The Planner Experiment: February Week Three Planner Pages

Week three pages blue

As I write this, I’m listening to short stories from Asimov’s Science Fiction on their podcast. I also discovered and have been listening to The CryptoNaturalist. I hope to have stories on both of them some day. Earlier today I enjoyed listening to stories, some read by the authors, over at Three-Lobed Burning Eye. I submitted a story to them this morning.

I have very exciting news. Yesterday, I submitted to three different magazines. It was the first day I have reached that goal. This morning, I did it again. I’m on a roll, but today’s submissions made me aware of another problem with my plan: sometimes the magazine or journal that appears to be the best fit for my story doesn’t accept simultaneous submissions. That means I may need to wait months before I can submit it again.

But wait! If I submitted the story to a magazine that is a good fit, I may not need to submit it again because they will publish it. So the only  real problem is how I will come up with three submissions for tomorrow. There-in lies the importance of learning about all of the literary journals that I would like to publish stories in and learning when their reading windows are, so I can prioritize the magazines for which I’m willing wait.

For those of you who are hoping to achieve a three submissions a day habit, here are some tips for preparing your submissions:

Make submitting easier:

  • Have a short bio written that you can cut and paste into your cover letter or submittable form when requested.
  • Re-read, edit, and format (most journals ask for Shunn format, but you may also want to have a copy with no personal info on it because many journals ask for that) your stories so they are ready to go when you find a good fit.
  • Try to find interviews with the editor to learn what they’re looking for and read stories from the journal. Find something you like or a story that is somewhat like your story, so you can mention it in your cover letter.
  • Read and re-read the submission guidelines and follow them carefully.

The Planner Pages

I have yet to receive your feedback and fervently await some data other than my own for this experiment, but we are only two weeks into it and I’m already seeing personal results.

Positive results

  • I have already submitted more than I did all of last year
  • I have a new outlook on rejections as accomplishments to work toward and they already don’t sting as much as they did before.
  • I am becoming familiar with literary magazines so that I can choose the best fit for my stories and write personalized, informed cover letters.
  • I have read a ton of short stories and poetry
  • I have collected, reviewed and organized my poetry and very short stories.
  • I’ve written a lot of writing prompts and come up with a lot of story ideas.
  • I’m finding ways to improve my design in open office though this part of the project is time consuming and can be frustrating.

Not so positive results

  • I haven’t found a daily routine yet.
  • I’m obsessively researching the journals.
  • There isn’t enough time in the day to read all the stories and poems.
  • I’m not writing new drafts for my ideas, at least not as quickly as I would like.

These problems, I believe, will taper off soon. I did write a very short story rough draft this morning. I’ve gathered most of the journals that I plan to include in the planner. By the end of the month, I should have them organized into their planner months and be able to prioritize getting familiar with each one.

The Changes

I was getting frustrated with the tools I had in open office, so I looked up loading new fonts. You can download free public domain, commercial use fonts at 1001 fonts. Having a selection of fonts I like made a lot of difference, but then I wanted borders and frames for my sections instead of just lines. This led me to the clip-art gallery. I downloaded frames and borders from public domain vectors.

This endeavor was not as successful as downloading and applying the fonts. Loading the clip-art into the gallery wasn’t particularly hard, I was just impatient and kept accidentally shutting down the program. Once I got the frames and borders into the clip-art, they didn’t look great when I resized them, so we’ll see if I end up using them.

While putting this week’s pages into one file, I discovered that the background colors that I had put with each day did not come along when inserted into the file. All of the days would have to have the same background color, so I decided to leave that for now. I think I’ll play around with using my photography for backgrounds. I would have to choose one that works for an entire season, if I choose to use a background.

I also changed the layout of the magazine section a bit. I didn’t like how the space next to the image of the magazine looked, so I moved the web address below the image and added info about the reading dates, pay/fee and whether or not they accept simultaneous submissions.

Planner Pages Week Three

2019 Planner February Week Three

I hope you’ll click the link above and download the planner pages, so you can plan your week’s submissions along with me. I look forward to receiving your feedback and hearing about your journey to publication.

Happy Reading, Writing, Planning and Submitting!

 

 

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The Planner Experiment: Micro-fiction

Snowmaggedon

This planner project is already working for me. This week I received my second rejection. The sting only lasted a moment this time. The rejection letter even suggested that I submit something to their next reading period, so I’ll keep that in mind for my deadlines. I edited and submitted two other stories to different magazines the same day. Now that I’m becoming familiar with so many paying and interesting markets, I feel confident that I will eventually find the best fit for my work. The only way to do that is to keep submitting and collecting rejections. This new mind-set is helping my confidence and productivity.

