Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

I&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;ve been using the submission planning spreadsheet I talked about here and realized that a couple of tweaks would improve its functionality.

I added a column to enter the word count of your story, and formulae in the &http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8220;Projected Payment&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8221; column, so that now if you enter your word count and the pay rate for a particular market, the spreadsheet will calculate the projected payment for you (because I don&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;t know about you, but I&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;m all about doing as little actual math as possible). There&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;s also now a separate column for flat rate payments.

The instructions page has been amended accordingly.

Here&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;s the really cool part: if you&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;ve already started using the older version of the spreadsheet, don&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;t despair! Open your version and the new version in different windows on your desktop, and simply drag one of the updated sheets from the new version into your old version. It won&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;t update a sheet you&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;ve already started, of course, but you can use the new version for any new ones you start. You can take advantage of the new features without having to start a new file.

The new file is now linked below and on the original post&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;s download page. Happy submission planning!

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Samsung_840_EVO_SSD-8_-_front_blackIt is Friday the 13th, and yet I am cloning and installing a new SSD in my laptop. Nope, no triskaidekaphobia, paraskevidekatriaphobia, or friggatriskaidekaphobia here.

It’s been a good week for writing, and my NaNoWriMo WIP has topped 30k words. I spent the first 29k of that figuring out what the novel was about, and then yesterday finding out how it would all fit together, but it’s not the process, it’s the product, right? For a usual November I would be ecstatic to be at 30k words on this date (and it is, in my 13-year tenure, unheard-of), because I’d be more than halfway to goal–but of course, this year’s actual goal is much higher, and so I am merely satisfied. Satisfied is also a good place to be, however.

I had a story rejection this week but…well, as my good friend Nancy says, at some point they get to be more like a kick on the shin than a devastating injury. They sting for a bit and then you shrug them off and that’s it. I haven’t found a new place to send the story yet because, darn, it’s long, and the majority of markets these days are looking for 5k or less, it seems. I just don’t write that many stories in that length. I’ll try to find some time to focus on that in the next week.

I’m doing a lot of on-call story advising this month since there are so many stories happening in this household right now. But that’s fun, and it’s so interesting to be able to watch other writers develop under the microscope, so to speak. And it’s nice to be able to answer many of the questions that I had to research long ago.

I set up a new blog over at WordPress.com this week, called Stalking the Story. Why do I want another website to look after? Well, I plan to make it the repository for just my writing-related posts, so if that’s all you’re here for, they’ll be cross-posted over there as well. I’m also hoping to have some guest bloggers over there in the coming months. It may, over time, turn into a cooperative blog, which is something I’ve thought I’d like to do for some time now, in partnership with other writers. We’ll have to see how it evolves.

Habitica avatarMy desk is actually getting a bit messy, as it is wont to do during NaNoWriMo, so I plan to take a break this weekend and tidy it up. No, I will not be procrastinating on my WIP. The other thing I did this week was set up an account at Habitica, which is essentially a way to manage your productivity and habits by gamifying your life and translating it into a video RPG. So far, I love it. It’s amazing how much more satisfying it is to make my bed when I know I’m getting XP and virtual gold for it. :) I mean, I’ve only been using it for a few days and I’m already level 5!

Some things I did to earn gold and XP this week:

  • made my bed
  • walked on the treadmill
  • wrote. a lot.
  • did laundry
  • drank more water
  • finished the fall yard work

I’ll bet you did some of those things this week too. BUT did you get XP for them?

SSD Photo Credit: By Samsung Belgium (Flickr: SSD840EVO_008_Dynamic_Black) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

old deskWhat? How can it be Friday again already?

Well, let’s see what I have for the desk report this week. I cooked and ate a lot of food over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, and hung out with my family.

I did quite a bit more work on my Nearspace bible in preparation to begin the new novel, and I wrote almost two thousand words of new story notes. While doing some research reading I had a HUGE epiphany about how a lot of things fall into place in this novel, and honestly, when that happens, that’s enough of an accomplishment to make you feel good about the whole week! My brain is now telling me I’m ready to start writing, but I know that’s not true yet. It’s just that my brain gets overexcited about these things sometimes. Calm down. Not long now.

