"Matchmaker" by Bunnies With Knives -

So I received my first rejection of the year yesterday for a little science fiction piece I wrote.  I sent it to a brand-new market that only specifies they want science fiction, and since there are no previous issues to judge the editor’s taste, I took a chance.

(I should note, the minute I received the rejection notice, I subbed it out immediately to another market I had already scoped out.  So here’s hoping.)

This isn’t the first time I’ve submitted work for publication consideration.  I have a handful of rejection letters, some form, some personal…the personal ones always encouraging.  (I think editors, as a group, tend to be an encouraging bunch.)

But looking back at my submission history, it’s apparent that I’ve made some very poor decisions in the past.  I’ve submitted stories that were completely wrong for a particular market, like a ghost story to a magazine that specializes in heroic fantasy.  Embarrassing.

Now that I’m getting serious about publication and getting my work out there, I’m spending more time studying my markets, figuring out the best way to get in the door.  Before, I had a tendency to take my current best work and send it out in the hopes that someone — anyone — would like it and buy it.  Now I’m approaching the whole submission process as an exercise in matchmaking.

Lots of us have tried to set up our friends.  Some of us are good at it, helping to bring together people who have married and had children.  Others of us — you know who you are — have set up friends solely on the basis that they’re both single and breathing.  That’s putting a lot of stock into “luck of the draw,” for to be a successful matchmaker involves much more than luck.

There are professional matchmakers out there who make a very healthy living bringing people together.  I think as writers seeking markets for our work, we can benefit greatly by learning and mimicking the successful matchmaker’s process.

1.  First of all, a successful matchmaker determines what the goals are for both parties seeking a partnership.

Obviously, a Jewish man seeking a Jewish wife is not going to be a good match for a Christian woman seeking a Christian husband.  Easy stuff.

For writers, this translates into knowing how to best identify the type of genre or flavor a particular story is — let’s say high fantasy — and sending it to a market that favors high fantasy and not, let’s say, horror or romance.

2.  A successful matchmaker spends a lot of time with her clients asking them lots of questions about their likes and dislikes, habits, hopes and dreams, political leanings, et cetera.

Same for writers.  You already know your story.  But do you really know your market?  Have you read any stories from your target market?  How many have you read?  Are all these stories published under the same editor, or has the editor changed?

In studying a market, not only are you trying to discern the tastes of an editor, but you are also trying to discern the taste of the audience that particular editor is selecting stories for.

3.  A successful matchmaker has lots of clients.  The bigger the pool of fish, the more possibilities for finding the perfect someone.

Don’t forget to broaden your pool of potential clients.  In other words, if you’re not an avid reader of short fiction and you’re trying to publish short fiction, you better get avid.  The more markets you read and enjoy, the more potential clients you’re getting to know better.

At the same time, you’ve got to constantly increase your body of work.  Continue to write new stories.  Not only does that reduce the emotional investment you have in one particular story, but the more stories you write, the better the odds are that you’ll have something that will suit a particular editor and market just perfectly.

4.  Sometimes you’ve got to take a stab in the dark to find out what you’re poking.

All that being said, sometimes — like in the case of a brand-new market — you just have to suck it up and go on a blind date.  Sometimes blind dates go well, and sometimes they’re disastrous.  The good thing is, as long as you submit work in a professional manner, the worst that can happen is it’s simply not selected for publication.

Unfortunately, for a romantic hopeful on a blind date, disastrous means they could end up standing in a parking lot waiting awkwardly for their date to finish peeing by his car.  (This has happened to people I know — and no, it wasn’t me.)

5.  Keep trying.

Keep at it and connections will happen.  Stories will find homes with loving editors and adoring audiences.  Kiss enough toads and one day you’ll find that tall dark handsome stranger who makes your knees weak and doesn’t live with his mom.

For all good things in life, there is risk.  Don’t be afraid to fail.  It just means you’re one step closer to success.  Start reading with a passion.  Find out where all the cool people hang out.  Then dress up your babies and send them out there.  Eventually one of them will come home with a ring on its finger.

Good luck, everyone!


It has taken the better part of the month, but I have finally set up and organized my home office, which happens to be located in our bedroom.  This is what it looked like before I started:


As you can see, my desk served more as a catch-all for junk than anything else.  I rarely worked there, and I could never find anything.

