Writerly resolutions for 2020

2019 was a disappointing year on many fronts, so I figure 2020 can’t help but be better.

My goals for the year

  1. Finish a complete draft of We, The Rescued
  2. Rewrite and revise to get it in a state where I can have some other eyes read it.
  3. Cut way back on submissions. I’m not going to submit anything until my submittable queue (which currently has 53 submissions in it) has completely drained and then I’m going to be far more deliberate on submissions going forward (I have a couple chapters from the novel which could stand alone as stories, but I’m going to let them ripen a while, along with any stories I happen to finish this year).

As with last year’s resolutions, I’ll check back in with status reports each month.

Writerly resolutions for 2019—the post mortem

I had two goals for the year and failed on them both.

I aimed to finish the full draft of We, The Rescued

Graph of progress on the novel showing steady progress but falling short of goal

This entailed writing some 50,000 words over the course of the year. I made steady progress (as the graph above shows), but not steady enough and I had more than a few stuck moments which kept me from getting past some 30,000 words for the year. 

I also aimed to get a story a month finished and into submissions. Didn’t even come close, although I did get all my stories which had been previously rejected and were hanging about revised and into submissions but just one new story went out and that didn’t get picked up (although it was (a) a long shot for publication because of its length and (2) got some positive responses anyway).

2019 in rejections (and acceptances)

2019 was a grim year for me publishing-wise. I had only two acceptances, one each of fiction and poetry, the worst rejection rate since 2012 and for the first time since I sold my first story, I went a year without any income (not even a token sum) for any of my writing.

As the chart below shows, my fiction submissions for the year were up a fair amount. Perhaps they should have been down instead? My acceptance rate was 0.5% (down from 3.6%) and my positive response rate was also down—21% from 27%.

Graph of submissions since 2007. It’s depressing.

Poetry looks a little better, but only just. The green band at the bottom of the chart showing acceptances is nearly invisible. My acceptance rate was stable at 0.4% but the positive response rate climbed from 8.2% to 17.3%. I’m beginning to feel like I have some idea of how to write a poem.

Chart showing poetry acceptances since 2015. It’s also depressing.

2019 in reading

I had set a goal for 2019 of reading 100 books and nearly made it with 95 books. I’ll aim again this year.

My favorite reads for the year, in alphabetical order, were:

It’s interesting to note how much of this highlights list is non-fiction (fully half). The fraction that are written by women has declined somewhat to just under half, but white men continue to be almost absent from the list again.

My overall stats for the year had the fraction of women I read decline a little from 52.4% to 49.4%. PoC also slightly declined from 21.4% to 19.3%. Dead White Men continued to decline from 10.5% to 5.4%. Non-US 34% up from 25.7%. Translations 7.5% up from 4.6%. Authors new to me 80.1% up from 76.7%. Re-reads 0.3% down from 0.7%. Authors I’ve met 4.5% down from 7.5%. Median publication year 2014 vs 2013. Books advanced in the reading queue to meet demographic goals, 23.7% down from 35.8%. Books read as novel research 9.7% down from 16.4%.

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Beautiful Sentences: Ann Patchett

There was no logic to the way any hospital was laid out—they grew like cancers, with new wings metastasizing unexpectedly at the end of long tunneled halls.

Ann Patchett, The Dutch House.

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Beautiful Sentences: Yiyun Li

Words fall short, yes, but sometimes their shadows can reach the unspeakable.

Yiyun Li, Where Reasons End.

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Beautiful Sentences: Jayson Greene

I glance up at her, and her heartbreak is so acute it is like the sun—I can’t look at it.

Jayson Greene, Once More We Saw Stars

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Writerly resolutions: November Status

November NewImagestarted strong but life interfered to slow things down dramatically in the second half of the month. Chapter 17 of the novel came together reasonably quickly, but I had trouble getting into chapter 18 (it’s finally beginning to flow, at least). Meanwhile in short story land, I’ve been working on a new story which is a reworking of an idea that I had as an undergrad in college but I lacked sufficient wisdom to write as anything more than an exercise in extended snark. With any luck the new version that is slowly extruding itself from my subconscious will be actual art. I do worry that, even though the concept is 33 years old, it might seem like it’s overly connected to the current zeitgeist.

Beautiful Sentences: Yiyun Li

What if life could be saved by clichés? What if life must be lived by clichés? Somewhere tomorrow and somewhere yesterday—never somewhere today but cliché-land.

Yiyun Li, Where Reasons End.

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Dewey Decimal Project: 621.3092 COO The Truth About Tesla: The Myth of the Lone Genius in the History of Innovation

ContinuingNewImage through technology, we reach engineering. Spotting a book about Tesla, everyone’s favorite wizard of science, I decided I’d see what Cooper has to say, especially given his provocative title.

Cooper is a lawyer and this reads in a lot of ways like a legal brief. Cooper writes the life of Tesla with an agenda, to argue that Tesla’s genius was not the singular thing that many claim it to be while also attacking the concept of the lone genius in general. To this end, Cooper takes a systematic approach to Tesla’s life and inventions, showing the precedents for many of his great creations, most notably the AC motor/generator which is at the heart of Tesla’s reputation (I discount the wireless electricity transmission claims as these are objectively spurious and only championed by the most deluded of Tesla partisans).

Cooper, like a good lawyer, lays out his case in a way to make his conclusion seem inevitable and this perhaps is my biggest complaint: His legalistic style tends to take much of the energy out of the story.

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