I got a short story rejection and sent out a new submission for that story the same day. Which reminded me of one of my favorite essays from back in the day when Speculations was still a print publication. It was “How Many Times Do You Have To Be Told No?” by James Van Pelt and it made a big impression on me as a new-ish writer (I still have a copy of that issue, so I went and re-read it for fun. It’s just as relevant today as it ever was). The tagline for the article was The sun sets on no rejected manuscript in my house and I have tried hard over the years to make that my creed for submitting stories.

I tweaked my NaNoWriMo guest blog post for Liana Brooks and saw it go live here on Thursday. And I read the page proofs for my story in the upcoming 2016 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide from Dreaming Robot Press. I’m really excited to read all of the stories in this anthology.

And I discovered two new very nice reviews for One’s Aspect to the Sun over on amazon.

Today I’m talking to some elementary school kids about “being a writer” for a career day project, so I did some prep work for that as well. I’m hoping they’ll have some questions to ask me, too!

Some things I looked up on the Internet this week (not necessarily to do with writing):

I’d call that a good week.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

my-tools-1239864-639x426So I had this idea to write a sort of weekly roundup/review post, and call it the Friday Desk Report. I envision it as sort of a brief review of the week’s projects, word metrics, links, and anything else notable that happened during the week. As much for myself as for anyone else, I suppose, but it could turn out to be interesting.

Will I be able to keep it up? Only the future will tell. Traditionally, I’m not so good with consistency, but it’s possible I’m improving with age. Come on, it’s possible.

So, what do I have to report? This week I did the most sustained new writing I’ve done since my mom passed away at the end of August. Still not a lot of new words, but it felt good to work like that again. I worked on a short story I’m writing about giant monsters who have laid waste to much of the continent and now threaten my protagonist’s small Nova Scotia farm.

I also worked on a book trailer for The Seventh Crow, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I’m waiting on a couple of images I need to replace some placeholders, and then I’ll be uploading it to share. Should be available sometime next week.

I wrote a book review I’d promised, and drafted a guest blog post I have to turn in by the 15th, so I’m well ahead on that. I also put together a new outline template for Scrivener and began using it to work on The Chaos Assassin, and this morning I sent out a short story submission.

I read far too much on Facebook about the upcoming federal election and decided I need to stop worrying about it and being disappointed in people. It’s far too negative. All I can do now is cast my own vote and encourage others to do so, and hope, hope, hope for better things to come.

NearspaceBibleToday I’m working on my Nearspace series bible, in preparation for NaNoWriMo and the novel I’m planning to work on in November. I already had such a thing but it was NOT well-organized or complete. I found this video from Kami Garcia to be quite inspiring in this regard and look how well it’s coming along!

In other Nearspace news, I also put up another free Nearspace story on this site today, which you can find here. It’s a peek into Nearspace and the first contact story between humans and Lobors, before wormhole travel was possible.

Some cool things from the internet this week:

Okay, I’m impressed. That’s a pretty good report! So back to today’s project…


Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

file1941286445708I’m so pleased to officially report that my YA fantasy novel The Seventh Crow will be published by Dreaming Robot Press, with an expected release date sometime in 2015.

I wrote the first draft of The Seventh Crow as my NaNoWriMo project in 2005. It’s been through several drafts since then, growing and maturing (I hope!) with every one. No, I would not say that I’ve “been working on this novel for ten years”! Novel revision seems to be a very on-again, off-again kind of thing for me. If we condensed down the time that I actually worked on it, it would fit into a ridiculously shorter period of time. But sometimes that in-between time is important for the book, and for the writer. In any event, I’m very excited that the novel has found a home!

When you can’t remember most of your life, you’d better be prepared for anything. The day a talking crow meets her on the way home from school, fourteen-year-old Rosinda is plunged into a forgotten world filled with startling revelations: magic ability flows in her veins, she’s most comfortable with a sword in her hand, and the responsibility for finding a missing prince rests solely with her.

While dark forces hover in the background and four forgotten war gods from Earth’s past plot to reclaim long-lost power, Rosinda struggles with waves of slowly-returning memories as she searches for clues about her past and the true identity of her family; a search that takes her back and forth between two worlds. In a race against time to recover her memory, find the prince, and rescue her loved ones, Rosinda has only her friend Jerrell and an unusual trio of animals as companions. And as the gods prepare to bring her world to war, Rosinda is unaware that the shadow of betrayal lurks within one whom she trusts the most…

Stay tuned for updates!