This is what it looks like now:


You’ll notice that the space under the desk looks a bit disorganized, but it’s not.  Once I started on this project, I decided that perhaps I should go through all my old writing files since I seemed to be missing a few stories.  Turns out I had three boxes of old writing stuff:  drafts of every story I’ve ever written, thousands of notes on thousands of scraps of paper, rejection letters, old articles, old scripts, sample scripts, et cetera.

I went through everything I had.  I got rid of the extra copies of drafts I didn’t need, and I sorted everything into file boxes.  I archived everything I wanted to keep, but wouldn’t need to refer to anytime soon (mostly old retired stories).  I have two file bins for two novel projects that are at various stages of completion.  I have a file bin for active files, stories that are waiting to be polished and sent out; and I have a file bin for subactive files, like files of ideas that need to be sorted through, scriptwriting stuff, things I’ll eventually get to.

It was a dusty, pain-in-the-ass job, but it was worth it.  I’ve never been so organized in my life…writing-wise, that is.  And the treasures I uncovered!

"Inventory of Every Short Story and Script I've Ever Written"

I was able to put together a comprehensive list of all the short stories I’ve written — 31 in all!  I’ve gone through each one and categorized them as either retired (because they’re too terrible), to be evaluated (it’s been so long since I’ve read it, I can’t remember if they’re any good), to be rewritten, or to be spit-shined and sent out.  Some of them are ready to be sent out — in fact, have already been sent out and came back, and I never got around to sending them out again.

This process has been invaluable.  I’ve finally been able to put together a system that I think will work for me.  Here’s what I’ve set up:

"The Short Story Machine"

The bottom in-basket is “Composting,” where brand-new stories go when they’re finished.  Revision usually goes best when the first draft has aged a bit.  Once they’re ready — you just give them a sniff — you’ll know — then I pull them out and rewrite them.

The next basket up is “Awaiting Feedback.”  This is where they go after I’ve revised a story and submitted it to a friend or fellow writer for feedback.

Next up is “Final Polish and Submittal.”  Pretty self-explanatory.  These are the stories that are just about ready to go out into the world.

And finally, “Business Records”…again, self-explanatory.  This is where I keep receipts (office supplies and Starbucks), word count records, tracking records, et al.

So far, it’s working pretty well for me.  I’ve got files in each basket, and it’s helping me keep track of what I’m working on and stay focused on one particular task at a time.  Before, I was always in a perpetual “cut-bait-or-fish” state of mind, which resulted in many orphaned stories.

In addition to all of this goodness, I discovered that I may never have to buy paper again.  Turns out, I have an awful tendency to buy notebooks, start journaling or writing, and then wander off.  So I went through all of those, tore out the used pages, and this is what I have left:

"Holy Dead Rain Forest, Batman!"

It’s kind of embarrassing.  Okay, a lot embarrassing.  But I’m committed to using every sheet of paper before I buy another notebook.  So as far as paper supplies go, I think I’m good until 2020.

It might seem like a lot of trouble to go through, but it’s crucial to have a work space that works.  When I worked for the court, I had my own office, and everything in my desk had to do with my job.  There was no laundry, baby wipes, or personal correspondence cluttering my space (although I don’t profess my desk was ever clean at court either).  All the things I needed to do my job, to produce a transcript, was there in my office.

I think this is the challenge of having a home office, keeping it separate from the daily activity of living.  And if teething rings and stuffed toys land on my desk, that’s okay.  I wouldn’t trade them for the world.  I just try to keep in mind what the space is for.  I’m a working writer, and I need a place to work…and that’s what I try to do.

Whew!  Anyone need any paper?


"Fireworks" by mnphotobug -

Maybe fireworks is a bit much to celebrate the completion of a short story, but hot damn! this was a tough one to write.  I started writing it on January 17th, and have diligently worked on it every day since then.  As a result, the novel has been waylaid, last Sunday’s short story was a flash fiction piece, and my dining table is still littered with the remains of my desk organizing project.

But at just over 10,000 words, it’s finally finished!

