What I wrote
At the start of 2017 I had a couple of short stories ready for submission (as well as a novel manuscript). Over the course of the year I developed 8 more short stories to the point where I was comfortable submitting them. I wrote drafts of another 6 or 7 stories that are languishing in various unpolished states.
As the year went on, I found that the stories I was writing got shorter and shorter. Towards the end of the year, I was writing mostly flash fiction (under 1,000 words) inspired by competitions like the Digital Writers Festival Microfiction Challenge. This might have also coincided with a fairly busy period at my day job, leaving less brainspace for long fiction.
The fellowship/grant applications took ages, but one of them paid off, so that effort was worth it.
In total I fired off 39 submissions last year, or not quite one per week. About half of those were submissions of short stories to Australian lit journals or short story competitions. The “other” category in the chart above represents international journals and reading events.
There is differing advice out there about whether it’s a good idea to enter writing competitions. Some say that the odds of winning a competition are much more remote than getting published in a journal, but I’m not sure I agree. The average quarterly Australian journal might only publish 16 stories in a whole year (4 stories per issue, 4 issues per year) so that still seems insanely competitive. My experience was that most journals and competitions tended to prohibit simultaneous submissions (ie submitting the same piece concurrently to two outlets), and took about as long to consider my work before notifying of rejection/acceptance (usually 2-3 months). This year, I don’t plan to change significantly the mix between journal submissions and competition entries. I might get more selective about which journals and comps I submit to.
I received about 30 rejections. Not quite the 100 per year one is supposed to aim for, but it’s a start!
Of the rejections, most were form rejections with no specific feedback. Four were personal rejections that either contained really useful feedback, or confirmed that I’d just missed out on an acceptance and encouraged me to submit again. These ‘nice’ rejections really did feel almost as good as an acceptance.
You can see that the first half of the year was a hard slog. And then in July, I made 4 submissions, of which 2 were ultimately successful (representing a residency and a lit journal publication).
Last year I earned a grand total of $30 from my writing. My effective hourly rate… is not worth thinking about.
As of today I still have a couple of pending submissions. I’m happy to say that at least one of these should lead to a publication outcome during 2018.
I tried to read mostly Australian fiction last year. Books I read and loved included Goodwood by Holly Throsby, A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe, The Weight of a Human Heart by Ryan O’Neill and The Dead Aviatrix by Carmel Bird.
Looking back, looking ahead
At the time, the successes seemed few and far between. But I’m happy with what I achieved in 2017. I also had fun engaging with fellow writers, and got some really useful feedback from practitioners who I admire. I hope that I ended the year as a better writer.
While it would be nice if I could get a bit more traction in 2018, maybe a few more publication outcomes, I feel like I laid some groundwork that will stand me in good stead.
I’d love to hear how your year was, for reading or writing. Let me know in the comments!