One year in…

According to my spreadsheet, I started working on my novel on July 11th of last year.  And, since I just today received a rejection on the one short story I still had out to markets (I received another yesterday), I figured it was close enough to the one year mark that I could do a progress post.

So, what have I managed in the first year of trying to write for publication?

Per my spreadsheet, I have written 183,569 new words.  This is just short stories and the novel.  I don’t count blog posts in that number.  And the actual number is probably higher.  (I sometimes forget to record little pieces on the spreadsheet and on the second draft of the novel, I might have completely rewritten a scene but I only recorded the difference between the old word count and the new word count.)

So, let’s call it 200,000 words even.

There’s some advice floating around out there about needing to write a million words before you break through.  Which means at this pace, I have four more years to go.  (Unless you count work writing, in which case I might be much closer.  The last three reports I had to write for work were around 20,000 words a piece.  I don’t think they count, though.  They just taught me how to type fast and be logical.  Dialogue, character development, etc., etc. – yeah, not so much.)

So, what do I have to show for those 200,000 words:

-1 novel that’s 87,000 words long and almost ready for its next round of review

-5 completed short stories that have actually been submitted somewhere (and rejected a total of ten times between them)

-A few other short stories in various stages of completion

In terms of rejections, I was waitlisted for the writing workshop I applied for, which was encouraging given my newbie status.  And I received one personal rejection on a short story that I think gave some valuable feedback that will let me improve the story before I submit it elsewhere.  Everything else so far has been form rejections.

I’ve made 90 blog posts, which have helped me sort through a lot of the writing information I’ve gathered (at your expense, I’m afraid).  I’ve read at least five books on writing and a slew of blog entries and forum posts.

So, overall?

I think I’ve learned a tremendous amount in the last year about writing as a profession and the publishing industry as a whole, but I’m still just scratching the surface.

I also think I still have a long way to go in developing my craft.  (Doesn’t that sound pretentious?)  I’m pretty pleased with the novel.  Less so with the short stories.  (I don’t think my approach/style works well with a shorter format, but I expect I’ll keep plugging away at them on the side until I find a way to make it work.  I may have to give in and write with more “flash” than I like.)

I’m shocked at how little actual time I’ve spent on physically writing.  I’ve devoted a lot of head space to writing in general and thinking about story ideas, but only about 300 hours of actual writing time.  Compare that to a “real job” where I used to work 50 hour weeks (so, 2,500 hours a year) and it seems like nothing.  But a lot of a real job is meetings and e-mails and other non-production activities, so maybe it isn’t so bad.

And I did have about four months of not writing in the mix – fourteen weeks when I was on a big work project and then the last couple of weeks.  At least when I am writing it’s generally seven days a week.

I’ve also found that I’m more productive overseas than at home, which is something I’m going to have to overcome since I’m likely home for the remainder of the year.

So, where to from here?

I still have a goal of submitting the novel to agents before year-end.  It needs at least one more read-through before that’s a possibility, but I think I’m still on track for that.  (Unless I get pulled off the waitlist for that workshop and they absolutely eviscerate my novel…)

I decided a few days ago that I was going to let my short stories sit for at least a month before I send any back out.  I suspect each one could be improved with a fresh look, so I’m going to get enough distance from them to do that.

Overall, I’m pleased with my progress.  My goal is to see a novel of mine in print within the next four years and I think that’s still a possibility.  So, I have to just keep plugging along at this.

I’ve chosen the path, now it’s just a matter of following it to its conclusion.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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