Fully Listed by Jan Edwards

A writing friend was bemoaning the fact that, being a fairly prolific writer of short fiction, she often loses track of the markets where she has submitted work, and the fact that many of those short fiction markets fail to notify unsuccessful writers does not help – and I feel her pain.
With editor’s hats on at Alchemy Press we make a point of always notifying both successful and unsuccessful writers when we have made our selection as a matter of common courtesy; which can be quite a task when those submissions have numbered anything up to four hundred per anthology.
However, I can see how larger markets who have thousands of stories sent in would draw a line at individual emails and many have a line in their guidelines giving a time limit after which writers can assume they have been unsuccessful.  Elsewhere technology has reached a point where most of those use automated replies. That may seem impersonal when you have slogged over a story and sent it out with high hopes, only to have it limp home anything up to a year later, but it is not really any different to a standard rejection email/letter, and at least you know where you stand.
So how do we combat the lack of replies from the markets and/or poor memory of the writer?
I keep an Excel spread sheet that lists story/market/date sent and reply expected but a simple Word Table will do just as well.  I realise that sounds desperately nerdy, but believe me it is done purely in self defence! I am one of the most disorganised people imaginable, with the memory of a gnat. If I don’t write it down forgetting it within days is common. When these markets can take anything between three and twelve months to reply it’s a given! And where I am concerned its not just lost story submissions that need tracking.
In writing the Bunch Courtney Investigations a series my lack of memory has proved to be a real problem when it comes to details of my characters.  I don’t just mean a character sketch of lead roles and the villains they are chasing, though I do write down the usual information on each: age, appearance, basic background. Recurring supporting roles are also reasonably easy to keep track off with a few bullet points. I’ve found that it’s the minor walk-ons who slip past me the easiest of all. This is something that has not been an issue with stand-alone novels, but with a series it suddenly became a real issue.
My memory for names is bad enough when faced with people out there in the real world; those people I ‘should’ know, and have a total recall of their face and where I know them from, but whose names remain stubbornly lodged in some dark recess of my junk-yard brain and refuse to be brought to mind. Meaning that I stand there chatting away, hoping the name will come to me – or by some miracle be mentioned in passing and hope to hell that I’m not called on to introduce them to someone else!

To some extent many of those walk-ons of mine don’t require names, but I was half way through book two when I realised that I had failed to make a note of the local Vicar.  In 1940, in a small village, people would know that name and my imaginary village of Wyncombe would be no different. We never meet the Reverend Day, yet he is mentioned several times. 
More recently the name that I needed to find was an old friend of Granny’s from whom local gossip is often gleaned. ‘Connie Frain’ gets mentions in two of the three Bunch Courtney books, and, as with Rev. Day, we never meet her in person; only gain her pearls of wisdom at second-hand. Hats off to those uber-bijou cameos who only merit half a sentence but who deliver the most vital of clues.  
I have an ancient writing programme similar to early versions of Scrivener. I don't use it to write but it does have a world-building function where these things can be recorded, and it’s been a life-saver on many occasions. Its one drawback is that it doesn’t list them alphabetically, so (and yes I am this sad…) I have recently also put those names into a Word table. This required a rapid reread of all the Bunch Courtney Investigations – including the upcoming third volume Listed Dead –  to make sure I had them all.  I was gob-smacked to find over 900 entries over three novels! That doubtless earns me place as a card-carrying anorak of the highest order - but it keeps me out of mischief.
All of which brings me back to databases and spreadsheets in general. Keeping track of details is essential whether that is short fiction submissions, bit-players in a series of books or the bloggers and reviewers I will begin to harass quite soon to read the new books before its release, if I didn’t write it all down I just know I would forget.
You can read more about Jan and her Bunch Courtney books on her blog HERE

In Her Defence is available through most leading booksellers in print and digital formats.
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Winter Downs  Amazon (paper and kindle)  US  / UK/  /  AU 

Winter Downs is available on all similar platforms. Listed Dead (mock-up cover on right) will be available in early 2020.


Bill Kirton said…
Cherish your nerdiness, Jan. I suffer from very similar memory lapses and their associated frustrations and constantly remind myself of the need to take steps to mitigate their effects but rarely do anything practical and/or effective about it. I'm the idiot, you're the wise one.
Unknown said…
:-) I shall, Bill. :-) Being organised goes against the grain for most things but I live in fear of the avid reader asking awkward questions :-) :-)
Umberto Tosi said…
I would call mixing up submissions and character names due to being so prolific a "high level problem." Would that I could be as prolific myself. I still mix up character names particularly creating longer short stories (which mine tend to be) and novels. I keep lists, then misplace the list. I used to mix up my four daughters' names all through their childhoods, and even throw in the dog's name, but no more now that they've grown up - and, sadly, the dog has gone to his reward. Thanks for a lively useful post. I'll check on Scrivner. Thanks.
Unknown said…
My mother used to run through the list when she called for a family member - and than say 'I know the right one is in there somewhere' :-)

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