Two Years In

Or close to it.  I think the two-year mark since I started trying to write for publication is actually at the end of this week.  But I’m procrastinating, so a nice “what progress have I made” post is a good way to avoid actually writing.

So, what have I accomplished?

I have not been published.  I have not found an agent.  I have not started any shitstorms on the Internet (that I know of).  (And, no, that last one is not a goal, I just figure it’ll happen at some point or other.)

Here’s what Year 1 looked like:DSC04101 edit - Copy

– 305 hours spent on writing or editing
– 183,569 words written
– 6 short stories finished
– 8 short story submissions made
– 1 novel finished through the second draft


Yellowstone 2 - Copy (640x480)Here’s what Year 2 looked like:

– 203 hours spent on writing and editing
– 143,346 words written
– 9 short stories finished
– 34 short story submissions made
– First novel finished
– 1 new novel finished through third draft




Writing Time

So, it looks like I spent less time on writing and editing in year 2 than in year 1.

I don’t think I spent less time thinking about writing.  And, of course, the time spent on writing doesn’t include any time spent on this blog.

I do believe that I was more efficient with what I was writing.  So, in year one, I wrote 50,000 words towards books two and three in a series while trying to write my first novel.  The novel I wrote this year didn’t have that same issue, so I’m more focused about the story I’m trying to tell and how long it will be.

I also focused more on short stories this year.  And short stories, being more compact, don’t lend themselves to 5,000 word days the same way novel writing does.

I should note that about 15,000 of those words from year two are also for a non-fiction book I decided to write.  If I decide it’s publication-worthy, I’m pretty sure I’ll self-pub it just for kicks without any promotion or anything.

Overall, I’m not pleased with the amount of writing time for either year.  That comes out to about four hours per week in year two.  That’s nothing compared to the hours you put in on a full-time job.  Granted, that’s just the intense creative time and very few jobs are 100% intense creative time, but I still think I could do better.

My goal for next year is going to be eight hours per week.  Still hardly anything, but twice what I booked for this year.


Words Written

Again, less in year two than in year one.  But, it looks like I became a little more efficient.  So, in year one I averaged about 600 words written for hours spent writing/editing.  In year two I averaged about 700 words.  So, either I’m writing faster (possible) or needing to edit less (also possible).

My goal for next year is going to be to write 5,000 words per week.  In year two I was closer to 2,800 words per week (average).

It should be doable.  My most productive day of writing was 6,750 words and most productive week of writing was 20,000 words.  Both related to novel-writing, though.  So, to reach these goals I think I need to make sure I’m writing at least two novels in the next year.

I also need to be consistently writing.  In both years one and two I took off extended periods of time from actually writing.  I let life get in the way.  I don’t regret doing so, but if I want to make this more than a hobby I need more discipline than that.


Measuring Progress

The easiest way to measure progress would, of course, be to record a professional sale or land an agent.  Since I can’t do that I have to look at progress towards publication, which is where the short stories come in handy.

In year two I made four times as many short story submissions as in year one.  (34 vs. 8)

I also had much better success with my short stories written in year two than in year one.  I wrote six stories in year one, subbed them sixteen times so far, and received three personals.

I wrote nine short stories in year two, subbed them twenty-one times, and received seven personals.  So, 19% personal rate in the first year and 33% in the second year.

(For anyone doing the math, I have five short story subs outstanding at the moment.  One for a year-one story, four for year-two stories.)

And the quality of the personal rejections is much higher this year than last.  It’s still not publication, but I’m feeling like I’m close to cracking whatever I need to crack to be professionally published.  Those personals also came from six different markets and two pro-paying anthologies, not all of which give a high percentage of personals, so it’s not just one market that seems to like my writing.


What I’m Writing

That’s a bit of a problem.  Most of what I write is speculative fiction.  I like the freedom it gives me to explore without having to do so within the constraints of the real world and all its rules.  But…not every story has been speculative fiction.  So, of the fifteen short stories I’ve written, two are standard fiction, one could be magical realism, and one is barely speculative fiction.

Worse yet, the second novel was contemporary fiction.  I didn’t set out to write it, it just wanted to be written.  So, I did.  Because it was easier to write it than not.

Even when writing the first novel I found that my way of getting through writer’s block was by taking breaks and writing contemporary pieces.  (Those, though, were not written for publication.)  So, it seems that part of my approach to writing is to have these very disparate genres working at the same time.

My thought right now is that I may self-pub the non-speculative fiction if I decide it’s good enough to be “out there.”  That’s probably a loser’s gamble if I don’t somehow promote it.  And it won’t be under this pen name if I do it.  But it’ll give me a chance to experiment with things and see how they turn out.

I think the second novel is stronger than the first.  I just don’t know that I want to keep writing in that genre and if I find an agent and publication using that novel then I’m kind of going to have to.

Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

As some of the my recent posts have shown, I’ve also seen some of the uglier side of my favored genre recently.  I hope I can be a speculative fiction writer in the same way I’m a speculative fiction reader–on the fringe, doing my own thing, and staying out of the drama at the core.



I mentioned a few of them already.  8 hours/week or 5,000 words/week.  260,000 words total for the year.  Query or publish the second novel.  Aim for two short stories a month from here on out.  Write the first draft of two more novels in the next twelve months.  Self-pub my outliers.

We’ll see how it goes.  I’m not disappointed with the progress I’ve made, but I am impatient and a bit annoyed with myself for not putting in more time on writing than I have.  My over-arching goal for year three of writing is to make money off of my writing.  Whether that comes from short story sales to pro markets or self-pubbing or a publishing contract, I really don’t care.  I just want to see that I can in fact make money off of this…


It’s kind of hard to put that all out there for the world to see.  I do it because I think it helps others to see one person’s progress.  I’ve found other writers who refer to taking ten years for their first short story sale or seventeen years.  But I haven’t seen many that really documented how close they were over those years.  So, hopefully I’ll ultimately be an example of a success story, but, if not, then I’ll be an example of someone who quit before they reached that brass ring.

(There’s a writer on one of the forums who had tried writing a while ago and given up.  Turns out he was right at the point of breaking through when he quit–editors referred to him based upon where he lived and were talking about him with one another just waiting for that one story that was going to be the tipping point for him.  Now he’s working his way back in, but when you step away from this you lose some of that momentum.)

Hopefully I won’t quit…I don’t want to, but if I upend things in other parts of my life it may have a follow-through effect on my writing.



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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