Writing By the Numbers

These first two weeks of the new year, I have been reading posts by several other writers who are summing up the old year and looking forward to the new in terms of how they handled their writing goals, especially in terms of submissions. Kathleen Kirk first alerted me to writers setting the goal of receiving 100 rejections in a year. The idea, I assume, is that in order to receive 100 rejections, you’d have to send out a minimum of 100 submissions.

Although I don’t like to put too much pressure on myself to publish (as writing is the goal), I do try to keep my work out there. So I decided to do a little searching myself to see how I had been doing with submissions/rejections/acceptances.

Currently out awaiting response: 17 journal submissions; one chapbook contest

Journal submissions in 2011: 57.  Acceptances? 14. Still under consideration: 13. Rejections. 30. (That’s a 24% acceptance rate. Not too shabby, I think, considering that writing and submitting is not my primary job.)

Full-Length Manuscript: Submitted to two contests in 2011. No luck there. Will continue to work toward this goal.

As I looked over my records, I tend to send out batches of submissions when I have “down times” – school vacations, summer, long weekends or when my husband is away. If I could get out 57 in this way, I should be able to get MORE out if I am consistent.

So, how can I do this? I have started a new charting system so that I can move groups of poems that are rejected (I tend to think a lot about which poems are going out together) straight into another column to be resubmitted. This way, when I record a rejection, I am more likely to go to my list of possible journals and submit again instead of waiting.

For 2012?

I plan to send out the completed full-length manuscript to at least two places in January/February, and I am working on a second manuscript, applying for summer residencies, and trying to read and attend as many poetry events as my schedule allows.

And I catch the words wherever I can. Some I even get to keep.


10 thoughts on “Writing By the Numbers

  1. I like your idea of shifting rejected poems into a column to be resubmitted. Mine go back into their alphabetised index card place, where I can’t see them, which isn’t good. Do you have an excel spreadsheet, or your own chart?


    • I don’t use Excel because I am a spreadsheet moron. But I use a form in Numbers (the Mac version of Excel) called Checklist. I can still search it and sort columns, but it doesn’t intimidate me like a spreadsheet. I have date sent, poem titles, journal, expected response time, other, and result columns. I color-code rejections to know if they are form, personal, or say to try again.

      • I too am a spreadsheet moron, which is why I have index cards, and a computer table I put together, but which needs overhauling. I have the same columns. My vertical is the journals, but only as I submit. I’ll have to look at it again. Thanks, Donna.


  2. I love your plans and your numbers! I write stuff on pieces of paper, in a computer file, and on folders.

    I credit Brett Elizabeth Jenkins, aka The Angry Grammarian, as the 100 Rejections person, but I think she might have gotten the idea from someone, too, or joined in the 100 rejections effort as a morale booster for that person.


    I am so glad a lot of us are using this as a motivator and mutual morale booster!

  3. I’m beginning to think I need to find more journals to submit to. Up till now, I’ve focussed on New Zealand journals, which limits things – there are perhaps a dozen or so, some of which are highly experimental, or tend to publish only well-established writers.
    The advantage of course, of focussing on local journals, it is that it is more likely to establish me as a writer here – which will be relevant if I want to publish a book in future, or get invited as reader to different venues. The disadvantage is that being able to submit to 100, or even 57, publications in a year, is downright impossible. And I’m not familiar enough with American or even Australian journals to be sure which are a good level for me to submit to – especially since they tend not to be stocked in libraries here.
    What do you think? And do you focus on particular journals – your area of the country, or any other criteria?

    • If you take a look at my publications page, you’ll see that it is a melange of print and online journals. With so many internet journals out there, you just need to take the time to read some and see which ones might be suitable for your work.

      In terms of booking readings, I’ve found that it’s more important to be an active member of your community – attend open mics, readings, events – than to have local publication credits.

      Good luck!

  4. There’s always Curio… 😉

    100 sounds so huge, though. I think I managed maybe 15 or 20 last year, but maybe this is a good motivator to look for more, especially print ones. (The year has already started off with a couple acceptances that I sent out some weeks ago… auspicious, I hope!) Duotrope is a medium blessing for finding new venues.

    (And I use three columns in Word: name of journal, date of submission and response, list of poems submitted, with the accepted ones bolded and rejected ones greyed out. Hurrah for idiosyncrasy!)

  5. My spreadsheet is cornfusing….it’s good to see when/where I’ve submitted, and which poems, but I struggle with knowing which new poems to get out the door. Maybe another document? List o’pretty good poems, maybe?

    Good luck on those goals—I think your acceptance rate is great, girl!

    • Hannah, my biggest struggle is remembering which poems are just hibernating in folders. I tend to have several sets at a time that I am trying to place, and I often don’t go back to older poems unless I am looking for a themed poem or something specific. Another document might be helpful…

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