Micro-fiction, Nano-fiction, and Very Short Stories

This week I discovered another group of magazines to add to my spreadsheet, the wonderful world of micro-fiction. I enjoy writing flash fiction. Flash is usually a story that is less than 1,000 words. There is a market for a sub-section of flash which consists of very very short stories. These magazines look for stories as short as a 140 character tweet, or specific word counts of 50, 66 or 100 words. The range is up to 500 words.

Most of these ezines aren’t paying markets, but are a great writing challenge. Telling a story with a beginning, middle and end with so few words trains you to edit for economy of word choice. I have had stories published in Speculative 66 and The Drabble.

There are some paying markets looking for micro (or nano) fiction. I found two lists: The short list from D. L. Shirey and a useful table from Erica Verillo.

Like I did with my poetry last week, I went through and collected all of my very short stories in one file. Unlike my poetry, I wasn’t enthralled with the very short stories I wrote here on Experience Writing, but that was exciting to me. I was able to find some magazines that would take poetry from my blog, but micro-fiction is another story. They are only interested in unpublished work. Thus, I plan to take only the very best ideas from my very short stories and completely re-write/ re-imagine them before submitting. I also have a list of story ideas that I think will work well as micro-fiction and plan to tackle some drafts in my morning pages.

Reading Everything

Another way the planner experiment is working, is by guiding my reading. I try to focus on reading some stories from the Literary Journal of the day and maybe one other. That way I’m not sampling from all over the place, but learning as much as I can about one journal at a time. Getting a feel for a journal isn’t easy and when I’m trying to learn about hundreds of journals at once, it can get overwhelming. Exploring one or two journals a day is a great way to get to know them and figure out if I have a story that is a good fit.

As you may have heard, the Seattle area had unusual snowfall last weekend. It was beautiful. Being snowed in is the perfect time to read, all snug under a pile of blankets. My sweetie and I have been reading to each other since the beginning of the year and we ramped that up during the snow. We lit a fire in the fireplace, drank tea and cocoa and read a bit of everything. That is one of the fun things about reading a lot of short story collections at once, you can read a story by one writer and then move to a completely different genre or style by another. We skipped around between The Lottery and Other Stories (FSG Classics) by Shirley Jackson, The Neon Wilderness by Nelson Algren, The Shell Collector: Stories by Anthony Doerr, and The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror by Joyce Carol Oates interspersed with selections from The Pushcart Prize XLIII: Best of the Small Presses 2019 Edition (The Pushcart Prize). We ended up reading all of The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror and liking about half of it. She does tend to ramble and doesn’t seem to care about a satisfying ending, or that was our conclusion.

We also read Small Town: A Novel (Block, Lawrence). I’ve had this book for years and kept picking it up and putting it down, so I was glad we read it together and finally finished it, but I had no idea it would be so pornographic. I was much more interested in the murder mystery and found the “sexual artistry” annoying. However, it had a brilliant ending; little clues that made me re-read the beginning (since it had been a long time since I started it) to confirm.

As for the other reading goals I put in my planner, I finished The Carrying: Poems by Ada Limón. I enjoy her poems and liked the collection, but not as much as Bright Dead Things: Poems. I’m also reading a bunch of craft books. I’m especially enjoying The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby.

The Planner Pages

I’ve been frustrated with the tools available to me in open office, so I did some work this week improving my font selection and line and border possibilities along with experimenting with backgrounds and colors. I also realized that I needed to put some planning for my novel edits in the planner as well, so I’m playing around with that.

I noticed I had a repeat prompt on the thirteenth. I apologize. I wrote and saved over 100 writing prompts the other day, so even without the prompt inspiration I get from the literary journals themselves, we won’t be running out of writing prompts any time soon.

Look for the new pages some time tomorrow evening, so you can plan out your week along with me on Sunday.

Feedback

I would love to hear from you. Are you using the planner pages? Do you use them on the computer, or print them out? Are you submitting your work? How could the pages be more useful and motivational?

Happy Reading, Writing, Planning and Submitting!

Here Comes February – The first week of planner pages

Today’s the day! I organized all of the pages of my planner that I’ve created so far into one file and am actually posting it for you when I said I would. Yay! I find it fitting and poetic that I also received my first rejection of the year this morning! How great is that? Only ninety-nine more to go.

The rejection was disappointing, of course, but today it only stung for a second. I wanted to read the pieces that the guest editor accepted, so I would have a better idea what to send in the future. I think this project is working already.

So here they are, the daily planning pages for the first week of February. I set it up to look right in the book view in open office. I think I’ll try to print it as a little book for myself, since I like to reward myself with little stickers sometimes, but I set it up so you can fill it in on the computer. I’ll probably do both.

plannercover

2019plannerfebruaryweekone

I’m still trying to figure out if three submissions a day is a reasonable goal. I’ll probably start out with one a day and try to increase over time. The most important thing for me is to not get overwhelmed because then I won’t do it at all. I also need to make sure submissions and reading all these journals doesn’t take time away from writing and editing. I hope you’ll experiment with the pages and let me know what works for you.

