Filed under writing

2021 in rejections (and acceptances)

2021 was a pretty good year for me publication-wise. I’ve not been that good about getting stuff out the door, but what I have submitted has been well-received. In fiction, I managed to have fewer responses this year than last despite the fact that in 2020 I didn’t actually submit anything¹ and this year I did. I do feel like my new writing group has done a lot to up my game so while my acceptance rate was only marginally higher, my tiered response rate was my best ever.

Graph showing my total acceptances, tiered responses rejections and lost submissions since 2007. This year 37% of responses were tiered or acceptances with a 3.8% acceptance rate

Publications this year were “Saint Anthony in West Hollywood” and “The Norton Anthology of Self-Destructive Behaviours.”

 Poetry was also a pretty good scene for me this year, I had my best acceptance rate ever and my best rate of tiered responses as well.

Graph of poetry rejections I sent more stuff out this year, but more stuff got accepted too.

Most of the publications are coming out later in 2022, with just one poem, “Chicago Sonnet #19,” coming out in 2021.

  1. All of my 2020 rejections and acceptances were for pieces submitted in 2019.

1000 rejections (poetry)

Today’s mail brought poetry rejections 999–1,001. It took a lot less time to hit 1,000 poetry rejections than fiction, not least of why being that poems are generally sent in packets of 3–5 and even an acceptance includes a handful of rejections. And then there’s the fact that I’m not that good of a poet (my overall acceptance rate for fiction is double my acceptance rate for poems).

So now, just as with my 1000th fiction rejection, I’m off to subscribe to the rejecting journal, in this case Atlanta Review.

New poem in California Quarterly

I just got in the mail the latest issue of California Quarterly (Vol. 47, No. 3, which for some reason is not yet listed at their website) which includes my poem, Chicago Sonnet #19. 

Postcard of the Beverly House. On the left, an exterior view of the restaurant from Beverly Blvd. Top right picture of food, bottom right, chef/owner Sam Corkalo alongside food and wine

The poem details my vague memories of the Beverly House restaurant in Chicago’s Beverly Hills neighborhood on the South Side, an area speckled with my grandfather’s architectural designs, many of which were for commercial buildings now long gone. This is part of my series of Chicago Sonnets of which Sonnets 1, 2 and 5 have been previously published and 4, 27 and 29 are forthcoming.

Writerly resolutions: November status

I had thoughtGraph of the progress of the novel in November. Pretty dull that I could read and take notes on 28 chapters of the novel in 28 days. That turned out to be optimistic. It turned out to be 47 days although I have a nice chart of all the characters in the novel and which chapters they appear in along with some notes on their background (the sort of thing I should have been keeping track of all along). Some of my characters’ hometowns changed multiple times in the same chapter.

The book is in better shape than I anticipated, although there are still some sections that will require major rewrites and some parts that will be cut. It also helps to have a stronger sense of every character’s arc to see how they develop over the course of the novel.

Still working on that new story. I’m guessing that it’ll end up being one of those things that has a thirty-page draft that needs to be cut to ten pages. I’ll likely not get it done in time for my next turn workshopping.

And very little progress on the revise and submit phase of things other than a growing backlog of stories that have been workshopped.

Writerly resolutions: October status

The big news this month was that Progress on the novel showing the completion of the first draft and thent the reading and annotating processI finished the first draft of the novel (finally). I then proceeded to print the whole thing out and get it ring-bound at the UPS store (I later realized that it would have been cheaper—if slower—to have that printing done by instead).

I continue working on the new story (I ended up missing my over-optimistic goal of finishing it in a month, but I’m aiming for my next turn at the workshop table to have it ready. A bit of reading that was putatively unrelated to anything that I’m writing made me reconsider the original path of one of the characters but I think that this will result in a stronger story.

Beautiful Sentences: Tove Ditlevsen

Being young is itself temporary, fragile, and ephemeral.

Tove Ditlevsen, Youth.


A first draft of the novel is done

A week shy of five years after I started writing, I Graph of progress on the novel over five yearshave a complete first draft of the novel. It’s been a long journey and there’s still a lot of work to be done, but there’s a complete story now. Things I still have to fix include making sure characters don’t change names mid-novel as well as taking advantage of the fact that I now know more about the characters than I did when I began so I can flesh out a lot of details (and eliminate out-of-character behaviors) as I work further on the novel.

I have a rather structured process for the beginning of my work on fiction: I write a complete first draft.¹ Then I read it, scribble all over it making notes about how awful everything is and what makes me think I can write. Then I rewrite the whole thing from scratch starting with a blank Word document.² Again, I read the whole thing, plugging my nose to get to the end. The finalish step is to revise it: Now, instead of retyping everything, I let myself just work on the existing document and just change those bits that need to be changed.⁴ Once I’ve reached this stage is the piece finally ready to show to someone else.

