December 20th, 2003 was the day when I completed (and submitted) my first short story. I was eighteen years old. Which means that today is the end of my 9th year of writing. That is a lot of years. And ever since about August of 2004, I’ve been keeping the kind of daily word counts that enable me to write year-end blog posts like this one:
Word counts became substantially less important to me this year. Last year, I hit the magical “one million words” marker that Isaac Asimov (or somebody) said would make me a real writer. That did not happen. Or maybe it did. When I sit down to do my writing, I definitely don’t feel more masterful than I did last year. But I’m pretty sure that no writer ever reaches the point where they’re like, “Shit, yeah, I got this…”
So I didn’t worry as much about word counts this year as I did last year. Actually, this was the first year where I experimented with measuring the amount of time that I spend both writing and reading. For reading, this is a great measure, and it’s much better than the last indicator I used, which was simply logging the number of books that I read. Book-logging encourages a person to read shorter books (since your “score” is how many books you read). Measuring the amount of time you read removes this incentive. I found, this year, that I was significantly more willing to read longer books, like Trollope’s novels.
For writing, I am not so sure. I started measuring writing time because it felt like my old target (hitting 1,000 words a day) had gotten relatively easy, but simply increasing my daily target felt like it would be exhausting. Measuring writing time felt like it would begin to get at the heart of the matter, which was time management. However, measuring writing time does feel like it, to some degree, encourages procrastination, since I get “credit” for sitting down without producing things. This fear might be overblown, however, since it seems like my per-minute productivity hasn’t varied much from month to month (highest was 16.41 wpm in June, when I was finishing a novel and lowest was 14.29 wpm in August). Anyway, that’s why I still measure word counts. You know, just keeping myself honest. The end result of all this effort is, after all, to produce something.
On a sidenote, the last day on which I didn’t write something was July 7th, 2011. That means that every day this year I’ve produced something. Now, plenty of those days (48 of them) were <250 word days. And many of them (14 of them) were just 50 word days. But that counts! Or at least it does for me. I’ve also met my personal weekly goal (5000 words) for 47 of the last 50 weeks. Guys, I have, like, a real work ethic now.
This year I produced one novel (which I’ve yet to revise) and 26 short stories. I also revised and submitted 20 short stories (ten of which were written last year). I sent out a ton of short stories and, as of today, have received about 183 rejections. I also sent out a bunch of novel queries, but I’m not going to talk about exactly how many (dear agents: my novel is very much in demand; please respond post-haste, thank you).
There’s a simple reason why I’ve written fewer stories than I did in 2012, despite writing more words. I’ve started to do a significant quantity of rewriting. Whereas I rarely used to go to even a second draft, now it’s not uncommon for me to write five or six (or, in some cases, more than a dozen) drafts of a story. Also, I stop writing stories when I realize that they’re bad. Furthermore, this year I wrote two novellas (ugh, I guess I’ll get around to revising them someday, even though the odds of selling them are soooooooo low).
I sold eight stories (and one reprint) in 2012:
- “Tomorrow’s Dictator” – Apex
- “The Snake King Sells Out” – The Intergalactic Medicine Show
- “An Early Adoption” – Redstone
- “Next Door” – Diverse Energies
- To be reprinted in Wilde Stories 2013
- “Man-Eater” – Nameless
- “Another Prison” – Futuredaze
- “No Victims” – Lamplight
- “Inside The Mind Of The Bear” – The Intergalactic Medicine Show
There’s so much delay, even in short story writing, and it always leads me to the same feeling: this sense that I am becoming a worse writer. Last year, I sold five stories written in 2010 and only 2 stories written in 2011. Of this year’s eight stories, only one (“Next Door”) was written in 2012. Logic tells me that next year I will probably sell a bunch of stories written in 2012 and relatively few stories written in 2013.
So, yes, writing-wise, it’s been a good year. I abandoned one novel. And the next novel that I wrote wasn’t very good. But I learned a lot about novel-writing! And I entered the novel submissions game for the first time and I learned a lot about that too! I sold a lot of stories. And I wrote a lot of stories too. I’ve done a lot of thinking, this year, about the kinds of things I want to write and the ways in which to write those things…and I think I’m slowly starting to put some of that thinking into practice. I’m probably–almost certainly–not a worse writer than I was a year ago.
Notes On Table
- I only started keeping daily wordcounts halfway through 2004, which is why those numbers don’t quite match up w/ the yearly wordcount.
- I define a “pro” sale as one which pays over 5 cent a word
- I started keeping “Writing Time” statistics on 5/16/12
- I started keeping “Reading Time” statistics on 5/31/12
- My “Goal” for each week is 5000 words
- 2012 statistics are only current as of 12/20/12
- Fractional novels (unfinished novels) are included in the yearly count, but not in the overall count of novels completed
- Daily word counts are based either on words produced (whether or not they will appear in the final draft of a story) or on revision time, with some set number of words (currently 900 words) given as credit for every hour of revision time.