Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Sunday, 26 August 2001

I got the Sthii story "Whole Other Language" ready to send out. I'll take it to the post office on my way to work tomorrow. I'm very pleased with this story.

I got my grades from MSU. Clarion is an actual class. So, I now have a 4.0 for 4 credits of "Special Topics" AL 491. I'm amused.

I created a database to keep track of my submissions. Up until now I've kept track of them in plain old text files, one for each story, where I recorded the date the story went out and the date I got a rejection or a sale. (In the case of a sale, I also kept track of things like when the book came out, so I'd know when exclusive period ended and I could try to sell reprint rights.)

Database design isn't hard, but there's a knack to it. A knack that I don't have. The key is to know what the "item" that you're tracking is--what the fundamental element of the database should be. In my previous efforts, I kept trying to design my database around the "story" as the basic element (because that's how I kept my database before). But that's no good for a database, because you couldn't reasonably design the record--you wouldn't be able to guess how many rejections to allow for and things like that.

So, today, I finally figured out that the thing to organize the submission database around was (and you've no doubt seen this coming): the submission! Hardly an earth-shaking revelation, but good to finally get it figured out. Each submission has a finite life-span and only certain things can happen (basically, the submitted story either gets bought or it doesn't, although I'm going to track what kind of rejection I get and can also allow for things like rewrite requests or withdrawing the ms).

Speaking of kinds of rejections: I've always been a little puzzled by "rejectionslipomancy." A really long time ago I figured out that a rejection slip includes exactly one bit of information: the editor didn't buy the story. (It doesn't even mean he or she didn't like the story!) Trying to glean any more information than that out of rejection slip seems, let's just say, unlikely to be a productive use of one's time.

I understand from things other people have said, that many magazines have a two-tiered system of form rejection slips with one slip that says, basically, "Learn how to speak English, tell a story and format a ms before bothering to submit to us again," and then another that says, "Not this one this time, please try again." The fact is, I don't know which I'm getting. I keep the slips, in case I want to demonstrate that I'm a working professional for tax reasons at some point. But I don't read them. What would the point be? Once I'm sure it's a rejection and not an acceptance, I stick it in my file.

Well, I've got two stories out now, plus an article. That's more than I've had in a while. And, I've got several more stories that are only one or two rewrites away from being ready to go out.

I think I'm going to parallelize writing new stories and rewriting existing stories a bit more. When I'd just gotten back from Clarion I was trying to focus a bit on new writing, to fight against the (fairly common) problem of finding it difficult to write after Clarion. But I'm fairly comfortable now with both my writing and my rewriting and I'll quit obsessing quite so much.


Philip Brewer's Writing Progress homepage