It’s all in how you count.

I don’t keep track of the words I produce each year, but I do keep a log of completed pieces, including their word counts. Glancing at that list is depressing right now: in 2006 I logged eight completed pieces, in 2007 five, and so far this year a whopping three. (It’ll be four if I can finish “The Gospel of Nachash.”) This does not look so good.

But out of curiosity, I added up word counts. So far this year? 208,800 words of completed fiction. Last year, 119,000. And 2006, the year that looked like the best of the three? A whopping 27,300.

The difference, of course, lies in what I was finishing. 2006 was eight short stories, one of them only eight hundred words long. I didn’t write a novel that year. In 2007 I wrote one (Midnight Never Come), and this year, I wrote two — Ashes and a YA project that has unfortunately gone bust for the time being. And none of those novels are carryover counts; all of them were started and completed within the calendar year. The short stories had more variation on that front, but as we’ve seen, they’re not where the lion’s share of the wordage is coming from.

Naturally, the upshot of doing this number-crunching is to make me ambitious to improve both metrics. Writing novels is all well and good, but I’m running out of short story inventory to shop, and while they may not pay much, I enjoy them, and I think they do serve a certain purpose in getting my name in front of new readers. On the other hand, years like 2006 are not something I can afford, if I’m to be doing this full-time writer thing. So really, what I’d like is to put out, oh, two novels and twelve short stories a year. That’s six months per novel, which is very much within my reach, and one short story a month.

I can do that, right?

Regardless of what I can or cannot do, I’m feeling better about what I’ve accomplished with this year. It may be only three four items (I will finish “The Gospel of Nachash,” dammit), but those four are pulling their weight.

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