Photo credit: curlsdiva

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

For a long (LONG) time now, I’ve been looking for the perfect way to track manuscript submissions. I used to keep file folders and enter everything by hand, but it was cumbersome when I wanted to look something up, and the out-of-sight out-of-mind rule would also come into play; I could forget what I had out at any given time.

Then I started looking for a software program that would do the tracking for me, but after many (MANY) hours of searching, I could not find exactly what I wanted. Every one I found was either

  • too simple
  • outdated
  • not customizable enough
  • only online (which I didn’t want)
  • too complex, or
  • too expensive

At one point I thought I’d found a good one, paid for it, and spent hours inputting information. It has worked reasonably well, but has also been software-buggy to the point where I no longer trust it. And there’s a newer version, but I’d have to pay for it again. No, thanks.

Not long ago, I discovered the wonderful flexibility of Scrivener. I used it to re-organize and rewrite a novel, and found it extremely helpful for that. I’ve been doing all my writing in it since then. And the other day I had an idea–could I create a submission tracker with it? It seemed possible that I could, so I set about to try.

And, I love it. It takes full advantage of Scrivener’s Binder and Inspector features, as well as the folder/subfolder/text structure. Once set up, data entry for a given work or submission takes no more time than it would in any database program. And the setup is infinitely customizable–once you start thinking about it, you may find you want a setup that’s somewhat different from mine in the details, and that’s perfectly okay and easy to do. It’s the overall idea I want you to take away from this post. I’m no Scrivener power-user; this idea uses only basic techniques and features.

Ready to give it a try? You should be able to do the initial setup in under half an hour if you are at all familiar with Scrivener. I use Scrivener for Windows, so if you’re on a Mac, things might be slightly different (click any image to see it larger).

1. Open a new Scrivener project, and name it Submission Tracker (or whatever you’d like).

folders2. Create a folder for Manuscripts, and one for Publishers. Inside my Manuscripts folder, I also created a few subfolders: Novels, Short Stories, Reprints, and Sold/Retired. Depending on what you write, you may want to divide up your manuscripts even further; perhaps with subfolders for Non-fiction or Poetry. Your goal is to make it easy to quickly locate any given manuscript, so make whatever subfolders make sense for you. (Think about what you want to be able to see at a glance or find quickly when you open the tracker. Use as few or as many subfolders as you like. You can add new subfolders and move manuscripts into them at any time.)

If you wish, you can divide up the Publishers into subfolders, too–Open, Closed, Temporarily Closed, On Hiatus, etc. You can also simply color-code them with labels. More about that later.

3. Now, inside your Manuscripts folder, create a new text document and name it Template.

In this template, you’re going to set up whatever manuscript information you want to record/track. I’ve decided to keep it simple: Word Count, Genre, and a place for Notes. You don’t need to enter the title of the manuscript here, because in each manuscript document, the title will appear where this one says “MS Template”, just under the formatting bar. If you want to use this as a complete Manuscript record as well as a submission tracker, you could record dates (started, finished, etc.) or whether you wrote the piece for a particular market, how much you were paid if it sold, or any other information you want. This template is completely customizable; include whatever you want on it, but don’t forget the KISS principle. Only include what you really think you’ll use.

Below this general data about the manuscript, add a table for entering submissions (you can add a table easily from the formatting bar or the Format menu). Again, track whatever information you wish. I’ve set mine up with Date Submitted, Publisher/Market, Expected Reply, Reply Date, and Outcome. You could just have a Notes area here instead of a table, but I like things NEAT.MStemplate

4. Now create a template in your Publishers folder as well. I’ve kept mine simple: Contact Person, what the market Accepts, and Notes. (Again, you don’t need to add the name; it will already be at the top of the page). You could add things like pay rates, etc., but to save time, I’ll just include a link to submission guidelines in my notes. In my opinion, this is a better idea because you always want the most up-to-date information on any given market.

