2016 in Review—What’s My Progress So Far?

Sands and storms, it’s time for one of these already? Even more alarming, this nears marking the the third anniversary of Unusual Things?

Boy, the days really fly, don’t they?

Well, it is what it is. Time marches on. Which means that once again it’s time to take a look back at my goals, accomplishments, and the like during this year and see what I’ve gotten done. It’s time to put 2016 under the microscope and look at some hard data.

Honesty? I expect that I got less writing done this year … though I published more, and definitely worked just as hard. It’s just a byproduct of what I worked on. 2015 was lots and lots of writing, while 2016 ended up being the year I published a lot of that writing. Which meant that I spent a lot of time trapped in the editing process.

Plus, I started working a second job every week to make ends meet, which also cut into my writing time.

I mean, that’s not bad. But both definitely slowed my pace, and while my “total” word count for productivity stayed pretty good (remember, I count editing as a 20% wordcount for tracking reasons), my actual wordcount for words written probably dropped for the year.

Granted. Next year I think I may see a bit more equilibrium. Maybe. Right now I’ve only got one book in editing, and one that I’m working on. Then again, next year may be a repeat of this year: two releases, lots of editing.

I guess I’ll find out. For now though, let’s take a look at 2016.

Word Goals
2016 was a busy year for me, especially with getting two books ready for publication and then out into the world. The catch is that while my overall numbers were good, the breakdown of those numbers is a bit different. So let’s take a look at them. A reminder, I try to have a daily word goal of minimum 3000 words written, but generally hit between 4000 and 5000 while writing. My monthly “total” varies a bit based on travel, holidays, etc, but for the most part I try to keep it around 80,000 words. I also count 20% of words edited while editing as “written” for the purposes of accomplishment tracking, though I track them without mixing the two numbers.

So, without further ado, here are the numbers for all fiction written (short stories, prewriting, books themselves, and certain blog posts) with and without editing numbers.

2016 Total to date, minus editing: 490,838 words

2016 Total to date, including editing: 694,059 words

So yeah, about what I expected. The numbers are slightly lower than last year overall (especially with regards to writing), but the amount of editing I did more than doubled. Add to that a new job on top of everything else sucking away valuable writing time, and half-a-million words is still pretty respectable.

Am I happy with it? Well … No. I think there’s room for improvement in some way. Stabalize the work and writing life, perhaps.

And of course, this next year I won’t have quite so much editing to do. Editing is … well … a time sink, no matter how you look at it. I still stand by my statement last year, that without editing and other things in the way of my writing time, I could write a million words in one year.

Of course, that would mean no releases, so …

Still … while a half-a-million is impressive … I’m not the most satisfied with it, extra job or not. I’ll see about upping my game next year.

Books Written and Published
Well now, this is a section where I get to strike a heroic pose! My writing quota may have been low this year, but as I said, there were reasons. And one of those was getting two, yes two, books published this year.

So what we have is an offset. Last year I wrote two books (well, 2.5 if I carry over from 2014) and published one (which, before you ask, was a fanfic work, so only published in the sense of “people can read it). This year, I wrote one book (Shadow of an Empire) plus some fan projects (one of which did end up being a large novella size) and published two.

Trade offs, I guess.

So, what did I have? In February, I published Unusual Events: A “Short” Story Collection. To … little fanfare. To be honest, Unusual Events started off with a sharp bang, and then … dropped to almost nothing. To date, it’s probably the lowest-selling release I’ve had, despite having nothing but favorable reviews from those who have read it. In fact, at this point I think Colony has probably outsold it … and it’s been out for a month and one day.

What’s the takeaway?

Well, those who read it do seem to like it. Those who feel one way or another strongly enough to leave a review or a rating, that is. So that isn’t it.

No, the real reason, I suspect, is twofold. First, that I’ve made my fanbase built on larger works—Epics, to be exact. And most readers of epics probably aren’t quite as sold on a short story collection. It’s nice, but not what they want.

