequel

 

I received another acceptance letter this morning! The story I submitted to Speculative 66 called “The Scout” will be published April 6th. As I mentioned in previous posts, I enjoy writing challenges and having to write a story in such a small and specific word count is a great exercise.

The story they are publishing is a pared down version of a story I wrote a while back that a friend from my critique  group really likes. I thought of her while I reworked each word because I wanted to make sure she will still feel the same when she reads it.

After I submitted, I looked through my writing and found two more short pieces I had created through a writing exercise. I was in the mood and thought I would submit again in the future, so I worked them to fit the 66 word format. What made the exercise even more enlightening was that it was easier to edit the word count down than to build it back up once I had gotten to the core of the story.

ink-blot-logo Today, while enjoying the Wednesday Twitter chats: #writerslifechat, #creaturechat, and #storysocial, Allison Maruska was happy that she had a story up at The Drabble.

The Drabble publishes stories of 100 words of less. They have a great page that defines Drabble and they choose strong, interesting stories. I hope it will become a home for one of my very short stories. If you love  microstories, give them a try.

 

 

 

New #LitMag+

fictional pairings

Tomorrow on Fictional Pairings  enjoy the music they pair to “Your New BAM-AG Home”

Almost every writer dreams of getting published. Most likely, that dream is the scene that comes after (and does not include) the effort involved in reading and researching hundreds of literary magazines, writing queries and perfecting submissions, only to receive rejection after rejection after rejection.

Finding the right place for your stories can feel elusive, but there is hope. New online magazines are cropping up and you can find them if you search diligently.

I recently happened upon some interesting online magazines that are right up my alley. Why do I call them #LitMag+ ? Because they offer something extra.

Fictional Pairings

As a musician as well as a writer, I am very excited about Fictional Pairings, an online magazine that pairs music from bandcamp.com with fiction and poetry.

My very short sci-fi story “Your New BAM-AG Home” is coming out tomorrow at Fictional Pairings. Please give it a read and enjoy the other stories and poetry with their musical pairings. I can’t wait to hear what they think my story sounds like.

The Evening Theatre

This magazine of the dark and macabre, premiering this month, will be setting up its issues like a theatrical performance with an opening act, a comedic interlude, a headliner, etc. I really like the premise and can’t wait for the firs issue.

Twistedsisterlitmag

For those of us that find our writing leaning to the dark and twisted, it can be hard to find a fit for our stories. Twisted Sister proudly lists their contributors on their Freaks and Wierdos page. I hope to join the ranks soon.

Speculative 66

This online magazine presents a fun challenge: to write a story in exactly 66 words. I feel inspired to give it a try. I enjoyed many of the stories in the current issue.

Have you been exploring new magazines to submit to and have some to add to my list? Please share in the comments. You can also add your finds on twitter #amsubmitting

Hope to see your work in the world of #LitMag+

Today We Write! #PNWA16

pnwa16 program

Last weekend I attended my first writers conference, The Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in Sea-Tac, Washington.  I learned so much at this conference that I decided to write a few posts about it. To start with, enjoy reading about my favorite events at the conference.

When I talk about moderating a session I mean, I took the opportunity to volunteer to help as needed and was assigned to moderate some of the session. That means that I got to meet and introduce some of the speakers. It was stressful at first, but went very smoothly thanks to Jennifer Douwes and D.C.C. Mealy. They kindly welcomed me, answered my questions and showed me the ropes.

My favorites from the conference:

The featured speakers (dessert/dinner)

The first night, Robert Dugoni was the featured speaker. I read his book My Sister’s Grave in preparation for the conference and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to hear what he had to say before he even started. His speech was moving (I was shocked to hear he had recently had a stroke) and inspiring (the twists and turns of his writing life). He repeated  two main themes. First, “It’s just stuff” which I took to mean, don’t write to obtain things but to write the very best book you can every time. Second “Hello, writing my old friend” which to me said, though life has its twists and turns and roller coaster ups and downs, a love for writing doesn’t go away.

The second night there was a sit down dinner with a panel of featured speakers, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had read The End Game by Catherine Coulter in preparation, but she wasn’t there. What did happen was Robert Dugoni posed unrehearsed questions to C.C. Humphreys, Steven James, Sheila Roberts and Gerri Russell. Most of the questions were about their writing process and careers. I really enjoyed the variety of personalities and viewpoints. There was a lot of banter and laughing and the vegan entree was even edible. What a night.

The Importance of a Strong Synopsis

I was worried about moderating this panel because it was first thing Saturday morning, directly before my pitch block, and I would be introducing four agents and collecting and reading all of the synopses. Luckily, the agents were happy to introduce themselves and were game to pick and read the synopses. Whew!

Like at dinner, the variety of personalities and viewpoints made this a great panel. I loved the discussion that arose from each synopsis read and the variety of the examples. It really drove home the point that everyone’s story is different.

Ask An Expert: Thriller/Mystery

I’m very glad I volunteered to moderate this panel. Though it took a little while to get the questions rolling, I thought the questions asked spurred a great discussion. Editor Anna Michels (pronounced Michaels)  of SourceBooks brought a great perspective from the publishing side to balance the two experienced and interesting thriller authors: Award winner and previous nuclear engineer Mike Lawson (I’m enjoying reading House Secrets) and New York Times bestseller and Jeopardy! champion Boyd Morrison. When I was researching the panel to prepare to introduce them, I was excited to see that Boyd and I have something in common–We both worked for NASA.

My uncle got excited when I told him Boyd writes with Clive Cussler. He says he’s a huge Cussler fan. Now he knows he’s a Boyd Morrison fan as well.

Take a month to save a year

Royce Buckingham‘s presentation held a very useful message. Not every idea we have is our best idea. Even the most prolific writer can’t write every idea they have. Save yourself time and test your ideas before you throw yourself into writing them. Tell your story ideas to people you think could be your audience/market. He mentioned pitching your story at parties as if they are the latest blockbuster movie you just saw. See which idea people get the most excited about and write that one. He recommends talking to at least 100 people before you get started.

Dancing with the stars: How to Connect with Celebrities for a Book Blurb

Chelly (pronounced Shelly) Wood also had some great, unexpected advice. Her presentation was about how supporting charities you are passionate about can help you network and enhance your author platform. I love this idea and am surprised how eye-opening it was.

Her message is that you don’t have to work for the charity, or donate a bunch of money (unless you have a bunch of money to give away), you can show support in other ways. You can promote charities on your website and social media to make others aware. You can volunteer for an event. You can donate (small) percentages of sales, etc.

Her further message is building your platform is all about asking what can I do for others. Get creative: Can you promote a local business that is related to something in your book? Can you invite a guest blogger who writes about something interesting in your book, not specifically the craft of writing? Or offer a guest blog for them?

Chelly designs doll clothes and gives away free patterns at ChellyWood.com

 

Was going to PNWA16 worth the time, money and stress? Absolutely and here’s why:

  • Meeting other writers

  • Pitching to agents and editors

  • Learning more about the craft

  • Building a better author platform

  • Putting the work in perspective

I’m going to write more about this next time. Don’t forget to follow this blog and sign up for my monthly newsletter. You know, free fun stuff for you!

You have so many links to follow and great writers to read from this post, I think you’ll be plenty busy. If not, below are links to other people who attended and wrote about the conference.

What other bloggers are saying about pnwa16:

Joe Beernink

Connie J. Jasperson

Renee N. Meland

Kisa Whipkey

Yurtlandia

 

Anyone else want to share their conference experiences (any writers conference)? I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Writing and Reading!