Trying to consume more short stories and poems

I’m trying out using audio books and radio shows/podcasts to listen to short stories and poetry while I’m working on these pages. Using Overdrive I was able to check out some Joyce Carol Oates, since she appears to have a story in every literary journal. I’ve been listening to The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares: Novellas and Stories of Unspeakable Dread I also checked out some Ann Beattie. I have her book Park City: New and Selected Stories, but can’t seem to get through it, so I thought I’d try listening to her stories instead. I checked out The State We’re In: Maine Stories and The Accomplished Guest: Stories.

This morning, thanks to The Boynton Blog who brought this to my attention, I’m enjoying poetry read by poets in Spokane, Wa. on Spokane Public Radio.

Feedback

I hope you’ll download the planner pages and give feedback in the comments, so I can make changes for the second week’s pages. Each daily page includes a unique writing prompt (I’m making them up as I go), and an introduction to a literary magazine. I would like to know what type of information would be useful to you in the magazine descriptions. I included the editor’s name and the website address, but I think my descriptions could use some work.

I hope you’re enjoying the experiment and start getting some rejections soon. 😉

Happy Reading, Writing, Planning and Submitting!

About Writing: Guest post by Michael Onofrey

picture of man sitting next to his dictionary on a grassy hill writing in the park

The urge to write is what got me into writing fiction, or trying to write fiction. And by “urge” I mean a feeling that I want to write. This was what motivated me and what continues to motivate me. I don’t think this is unusual—the urge to write. A lot of people have it. But of course those numbers diminish considerably when it comes to picking up a pen or sitting down at a keyboard.

It wasn’t until well into middle age, forty-five years old, that I sat down at a keyboard with the intent of writing fiction. Of course in college (community college and then university) I wrote papers (essays and book reports) like everyone else. But that’s different than composing fiction with the intent of submitting to publications. Of course all writing counts. I’m not belittling college. I’m simply distinguishing between college papers, with the exception of creative writing classes, and fiction for publication. I think anyone who has done both understands the distinction.

Also, in college I majored in U.S. History, which is now call American Studies. So my only background and my only qualification for writing fiction was, and is, reading books, fiction mostly. But there, too, I got a late start, for I didn’t begin to read until I was in my last semester of high school (Industrial Arts major). I could hardly read. This might strike some people as strange. But it’s not strange. A lot of people coming out of high school are poor readers.

An odd set of circumstances prompted me to pick up a book. I was dating a girl from another high school, which made our dating possible because we were of very different social circles, for if we had been going to the same school we wouldn’t have gotten together. But by going to different schools neither one of us, her in particular, suffered any social embarrassment, for high school life is all about cliques. She was a half a year ahead of me, which meant she would be graduating in June, whereas I wouldn’t be graduating until the following year at the end of January.

When summer rolled around, the summer of her graduation, university life about to begin for her in September, she jilted me, which, even though I expected it, sent me into a mental tailspin. Strangely, on the afternoon of that devastating phone call I started driving and wound up in front of a bookstore. She had mentioned the titles of books during our time together and I, for whatever reason, had remembered two—The Stranger by Albert Camus and Another Country by James Baldwin. Still dizzy with confusion, I went into that bookstore and asked for those two books.

What a way to begin reading, not to mention having to look up words on nearly every page. Fortunately, as if it were a minor miracle, I was able to follow the stories, and a window flew open and there I was, looking out at a new world.

Man carrying dictionary by a lake
“I carried a dictionary and a novel everywhere I went”

I carried a dictionary and a novel everywhere I went for eight years, and when loading up a backpack every bit of weight counts. I’m still a poor speller. I still consult a dictionary often for spelling and definitions and word usage. I wouldn’t recommend getting a late start on reading, just as I wouldn’t recommend getting a late start on serious writing. Six years after I started writing and submitting, a small literary journal (Words of Wisdom, North Carolina, a publication that has since ceased publishing) accepted one of my stories.

Six years—that’s a lot of rejection. And I still get a lot of rejection. My writing is not consistent, and I don’t think it ever will be, just as I will never be a good speller nor will my vocabulary have the natural range that it might have had if I had started reading at an early age. Okay, so that’s the way it is. A lot of other people have it worse. Imagine trying to write in Aleppo, Syria.