Which means that the primary buyers of a short story collection aren’t going to be in my current fanbase. They’re off reading other things, other short story collections. So my marketing is basically mistargeted.

Second, though, comparing other short story collections to my own, there’s a “name power” issue and a cost perception issue. Basically, if you look at most short story collections out there, most are pretty cheap: $4-5, essentially. Of course, they’re also pretty short to compensate, between 150 and 250 pages … if that. A lot of ebook short story collections seem to weigh in at $3 for roughly 100 pages or less.

And those buyers? They’re going to assume up front that Unusual Events is offering the same experience at its higher price. They’re going to browse short story collections and see a collection that’s $8 and assume its only 100 pages or so because that’s what they’ve come to expect from ebook short story collections.

Now, there are plenty of short story collections that cost more than mine do and have similar content variety and size … but those usually have a big name attached. Like “GRR Martin” or “Card.” Someone who people recognize.

Being unrecognized, I don’t have that advantage.

Again, this is all theory based on observation … but I’d venture to say that it’s pretty solid theory. And there’s not much I can do about it. Unuisual Events is what it is. I can either undervalue it … or let it lie and give it time to slowly develop its own niche.

Maybe do a giveaway for browsers, now that it’s an option on Amazon.

Anyway … I released it,  and those who have read it enjoyed it. We’ll see where it is a year from now.

Then, in November, I published Colony.

Honestly, I don’t really feel I need to say much about this one. If you’ve been following my blog, you know the drill already. It’s selling really well, and is probably the biggest hit I’ve ever written. Reviewers love it, readers love it, and it just keeps selling, selling, selling.

Which is good,  because to date it’s the largest thing I’ve written, and it took a lot of work to bring it all together. But dang if that work hasn’t paid off. Above, where I said my fanbase is tuned towards the Epics? Well, Colony was me delivering, and in spades.

So yeah, I’m pretty happy with that. So far it’s only been out a month, but it’s still doing great. People keep talking about it, the book keeps spreading through word of mouth …

Basically, it’s exactly what I’d hoped for.

Now, onto written things this year. I only wrote one book, Shadow of an Empire, which is going to get bumped into Alpha 2 status here in January. Okay, well, there were fan projects too, two of them, both of which are releasing soon.

Anyway, all in all? I’d say on the publishing angle, things were a success. Two books in a year is nothing to sneeze at, especially when they total around 1600-1700 pages between the two of them. That is a lot of reading.

Other Areas
Really the only thing I have to report on here is … Patreon. Which … I missed the monthly update for in November. Granted, I had a good excuse with Colony coming out … but it is just that: an excuse.

Last year I was unsure of where I’d be going with Patreon. This year? I still am. Despite it being a pretty common thing in the industry, I’m not sure I’m sold on it still.

Maybe I’m just being too stubbornly prideful in my own self. Either way, I don’t have much to say aside from that.

I honestly must admit that I did enjoy building all the custom character pools for X-Com 2 and then releasing them. I think I’ll keep that as a regular thing, for now. Crud. I’m even considering grabbing the Black Desert character creator and playing with that.

I probably shouldn’t. I lost hours to the X-Com 2 character. I need that writing time.

Right, so this year in review. What do I have?

One book written, plus two fan projects (Shadow of an Empire, then Tirek is Doomed and Discord Day Care), totaling around 320,000 words between them. A big drop from last year … but again, two books published and a job.

Two books published (Unusual Events and Colony). One more close to it, along with two fan projects. Even so, that’s 500,000 or so words published in one year. I’d call that a success.

A total wordcount of 490,838 words written, much lower than I wanted, but still not bad. Next year!

52 Being a Better Writer posts written and uploaded on a variety of writing topics!


The end result? I’m giving myself the same rating I did last year: Satisfactory. There’s room to grow, but at the same time I shouldn’t discount my successes.

May 2017 be even bigger.

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