A Year of No

I committed to myself in 2016 that I would make more of an effort to get my writing out into the world. I submitted my work to publications more often last year than ever before. For the writers among my readers, here’s a breakdown of how that went:

I submitted individual pieces (poems, essays, and stories) 70 times, to 25 different outlets. Twice I submitted directly to an editor; the other times, I submitted via whatever means the publication specified on their website—Submittable, some other system, or email. I drafted multiple versions of cover letters as well as my biography, tailoring them for specific markets. I reported most of my submissions on Duotrope, which I’ve been using for several years. I also began keeping track of my intentions and outcomes for specific pieces and markets on a spreadsheet.

In some cases, I responded to calls for themed submissions; other times, I fervently searched for the best home for a piece; occasionally, I entered contests. I spent $12 on sample issues and $15 on contest fees. Continue reading “A Year of No”

Time To Get Organized

I’ve dedicated this semester to working on my thesis, which I intend to be a collection of poems and short stories about the experience of being adopted. I don’t have any classes to attend this fall. This is good in that I won’t be distracted by homework assignments, and I’ll be able to put my kids to bed every night. However, it’s also challenging, because I have to impose some kind of structure on myself to get the work done.

To that end, this past week I decided to create an Excel spreadsheet to log all of the poems I have written over the past several years. I documented the status of each poem and also categorized the poems by the major themes I tend to write about. I also linked each poem in my spreadsheet to it’s folder on my hard drive so I can easily get to my drafts directly from my log.

Simplified sample of my spreadsheet (click to see larger).

I had a few different goals in mind for doing this. I’d been having trouble keeping track of which poems I’d finished and which I’d left in the draft stage, as well as which I’d published, submitted to journals, etc. So I wanted an easy way to produce a list I could work from of poems that are either finished or in process. To help with submissions, I also wanted a way to easily get a list of poems with a certain theme or poems written in a particular style. Creating columns on my spreadsheet for each of these criteria and utilizing Excel’s filter feature seems to be just what I needed.

Now that I’m able to quickly see all of my poems in one place, I’ve discovered that I’ve left a hefty number of them unfinished. The last academic year pulled me in so many different directions, I’d start a piece then abandon it temporarily to finish other things I needed to get done. Then when I’d sit down to work on poems, I’d forget which ones I needed to go back to. In the few days I’ve been working from the spreadsheet, I’ve already completed some poems that had been waiting for attention for quite a while–and that feels great!

I also see now how I can group my poems in different ways for submission to journals, because I’m able to quickly isolate pieces that deal with similar subject matter, or play with form in a similar way, etc. I think this is going to help me get my poems out there for others to read on more of a regular basis.

Today I created a similar spreadsheet to log my short stories. If I stay organized, I think I have a good shot of keeping to the schedule I proposed for completing my thesis, assuming, of course, that the writing itself goes well. I had a little trouble getting back into fiction mode this morning. But, that’s another post.