In my table I have a spot for Manuscript Submitted, Response, and Response Time. That’s all I really need here, because the Manuscript page itself will have all the other information about a particular submission, and there’s no need for me to input it twice. I do want to be able to link manuscripts with publishers in a search, though, so that’s why the manuscript title is included here. Response times matter to me, so I’ve set it up so I can see at a glance how a publisher rates in that department. Include whatever information you want in your table.PUBtemplate

5. One more bit of setup: labels and status. Turn on your Scrivener Inspector (if it’s not on already–the blue “i” button in the upper right corner), and under the View menu, make sure “Use Label Color In Binder” is selected.labelinbinder

Now set your Labels and colors for Manuscripts. I’ve chosen to mark my manuscripts as either Work in Progress, Revision, Ready to Submit, In Submission, Sold, or Retired. Create as many labels as you want. Use them in conjunction with Status information to further detail works that are in draft stages, with beta readers, need line editing, final proofreading, etc.–it depends only on how detailed you want to get and what you want to track.labels-status

I’ve also created a set of labels and colors for Publishers: Currently Open, Reading Periods (for those that are only open to subs at certain times), and Closed (later I added a few more, as you’ll see in the last image). Again, use what works for you. You may choose not to use any labels for Publishers, or you could use labels (or Status) to identify markets you’ve sold to, ones with the best pay rates or response times, publishers where you have a pending submission–whatever information you want. Each manuscript and publisher data sheet can be assigned both a label and a status, AND sorted into a specific folder, so you have many options. Remember that you can change the label color assignments anytime if you want a new look, and add more labels and statuses if you are inputting data and decide you need more.

6. And now you’re ready to input data. Right-click your Manuscript template and make a duplicate from the menu (don’t enter data into your template! You want to keep that blank, and only enter data into copies of it.). Rename the duplicate with the title of your first manuscript, and fill out the appropriate data about the work, and about a submission, if you have one. Bonus idea: use the synopsis area of the Inspector (the index card) to include a brief–you guessed it–synopsis of the work, publication info, or a tagline, pitch, or keywords if you like. You can also use the Document Notes section to store such information, a longer synopsis, etc. sampleMSIf you want to get EVEN MORE FANCY, you can use Edit>Link to insert a link directly to the manuscript file on your computer here. The link will appear wherever your cursor is located in the document. (NOTE: Later, I talk about storing your tracker project on Dropbox or a similar service; naturally, this link will only work on the computer on which the file is actually stored.)


If you entered a submission, leave the manuscripts folder and now go to the Publisher template, make a duplicate, and create a sheet for that publisher. In the table, enter the manuscript you’ve submitted, and set the publisher label and status, or sort it into the proper folder if you’ve decided to use them. Again, you can use the Synopsis area to record anything about the publisher you think is notable. And once you’ve entered a Publisher, you never have to do it again; you’ll just be adding new manuscript submissions to the table after that, or possibly updating the publisher status or information in future. samplePUB

If you’re going to populate the tracker with all your past manuscript and submission data, this could take quite a while. But if you keep at it, you will end up with a nice, comprehensive system. Once you’re caught up, you can simply create a new manuscript file whenever you begin a new work, and add a publisher file whenever you submit somewhere new, in addition to entering each new submission you make.

Another cool thing to note: the Binder also shows you, at a glance, how many manuscripts are in a given folder, and how many publishers you have in your system (the little numbers in grey circles).

Suggestions to get the most out of your Scrivener Submission Tracker:

  • Keep manuscripts that are in submission at the top of your list, and always move the most recently-submitted manuscript to the top, inside the Manuscripts folder. This will provide you with a quick visual clue to manuscripts that have been out for a while (they’ll have been pushed further down the list) and may need a followup note
  • Although Scrivener is not, strictly speaking, a database, you can use the search function to make it mimic one. By searching a particular publisher, for instance, you will see in the Binder all the manuscripts you’ve submitted there. Likewise, when you search a manuscript title, the Binder will display all the markets you’ve sent it to. Use the search function creatively and you’ll be able to locate data quickly. If you can think of data you’d like to be able to search, include it in your templates or labels.
  • Labels are meta-data and included in searches, so if you search the name of any label, for example, Work In Progress, the Binder will display all manuscripts with that label.
  • Move sold or retired manuscripts into the appropriate folder so they aren’t cluttering up your list of active works. You’ll also see your numbers of sales at a glance.
  • Move sold manuscripts that may be eligible to reprint into the Reprints folder so you can find them quickly. If you make Reprints a subfolder of Sold, your number of works sold will remain accurate
  • If you want to get really fancy, create a folder (or just a document) at the top of your Binder for keeping notes about calls for submission, deadlines, story ideas, etc.
  • If you use a cloud storage service like Dropbox or one of the many others, save your project file there. Your data will then be accessible from any computer where you have Scrivener installed.

