Someone once said to me that the only difference between a professional fiction writer and one who treats it as a hobby – or really, any art or craft — is the level of obsession. After treating writing as a hobby for the majority of my life, four years ago I decided to up my obsession level, and one of the ways I track my dedication is by doing a year-end review of what I’ve accomplished. I was dreading it this year, since, for various reasons I won’t go into here, the last four months of the year were pretty much lost. Here’s how it panned out:
Words of original fiction: 242,355
New stories written: 19
New novels written: 2
Story sales: 12
Novel sales: 0
Total story sales thus far: 25
Stories in the mail at the end of the year: 32
Publications this year: 6
Books read: 20
Money made in 2005: $1625.72
And in the end, I was pleasantly surprised, since the year stacks up well against the last three (in the high-obsession era). That word count is the equivalent of four novels, though half of it went to short stories. I had more sales and appearances than any other year. I was a little disappointed in the number of books read, since a writer needs to keep feeding the mind to stay fresh, but since I hardly read anything the last third of the year, it’s not too bad. Anyone who thinks there’s a lot of money in short stories probably just had their bubble burst, but you don’t write short stories for the money. You write them for the love of them, to build your skills as a writer, and to make a name for yourself if and when you go to sell your novels. I no longer track rejections, since it’s a meaningless number, and it seemed all the more meaningless after I racked up 500 of them. I learned long ago that selling a story often has more to do with connecting with the right editor at the right time than it does on the quality of the story. And since this is the case, there’s no reason to take rejection personally. Hard to do in actual practice, but reminding myself of this fact helps.
I don’t post these numbers to brag, but just as a reminder to anyone who thinks luck is a major factor in a writer’s (or any artist’s) success that it has a lot more to do with work ethic than anything else. You can overwhelm just about any run of bad luck with massive amounts of work. And if you do have some bad luck sometime during your year – I certainly did this year – all that hard work when things were going well might pleasantly surprise you – as it did me – when you add up the numbers.
Now on to 2006! I feel productive, and since I know that I’ll probably have some twists and turns during the year that’ll get in the way of the writing . . . well, I better make the most of this time while it lasts, right?
Note: Since I don’t believe I’ve mentioned it on the blog yet, a couple weeks ago I made my 25th short story sale: “The Grand Mal Reaper,” a tale of a man who suffers from seizures and another, more sinister, affliction, to Realms of Fantasy, the leading fantasy magazine.