10 December 2022

One-Fers and Zero-Fers and Damned Statistics

I know this is the holiday season and all that goodwill stuff, but I'll tell you one thing I'm not feeling good about. Not thankful for it, either. It's my late year submission record. Let's just say my stocking gets more coal this time of year.

In point of fact, in the ten-plus years of my submitting stories, I have sold precisely one story in November. It's a good one, but it's only one, and it sold in 2013. It had been worse. Until 2021, I'd gone 0-fer-October. Holiday cheer? Not so much. It's enough to shrink a heart two sizes too small.

I'm joking. A little. My month-by-month stats aren't meant to track emotional swings. I track them to keep my submissions straight. A by-product for a numbers guy is stats help glean insight and/or trivia. You notice things in the numbers. 

"Hey," you might say to the cat. "I'm seeing a trend here." 

The cat peeks her eye open. She says nothing.

"I don't get it," you might say. "One-fer November? That's a trend. Bank it."

She does not, but forget what the cat thinks. Ten-plus years is a certified trend. The real question is whether it's a curse.

It is. A total jinx, I've come to understand. But not the first jinx that slithers to mind. The curse is me.

Story ideas don't come to me in genre form. Sometimes, I'm writing to spec, such as for Alfred Hitchcock or anthology calls. My track record there is pretty strong. But the curse involves the other stuff. For the stuff not to spec, I start with zero no idea what end form it'll find. I just follow my process. If it has enough crime to it, it's a crime story. If crime-free or crime-light, it's a general lit story (once, a speculative mash-up with my famous magic sandwich). But I'm left with a batch of decent stories without a natural home. 

Which is fine. Normal, even. Except that I can be too much a Numbers Guy. 

I'm usually operating under a set of goals. These goals tend to come at New Years. I'll set a target for stories to write and past stories that deserve continued journey toward submission-worthy. The focus bump carries me into the year. By summer, my goals have met reality. My year has a word counts and response tallies. A track record. There is momentum--or not. 

Momentum brings creative confidence. I mean, the endorphins are flowing, a buzz even the cat can't kill. Numbers Guy will look at his story inventory and want them submitted pronto. "Let's blow this year out," you might say, and here comes the jinx. 

On the flip side, some years are lean. Dry spells and rejection streaks show up in the numbers, too. A healthy response would be to trust the process and plug ahead. Another response, some years my response, is to pour over the spreadsheet and glance at a calendar and understand time is running out on a good year. "We're getting stuff out there," you might tell the cat. "Buckle up."

She does not.

My editing standards don't slip when I hit this mode. Wishful thinking, though, comes rosy into my usual realism. I might push ahead with dream markets instead of angsting out over if the piece is for them. Out go a batch of submissions in summer and fall. November and December bring the rejections. Worse, I diverted time and energy away from stuff with much higher success prospects. My oh-fer-October ended last year when I ignored the calendar and just kept the plan rolling. 

Overconfidence, thy name is statistics. 

Fortunately, writing provides regular ego resets. Then, you can actually learn from the numbers--if you watch for what they really mean.


  1. Personally, I don't keep statistics. I worry enough about not writing enough as it is. That and trying to find the time to cram in everything I'm supposed to be doing while people say, "It must be so nice to work from home!"

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  3. I have trouble with goal setting. Words? Stories? I don't control what gets published, so that's out. So I write steadily, mixing targeted stories with those that aren't aimed at a genre. Given that, statistics are rendered rather meaningless for me, other that sending out more this year than last.


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