Writing words is a numbers game

I’ve mentioned previously that I keep a database of publications and my writing, to show me when and where I’ve sent what stories (and the odd poem) and how long I’ve waited to hear back (sometimes forever). Apart from occasional lapses in data entry (almost) everything I’ve sent out over the past five years is there. It shows my fluctuating publication rate is at 42% at the moment (ooh – 42). On the glass half full side of things that means close to half of everything I’ve written and then sent out has been published!

I’m not too caught up on the numbers though. Specific numbers are not my thing, as some of my friends and high school teachers know. Yet, broadly speaking, writing is about the willingness to let other people see your writing, and if they don’t like, to still persist in being willing to let more people see it and keeping a record of all this. Eventually, one of those people out of X number will like something.

Before a database, reaching the answer X for any writing would meaning passing light through this machine and interpreting the patterns it made.

Before my database, reaching the answer X for any writing question meant passing light through this machine and interpreting the patterns made. Then napping. 

There is plenty, however, that the raw number doesn’t tell you.

  • Like how many times I’ve sent the same story out.
  • Or how many revisions I’ve completed as a result of X number of rejections.
Look, generally I think triquarter hats are splendid but I'm just taking a moment to be sad about yet another journal rejection.

Look, I think triquarter hats are cool, but I just need a moment to be sad about a journal rejection. I’ll be back to swooning tomorrow. 

  • It doesn’t show how much time a completed story has sat in a file waiting for when I feel prepared to send it out to somewhere that it matches.
  • It doesn’t reveal how many stories spend time as half completed ideas, or mere sketches of a thing that could be a thing one day.

Some stories take years before they find their final form, as one short piece did recently. I had it for ages after I had a title and idea, perhaps for a larger work. When I finally remembered it as a possibility for a project, I spent a few hours actually writing, and everything fell into place. It was a flash fiction complete in itself. I finished it, edited it a bit, came back to it the next day and sent it out to where I thought it met requirements. Done.

  • My database doesn’t explain the cost of competitions and the time considering risks/benefits and the opportunity cost of submitting.

Because while a story is over there waiting to be judged it could be over here being rejected (or accepted). How am I to choose!

  • The database can’t demonstrate the time spent and agony endured though reformatting the exact same story for each and every single opportunity, every single time.

Every guideline for every competition and publication is different, some read blind, some don’t care, some use the US formatting protocol, some stipulate file types. All I know it is a relief when they use Submittable, that’s for sure. And I reject any publication that wants me to send an MS in the post.

  • This very handy database never factors in the time spent quietly searching for or stumbling over publications or opportunities that could match something I’ve written. At least now there is Twitter and Facebook as well as The Victorian Writer magazine.

Most of my recent rejections come down to: they have seen similar recently or I’ve picked poorly and my story and their journal is not the great match I thought it was. And that second one is entirely on me.

  • My database doesn’t calculate financial cost.

Most publications want writers to understand what they want so if they charge for their journals, then you must buy one or subscribe. Sometimes it’s worth it, other times, maybe not so much. Occasionally, a publication will have a bunch of free stuff to read to demonstrate what they’re after, or really detailed guidelines. Sometimes publications have a (nominal) reading cost – although if you wait to submit during a free reading period that can help. Yet nominal this and that adds up.  Then there’s the cost of competitions and each writer must calculate the chances vs the cost and the prize.  And don’t let me go on about the exchange rate. That five-pound entry for the UK is a lot more for an Australian at the moment.

I'm trying to tell  you I'm going to write anyway, no matter the time or money. Ok!

Dude, I’m only trying to get you to understand I’m going to write anyway, no matter the time or money. K?


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