So what does it look like when populated with some manuscripts and publishers? This is only a start on my data, but I think you get the idea (I think I will also be tweaking all the colors so it’s not quite so…garish!). I’ve highlighted some of the features:final

One more thing: Scrivener’s corkboard view. If you click on any folder (say, Short Stories), and you’ve used Statuses to identify what stage each manuscript has reached in the writing process, you can survey them at a glance on the corkboard:corkboard

I have no doubt that an experienced Scrivener user might come up with improvements or ways to make this system even more useful, but this is working for me. Maybe it will work for you, too!

Please feel free to add comments or suggestions!


Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.


Details count!

We all know the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” We all know it, but we all do it anyway, right? I find it very hard to bring myself to read a book with an ugly, ill-conceived, or poorly-executed cover. Why? Because the amount of care and attention paid to the cover sends a message about the amount of care and attention paid to the contents.

Yes, of course it’s possible to have a great book hidden behind an ugly cover. But you have to find readers willing to take the chance. I suspect a lot of decent books suffer this way, and don’t get the readership they deserve.

However, today I’m not searching for something new to read. Today I’m searching for publishers to submit to. And I’m here to tell you that I’m judging them by their covers. The covers they put on the books they publish.

There are a lot of factors that I consider–that I expect most writers consider–when deciding where to submit their work. Turnaround time is a big one for me, because I now make it a policy to leave manuscripts in submission (without a decision) for no longer than a year at the outside. Sure, I know that in publishing terms a year is not that long, but I’ve been burned before and I’m not going to do that again.

Payment is also a big one. Many publishers list their royalty structure right on their websites now, which I think is great. No surprises down the road after a long time waiting for an answer. I also have limits below which I won’t go on that score, because if a publisher does not value my work, I don’t trust them to help me attract readers.

Other considerations: I like publishers that accept simultaneous submissions, although it’s not a deal-breaker. I like publishers that accept attachments, although ditto. I like publishers that deal in both print and ebook, although I might consider ebook only if other aspects are attractive. I have little use for publishers who don’t plan to answer me unless they’re interested. And I might break my own rules on any of these things depending on circumstances.

But these days, I’m not even *looking* at any of these details first. The first thing I do when I scope out a potential publisher is go and look at their current catalogue and see what their covers are like. And if those covers are–to put it bluntly–crappy, then I don’t bother looking any further.

Maybe that sounds snobbish, like now that I have one book published, I’m full of myself. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I just think that especially now, in the days of shopping mega-bookstores online, where book cover thumbnails have about eight seconds to catch the eye of a potential reader, it’s the single most important element in getting a reader’s interest.

Some may argue that the most important element is price, but I beg to differ. Even at .99 or $2.99( or whatever the magical perfect ebook selling price is this week), a bad cover is not going to interest a reader in making even a small investment. Not when there are hundreds of beautiful, intriguing, eye-catching covers out there at the same price.

Some may also argue that it’s a matter of taste, to which I will agree–conditionally. Not even the most deftly-executed cover is going to make me pick up a horror novel. But I believe that even readers who profess to have no artistic appreciation will be turned off by a bad cover. Bad covers look cheap. They may be confusing. They’re often unreadable. They just don’t sell books, and after all, that’s their job. A cover is supposed to say “what lies within here is something you want to experience.” They won’t work if they say “we just didn’t have the time/money/talent/experience to make this look good. But spend your money anyway. What’s inside is better!”

If you don’t believe me, there are numerous curators of bad book covers around the Internets: like here, here,and here. Take a look and tell me if you really want to read these books. And would you really want your own book to join them?

Photo credit: mailsparky

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