What makes this story especially meaningful for me is the fact that I have a few short stories similar in complexity that are in various stages of completion…which is to say, they ain’t done.  It’s been my typical bad habit to kind of wander away from these stories when the going gets tough, to step away and rehash and reimagine and replan.  To date, that approach has rarely yielded a completed story…just a potential story with great potential, if that makes any sense.

What this means, hopefully, is I’m finally learning how to plow through the first draft, even when it feels like I’m going nowhere.  This particular story gave new meaning to the term “slogging” for me, but it’s been worth it.  I’m happy with my efforts.  Now I’m off to print and edit!

Hope everyone out there is flying through their stories…and if it’s slow-going and muddy, I hope you’re donning your galoshes and continuing on.  There’s rainbows and fireworks waiting for you at “The End.”  🙂


We’ve spent a week in perpetual deluge here in Southern California.  Yesterday, the rain finally stopped for a minute, and the foothills got to show off their new snow line.  The sunflowers were a little stunned.  They thought it was Spring already.

My Secret Hangout

I was fooled too.  Just a few weeks ago, I had been flip-flopping around the neighborhood in capris and short sleeves.  But it’s been shoes and socks and hoodies these past several days for me…standard winter gear for Southern California.

Yesterday was a pretty good day.  I have a little hangout spot where I spend a few minutes each day before going to Starbucks to get my head on straight, listen to a little bit of music, and just generally prepare for the day ahead.  I tend to get a lot of ideas there.  Plus, I like the view.

Anyway, by the time I got to Starbucks, I had loads of ideas fresh from the ether.  More than usual.  I spent 15 minutes transcribing all the notes I had scribbled on a Wal-Mart receipt.  Good stuff though.

And in the dining room at Starbucks, there was a sweet kid who spent a good 40 minutes spinning magic with a yo-yo.  I finally had to get up and make his acquaintance.

Jeff, Yo-Yo Wizard

This is Jeff.  He’s been yo-yoing for 7 months — he’s says it’s an Asian thing <g> — and he looks like Olympic gold doing it.  It killed my word count, but I’m glad I caught the show.

As of today, I’m still working on Sunday’s short story.  It’s been progressing like molasses rolling uphill, but it’s picking up speed.  Got in 1,100 words so far today.  It’s kind of fun working at this pace.  I hope to finish the first draft tonight.  I’m at the part where my protagonist realizes exactly what it is he’s been feeding in his garden and he’s thinking maybe not such a good idea.  Lots of fun.

And to add to all the good vibes, the sun decided to show itself today.  Here’s the view from my “office” at Starbucks this morning:

In other news, I’m just about done organizing my home office space.  I hope to post about that either tomorrow or the next day.  It turned into a much bigger project than I had envisioned, but more about that later.

In the meantime, I hope everyone reading this is having a fine time in this fine month of January.  Are you all writing?  If you are, I’m here cheering ya on.  Rah-rah-rah!


"Paperback Writer" posted by ErosMyth -

So I decided that this year I would write 50 new short stories, which is pretty crazy considering I’ve written just about 30 in my entire life, not to mention I’m currently finishing up a complicated novel.

Why am I doing this?

Because Ray Bradbury encourages me to write a story a week; because practice makes perfect; because I decided to start following good advice instead of just agreeing with it; and — dammit! — this is what I want to do with my life.  I want to become the best I can at it.  I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of time in the past, time I could have spent developing my craft.

The reason I’m not a published professional writer right now is because I haven’t put in enough practice.

I haven’t written enough stories.

So I have instituted Short Story Sundays.  No matter what’s going on with other projects, Sundays are for writing new short stories.  Not only is it a great way to commit to writing more short stories, but it gives my novel-saturated brain a bit of a break and a chance to recharge.

How’s it been going?

So far, so good.  The first Sunday I wrote a little science fiction story in three hours, right before my writer’s group meeting.  Rah!  The second Sunday, I leaped headlong into a weird tale that took me until Monday to finish, but earned me a thumbs-up from Fat Cat.  Double rah!

Today is Wednesday, and I’m still working on this past Sunday’s story.  But it’s okay.  It just goes to show that each story is different.  Some of them unspool like fishing line hooked to a live one.  Others are like ancient artifacts you’re trying to unearth with a shaving brush missing half its whiskers.  This one is the latter one.

