“Progress on what?” you, ask. This page tracks my progress in my career as a professional fiction writer. I use that phrase purposefully, because I don’t like writing nonfiction, and I don’t really want to write anything except fiction. I’d rather earn my living writing, but only fiction, and if not fiction, then I’d rather earn my living doing something else. :)
2012 = 146,821 words (partial year, July – December)
2013 = 268,191 words
2014 = 217,641 words
2015 = 250,011 words
2016 = 220,071 words
2017 = 126,581 words
2018 = 92,198 words
2019 = 239,736 words
2020 to date = 24,241 words
I track only publishable words, not for any particular reason, but because that’s how my spreadsheets are easiest to maintain—I simply copy in my ending word count from whatever doc(s) I’m working on. Therefore, deleted words or discarded stories get subtracted from my totals immediately. So, yeah, I could have 100,000 today but only 50,000 tomorrow.
2012 = 2 short novels; 1 novelette; 2 short stories
2013 = 4 novels; 3 novelettes
2014 = 3 novels; 2 novelettes
2015 = 4 novels; 2 novelettes
2016 = 3 novels; 2 novelettes
2017 = 2 novels
2018 = 1 novel
2019 = 1 novel; 2 novelettes; 2 short novels
2020 to date = none
These are based on the word count scale below. I have to admit, one of those short novels from 2012 is really short. :) Also, one of the 2012 short stories is a one-off under a pseudonym that might never see another published story.
Looking at my output, I’m amazed I’ve been able to make a living with what I’ve put out there each year. I’m definitely a bit of an oddity, even if my living is modest. I know many other authors with as many titles who haven’t been so blessed. Of course, there are also authors with many fewer titles earning considerably more than me, so there ya go.
Novels > 40,000 words
Short novels > 20,000 to 40,000 words
Novelettes/Novellas > 7,000 to 20,000 words
Short stories < 7,000 words
I write everything under pen names, and although I think it’s fun sharing some details, I don’t share my pen names.
Things I’d like to do in 2020
#1 Write more
I’ve set a big, totally unrealistic goal for 2020, if you use past performance to judge future probabilities. I’ve been trying to reach and maintain a 2,000 words a day goal for years and haven’t done it yet for more than a few weeks at a time.
This year I fully intend to start writing about 3,600 words a day, despite that.
I know, I know. But I don’t self-motivate well and small goals are worthless to me. I just can’t get extra mileage out of them like some people can. Trust me, I’ve tried. And tried again. Doesn’t happen. So this year, I’m going all in with a big, crazy goal.
Why 3,600 words?
It lets me write a book for every series I have going every three months or so—and write some short stories, and finally get my pen name series moving again, and write some new books in series I haven’t even dreamed up yet (or stand alone books).
That’s why. I’m seriously getting worried that I will never get enough written before I die to satisfy me if I don’t pick up some speed. Fears of aging, I guess! :D
Why does this matter to me? Because I have so many series going that I absolutely need to write more if I ever want to see any of them reach their full potential. All my series have bigger stories wrapped up in them and they’re all important to me. I want to make progress on those stories while also writing some new things, and that’s all going to take time—and faster writing.
I have a daily goal that is derived from my larger yearly goal. I don’t care what order I write these books in, only that I get them written!
#2 Publish a book every 6–8 weeks
If I can reach goal #1, then I can reach goal #2. Simple. :) Publishing on a more regular schedule, and more often, will allow me to gain some much needed momentum on each of my series.
Right now, some series have gone more than two years between releases. That’s no way to build a series. I also have two pen names, and I’d really like to get that second pen name off the ground. I started it as an experiment and then immediately went nowhere with it. I still haven’t finished the third book. To be frank, I don’t even have one full chapter of it written. If I’d known it would take me so long to write the books, I’d have waited.
#3 Stop agonizing over every word I put down
Learn how to let it go. Learn how to enter flow faster and easier. Learn how to stay in the chair longer. Learn how to write even when I don’t feel like it.
I often make writing harder than it needs to be. I really want to stop that. I like writing. I don’t like it when it’s hard. It’s harder more often than it has to be, full stop.
I’m working on all of these things. Practice, practice, practice.
This is something I keep on here every year, because it’s a never ending battle against yourself when you have a bent for perfectionism.
I’m very very good at letting go once I’ve finished a book. I’m terrible at it when it comes to the sentence level writing.
(I try to ignore sentences. Nobody cares about the sentences. They just want a good story. But as a writer with perfectionistic tendencies, this is a constant battle. I don’t ever expect to win this one, but I won’t ever give up the fight.)
#4 Stop thinking and planning and start doing
I overthink things too often. I spend more time planning than doing. I want 2020 to be the year I finally stop doing that.
Sometimes my head feels like it’s going to explode with all the plans I make and all the self-analysis I do while I try to figure out why I’m behaving a certain why. That’s when I need to remember to take a step back and realize that the only relief for that is to do something. The only cure is action.
To help that along, 2020 is a year of no self-help books and articles, and that includes productivity advice. Every time I find a new one that looks promising, I go in like a gambler, sure that this time is going to be it, I’m going to find something new and fresh and it’s going to make all the difference in the world—and then nothing. It’s all the same stuff. Stuff I don’t need to read for the fiftieth time.