Each chapter has gone through this three stage process (which explains the zig-zag pattern in the diagram above), in some cases, a chapter has gone through even more revisions,⁶ so this “first” draft is kind of a third+ draft. Nevertheless, the next step is to read the whole thing, then do a rewrite as above and finally a revision before I start thinking about workshopping it. But first, I can at least celebrate a little.

  1. Sometimes it takes more than one draft to actually get that first draft.
  2. This practice dates back to the days when I was in high school and I would write my columns for the school paper sitting on the floor with an antique manual typewriter, typing with a long-past-its-prime ribbon onto notebook paper³ and then the next day, I would retype a clean copy on an electric typewriter in the school paper’s offices.
  3. Because typewriter paper wasn’t all that readily available in the ’80s.
  4. This doesn’t really have a counterpart to my practices in high school. Word processors were still pretty primitive back then, as in you had to enter printer control-commands into the manuscript if you wanted bold or italics or underlining.⁵ And forget about footnotes at the bottom of the page. Although, as you might have guessed from this post, I’m perhaps someone who shouldn’t be trusted with easy footnotes.
  5. And the printers that our school had, would, if you had something underlined that started on one line and ended on the next, continue the underline right to the edge of the page on the first line, then start at the left edge of the next line and continue it to the end of the document.
  6. The most revisions any individual chapter has seen is eight, but 4–7 revisions are not uncommon.

Writerly resolutions: September status

It’s been a pretty good monthGraph of my progress on the novel in September for writing. I managed to get a first draft of the last chapter of the novel finished and get started on the rewrite of that chapter. I expect to have the rewrite and revision done sometime before the five-year anniversary of starting the damn thing.

The less resistant feeling story has fallen to a back burner to a new story which has demanded that I work on it. I’m not entirely sure what happens in it beyond the inciting incident, but I’m curious to find out. 

The workshopping of the new story went pretty well, with some good suggestions and affirmation of what I had already suspected were weak points. It might be publishable as is, but it will be publishable after I finish with its revisions.

Speaking of revisions, little progress on that front. I really need to push on that.

And a poem was picked up for publication, more on that when it actually goes out.

1000 rejections

Today, I got my 1,000th fiction rejection.¹ It was a tiered rejection from Neon. Per my promise to myself, the journal responsible for the 1,000th rejection (or any acceptances while I was at 999²) gets a subscription³. 

 Looking back over my records, the first rejection in my “modern” era of rejections was a form rejection from The New Yorker (the story in question. “Confiteor” is something that I’ve since trunked). 

My acceptance rate in that time has been 2.06% with 20.8% of my rejections being personalized or tiered, including personal rejections from The New Yorker and The Atlantic, so I’m apparently doing something right (although I could certainly stand to be doing things “righter”). For the year so far, my acceptance rate is 5.7% with 40% of my rejections being personalized/tiered. 

  1. Strictly speaking, it’s a bit over 1,000 rejections, but I’m not counting the scattered rejections I got when I was an undergrad or in my 20s before I tried not to write. This is my “modern” period beginning in 2007.
  2. If I get any acceptances before I hit 1,001, I’ll subscribe to those journals as well.
  3. Had it been a journal that was online only, I would look for a donation option.

Writerly resolutions: August status

Chapter 26 is finally done, Graph of my progress on the novel. A long flat patch where I was marking up the manuscript, a dip where I edited chapter 26, a rise for chapter 27 and then a new rise for the rewrite of that chapter.I’ve completed the first draft of Chapter 27 and I’m partway through the rewrite draft. The story continues to reveal heretofore unknown things about the characters, which is a plus (and some inconsequential happenings in the first draft have become a bit more consequential in the rewrite). I feel optimistic that a complete first draft¹ of the novel will be done before month’s end.

 And that story that I’ve been working on all year (and all last year and far too long before that), finally reached a point where I could workshop it last week. My next new story is feeling less resistant to completion and should manage to make it off my computer in time for my next turn workshopping later this month.

Plus, I finally finished revising a story I workshopped back in March, so that’s now out on submission.

  1. It’s kind of the third-plus draft since every chapter has been through at least a rewrite and revision, but there are a lot of first-draft-y things about it, like character names mutating as the story progresses and inconsistent characterization. The plan is, that when I have a complete draft, I’ll read the whole thing, making copious notes on the manuscript, then do a complete rewrite of the entire novel starting with a blank document, and then revise that and then start talking to writing buddies about getting their feedback on it.