But I’m not discouraged.  Nope.  In fact, I’m excited.  I’m starting to take more risks in my writing.  I’m trying different things.  I don’t know if it’ll end up as pretty as I see it in my head, but I’m having fun writing.  And isn’t that what it’s really about?


In Stephen King’s book “On Writing,” he writes, “I think that every novelist has a single ideal reader; that at various points during the composition of a story, the writer is thinking, ‘I wonder what he/she will think when he/she reads this part?'”  For Mr. King, that Ideal Reader is his wife Tabitha.

I’d like to say that for me, my Ideal Reader is my husband (aka Fat Cat)…but the truth is, he’s really not.  He’s snarky, hard-to-please, doubly hard-to-impress, easily underwhelmed, and frankly, not much of a fiction reader at all.

But he is the one I always keep trying to please.  Why?  Well, for one thing, he’s honest, more honest than any critiquer I’ve ever had (“This story was boring.  I kept waiting for it to start.”).  I’m convinced he’s trying to encourage me in my writing endeavors through some sort of cartoon-esque reverse psychology.  (“It’s rabbit season!”  “Duck season!”  “You call yourself a writer?”  “It’s duck season!”)

But the real reason why I keep coming to him story after story for ego-blunt-force-trauma is because he is so very hard to please.  After all, it’s not just short stories by his little ‘ole wife that leave him wanting at times.  Award-winning screenwriters and directors often produce films that leave him shrugging at the end.  “Meh.”  And those people are being paid to tell their stories.  He’s the audience member with barely a pulse.

This is why, when he does come to bed late at night and quietly announces that he’s finally read my story, the one I wasn’t waiting anxiously for two days for him to get to, and says that it was “good,” it leaves me feeling like all kinds of hooray!

"Awesome Face" by Zy0n7 -

So who’s your Ideal Reader? And why?


In the entrepreneurial spirit of hanging a shingle, I have decided it’s time for me to establish a professional work space, one that doesn’t have mounds of laundry piled on it.  Almost every book on writing I’ve ever read stresses the importance of having a designated, organized work space in which to conduct your business.  This sounds like good advice.

And since I decided this year I’m going to actually follow good advice instead of just agree with it, I’ve started excavating my desk in my bedroom.

I was hoping to post before and after photos by now, but the work goes slowly with a little one underfoot.  Plus, I decided it was high time to organize all of my writing stuff (we’re talking drafts of stories that go back to the 8th grade, folks).  As you can imagine, I’ve gotten in the middle of it kind of wishing I never opened up those boxes.  You can’t even tell we have a dining table anymore.

So in the meantime, I thought I’d offer a peek of my orderly office outside the home.  Look familiar?

I know a lot of people think writing in a coffee shop is a little pretentious, but who cares?  They’ve got loads of caffeine and eats, they offer great tables next to outlets, and they don’t care if you stay for three hours straight.  So you probably spend $5, almost $10 if you get a sandwich.  You’re still talking cheap desk rent at the rate of $1.60 to $3.50 an hour.  Plus, you get coffee and grub.

I affectionately refer to this place as my Starbucks.  The people there are absolutely wonderful.  When I walk in, it’s, “Hey, Angela, how’s that little girl of yours?  Venti chai, right?  No water, whip, I know.”  You can’t beat that kind of beginning to a serious work session.

And for those who might be suspicious that I’m there surfing the net and spending unnecessary money while goofing off — he knows who he is — I’m finding my most productive time to be at Starbucks.

Fat Cat watches the baby for two hours every morning, and those two hours are precious to me…especially considering I can only write at home when she’s asleep.  As she grows older, the naps are becoming shorter, and most nights, I end up going to bed with her.  So Starbucks hours are gold.

So I get in there, grab a table — I’m not particular — pay for my chai, and set up my laptop.  I’ve got my notes and materials for whatever current project or task I’m working on.  I’ve got noise-canceling headphones — I swear by them, unless you enjoy listening to people’s cell phone conversations — playing whatever I’m currently in love with on the media player.  (Brit/piano/alternative rock seems to be where I’m spending all my time these days.)

This is my zone.  This is where I can churn out 2,000+ words without breaking a sweat.  This is the place where I can concentrate completely on the work.  And this is the only place I can listen to music that loud and not bother anyone or worry that I can’t hear the baby.