Writing will probably never be more than a hobby for me, and by hobby I mean an activity that doesn’t generate enough money for me to live on. I wish there was another word besides “hobby.” “Pastime” maybe? But that’s even more nonchalant than hobby. If I were teaching at a college or university, I could say that publishing stories, while getting little in the way of remuneration, was worthwhile because it adds to my curriculum vitae (CV), which might serve to boost my position and income. But I don’t teach at a college or a university.man carrying dictionary by some shops

In addition to not making millions there is rejection, which is always painful. In dealing with rejection, stoicism would be a nice rejoinder. After all, rejection is part of the weather. Even the most renowned writers have had work rejected, primarily before they became famous. There are only two choices when faced with rejection: feel the pain and move on, or feel the pain and give up. This isn’t about heroics. This is pragmatism. Most stories that are submitted to a publication are going to be turned down.

I’m hardly different from anyone else. I like acceptance. I write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, and submit. Rejection, rejection, rejection. After six months or so, another look, another rewrite. Revising has become fun. I don’t know why. Maybe because it presents an opportunity to play with words and sentences, as well as ideas and point of view. I do give up on stories, but I keep them on file. Now and then an idea will occur that pertains to a story I’ve given up on. I’ll draw the story up and try the idea. And then I’ll submit. Hey, all they can do is turn it down. Now and then one of those formerly dead stories will get accepted.

Also in the hash are different publications with different editors who have different tastes. Usually a rejection carries no real comment, perfunctory comments yes, but no real comments. Every once in a while, though, there is a genuine comment. Some are encouraging. But some . . . On a couple of occasions an editor has given me a totally pissed off lambasting, boredom and tedious detail cited. I guess they had had it up to their necks with that stuff, dull writing and details, and took it out on me. Or maybe they had a hangover, or maybe they couldn’t meet a mortgage payment, or maybe they were in the middle of a divorce. Yet, within that same week that same story (respective stories, but at different times) got accepted by a publication which I had deemed more reputable than the one(s) the tongue-lashing(s) came from. Highs and lows—the landscape.

man with dictionary walking by rocks

“Highs and lows—the landscape.”

 

At other times, I had given up on a story only to have it accepted after a whole lot of time by the last publication where the story was still (as it turned out) under consideration. Recently a story of mine was accepted and published by a university journal after the story went through two years of rejection and rewrites—forty-seven rejections. Why did I keep at that story? Because I believed in it. Giving up on a story or continuing with rewrites and submissions is a tricky thing, a case-by-case thing. But—I keep all my stories on file.

Favorite authors—here’s the link to my listing on Poets & Writers where I’ve listed my favorite writers: http://www.pw.org/content/michael_onofrey

About books concerning reading and writing—I return again and again to How Fiction Works by James Wood and Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.) by Francine Prose.

 

author Michael Onofrey bio picMICHAEL ONOFREY was born and raised in Los Angeles. Currently he lives in Japan. Over seventy of his short stories have been published in literary journals and magazines, in print and online, in such places as Cottonwood, The Evansville Review, Natural Bridge, Snowy Egret, Terrain.org, Weber–The Contemporary West, and The William and Mary Review. Among anthologized work, his stories have appeared in Creativity & Constraint (Wising Up Press, 2014), In New Light (Northern Initiative for Social Action, 2013), Road to Nowhere and Other New Stories from the Southwest (University of New Mexico Press, 2013), and Imagination & Place: An Anthology (Imagination & Place Press, 2009). He can be found online at Directory of Writers, Poets and Writers, and on Facebook.

Revision: Exploring my characters’ motivations

A nice sunset

A nice sunset

And after a few revisions in Windows Photo Gallery

Sunset with revisions

I love playing with simple photo editing software. All of those fabulous colors were in my photo just waiting for me to draw them out–slough off a bit of brightness, delete a bit of shadow, redefine the contrast and saturate the hues. Now, to apply the same principal (drawing out the good stuff) to my manuscript.

This morning I approached my task in a new way. My goal is to make the motivations of my characters clear to my readers. I had planned to read through my manuscript and note my characters’ motivations for each major action in the margins (and I am still planning on doing that), but as I wrote my morning pages, I started exploring some of the hermit’s major motivations: Abandonment, Rejection, Betrayal, Judgement. Then I explored events in her childhood that would have led to these feelings. I quickly filled my morning pages with ideas. One of the ideas for betrayal seemed to be a better motivation for my other main character.

Looking at the origin stories of my characters’ motivations, I saw a common theme–Perception. Specifically, how incorrect perceptions both internal and external can negatively affect one’s life. At first it felt like a revelation to define this underlying theme, but really, it is no surprise. I got my M.S. in perception, be it the biopsychology (behavioral neuroscience) of visual perception and memory, but I am obviously (though somewhat subconsciously) writing what I know.

Now, I’m daydreaming about quoting my own journal articles and bringing in quotes about the physical aspects of perception and anxiety. It could be a fun tie-in for chapter titles. I’ll see where it takes me.

Today, I’m excited to be making some progress toward taming the beast named First Novel.

Anyone have revision tips? Every idea is welcome and appreciated.