My friend has a library she says she dreamed about for 10 years.  That sounds like heaven to me.  But in the meantime, I don’t mind paying rent at Starbucks.

How about you all out there in cyber world?  Where’s your in-the-zone all-time favorite place to write?


"Palm Climber" by LadyLaisidhiel -

To succeed wildly at any endeavor, one must set goals.  Now there’s a school of thought (normally associated with marketing) called “low hanging fruit.”  The idea is to go for the quick and easy win.  You feel good.  Your basket is full.  You’re a winner.

However, you’ve only harvested the goodies from the very bottom of the tree.  What about all the golden fruit growing perfect in the sunshine near the top, or thick and juicy near the middle?  Besides that, once all the easy fruit is taken, now what?

If you haven’t planned for it, haven’t brought your ladder, your telescoping fruit plucker, or your climbing shoes, you’re shit out of luck.

For the most part, to get yourself started on a project or boost your morale and build momentum, this is an excellent way to go.  But it’s just a first step.  If you want to move on to bigger and better things, you need a bigger and better plan.

Mine is to set myself up for failure.

Here’s the deal.  It’s wonderful to set a modest goal of 500 or 1,000 words a day.  It’s a great way to get started from a complete stop.  It’s super easy to hit 500 words.  1,000 words is just as easy.  Maybe an hour’s work.  Boom.  You’re done.  Brush off your pants, and step away from the computer.

If you follow this path, you’ll probably always hit your goal.  You’ll always be a winner in the word-count department.  But so what?  This is like a long-distance runner jogging around the block once a day.  Congratulations on running the block, but aren’t you trying to run marathons?

I want to write novels, the literary equivalent to marathons.  My goal is to average 3,000 words a day.  It sounds like a lot.  Maybe it is.  And if you tally it up, 3,000 words a day will take you 95,000 words past 1,000,000 words in a year.  That’s a crazy insane amount of work.  And it’s completely doable.

I rarely hit 3,000 though.  Most of the time I land somewhere in the 2,000 range.  But if I set a goal for 5,000 for the day, I almost always will hit 3,000 and a little past.

In other words, day in and day out, I’m failing at meeting my word count goal.  That’s okay.  I’m still tallying up better word counts at the end of the day than if I just set my goal at 500 or 1,000.  And the higher I raise the goal, the higher my word counts get…even if they always fall just short.

As it is, I would rather fall short every single day this year and be the proud owner of a million words, than meet my goals every day, having written 365,000 words with one hand tied behind my back.

So off I go!  I’m so close to finishing this novel.  Maybe I’ll write 5,000 words today! <wink>


I have read a lot of books on writing throughout the years — A LOT of books on writing.  It all sounded great, logical, reasonable.  It all made sense.  And yet, I never really got off my duff and did it.

However, in the last few months, having gone through the trial by fire of NaNoWriMo, and keeping up that momentum (I’m pushing 400 pages on the novel — almost done!), I have discovered that all that great advice I read…well, it turns out it’s all true.  I just never followed it.  I just liked reading about it.  I liked reading about writing and imagining I was writing.  And reading those books made me feel like a writer.  It just wasn’t the type of writer I wanted to be:  a Wannabe Writer.

Here’s what I’ve found:  if you just sit down and commit to writing a short story or a novel, commit to writing one word after the other, you will discover the same truths that you would find in any decent writing book.  By doing so, not only will you really get it, but you will have written.  This is the essence of the Gonnabe Writer.

Questions Wannabe Writers ask (usually of other writers):

  1. Where do you get your ideas?
  2. How do you overcome writer’s block?
  3. What kind of pen/software/operating system do you use?
  4. What time of the day or night do you write?
  5. What kind of house am I going to buy with my first advance check?

Questions Gonnabe Writers ask (usually of themselves):

  1. What are my goals for today, this week, this month, this year?
  2. What kind of career do I want to have?
  3. What tasks do I need to tackle today?
  4. Did I hit my word count for the day?
  5. Did I back up the day’s work?

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the romanticism imbued in the image of the Writer.  I think most of us do.  Have you ever seen the movie “The Wonder Boys”?  Fantastic movie.  And part of the reason why I love it is because I love the pot-smoking, ragtag-robe-wearing, patches-on-the-elbow-academic Professor Grady (played by Michael Douglas) who has spent seven years trying to write a follow-up to his first successful novel.

Even though I eat this stuff up with a spoon, I think this kind of romanticism breeds Wannabes.  Who cares if writers are suffering, unshaven, poor addicts hunched over blank pages?  They’re creating Art, and Art is Life.  And in most depictions of writers, the self-inflicted suffering pays off:  they end up hitting the jackpot with a runaway bestseller that climbs the NY Times Bestseller List and digs in at the top.

Not that it couldn’t — and doesn’t — happen.  And who doesn’t want that?  It’s just that this kind of romanticism is what makes Wannabe Writers focus on the wrong things to get them to the top of the Bestseller List:  bad habits, bad clothes, and lottery tickets.

The Gonnabe Writer knows there’s only one way to the top of the heap, and that’s by writing.  If you must, write in a coffee shop (I do), wear lucky underwear (if clean is considered lucky, then I do), and have lots of bad habits and rituals (um, I do), just as long as you’re doing the work every day. This is what makes the Gonnabe Writer a Professional Paid Writer.

So order up a latte, wear plaid intimates, or light up a doobie… just show us what you’ve written.  Your public awaits.


This year I’m hanging out the shingle.  Really.  I know I’ve said it before, but this is the first year I file a tax return that lists my occupation as “Professional Writer.”  There it is, thumb-tacked to my vision board:  “Angela McConnell, Professional Writer.”  I am open for business.

How do I know this is my year?  Because I am ready to put in the work.  I am putting in the work.  As Steven Pressfield puts it, I’m going Pro.

In the past few months, I have experienced the most significant improvement in my writing in every aspect:  quality, quantity, consistency, and control.  I feel on top of my game, and I feel like it has everything to do with simply getting the work done every day.

Not surprisingly, I’ve been feeling really happy these days.  This is a wonderful time in my life.  And I finally realized the other day, my God, the writing makes me happy; it supplies the juice.  I always knew that, and somehow I always kept putting it off.  I mean, I put ten years into a court reporting career, and then went and opened a karaoke bar with a five-year lease to put this dream off.  Now I’m finally in the place I always dreamed and planned for…to be a full-time writer and stay at home with my babies. (There are other dreams that involve more money and sequins, but this is the important part.)

So why did I – hell, why do we all put our dreams on hold, trying to secure a perfect place in the future for which conditions will be convenient for us to finally hatch our Big Plans?  What the hell’s wrong with today?  Today looks good.  Today it is.

I think we do it because the dream is so dear to us that we hold it back, sort of saving the best for last.  “Let me deal with all this crap first,” we tell ourselves, “then I’ll sit down and write.”  The thing is, there’s always going to be crap.  We never run out of crap.  Crap is the stuff of life.  So why put the crap before our dreams?

Dreams tend to blossom when they’re tended with first efforts, not last efforts.  And despite our worst fears, bungled attempts strengthen the dream, not ruin them.  Scars are good.  Besides, bungled attempts are better than no attempts. (1)   Don’t be afraid to look stupid.  You probably already do anyway. (2)

So I have a plan.  I think it’s a good plan.  It’s a simple plan.

I’m giving up my amateur status, and I’m going Pro.

[Who’s with me?  Rah!]

I’m no longer a wannabe writer…I’m the gonnabe writer, the gonnabethenextfuckinggreatthing writer.  And after a year of experimenting with the whole blog platform, trying out my cyber voice – hello, can anyone hear me? – wondering what the hell I should I be talking about, I’ve decided to repurpose this blog to focus on issues facing not wannabe writers, but fellow gonnabe writers, the folks who are saying, “Dammit, I’m tired of dreaming about one day, this is my year, and I’m waking up every morning sleeves rolled up and ready to work.”

[Hear!  Hear!]

So I promise I will do my best to post consistent, frequent, interesting, helpful, honest, and funny posts on my journey to becoming a Paid Professional Writer, and in exchange, I hope you will tune in, maybe even join in, and share your own successes.

So…please to enjoy.  And Happy New Year!


(1)  Now you know what not to do, Einstein.

(2)  At every moment of our lives, someone somewhere thinks that there’s something stupid about what you’re doing or how you look or what you drive. Oh, well. Right?