Welcome back readers! I have returned from my staycation!
Actually, I did travel a little this Christmas, though nothing that involved any sort of flight (or it probably wouldn’t have happened). I’ve got a new nephew, and he is adorable. Point being, it wasn’t entirely a staycation. But hey, close enough. Sands, I even got a 12-hour multiplayer game of Stellaris in at one point. That was an experience!
So, I’ll bet a lot of you were hoping for a new Being a Better Writer post to drop today, but I have a confession to make: We’re going to be waiting one more week. Yes, my staycation is over today, and I’m going to be getting back to work as soon as this post is over, but I’m going to hold off on a new BaBW post in favor of this post: A look back at the year prior! What happened? What did I get done? How did the site perform? What were the new releases, if any? How were book sales?
As always, there’s a reason for this kind of summation. First is to take in how my work really performed and gauge that against what it could be or what I might want to make it. Second is to see what new goals I need to set. All, of course, while keeping you readers informed. So, let’s talk about 2021.
Writing and Quotas
If you’ve been on the site for a while or are familiar with my writing process, then you know that I work off of daily word quotas. My goal each day is to achieve 3000-4000 words worth of written writing work, a system that I’ve refined over the years and found to be a sweet spot between pressing me to stay in the chair but not quite enough to give me burnout.
This has the side effect of letting me track my total output for each month and year as well, so that I can see how much work I actually accomplished over my Monday-Friday workweek.
So, how did I do in 2021? Not bad. My final wordcount for the year was a grand 716,417 words. Not quite three-quarters of a million, which is what I like to aim for (you may recall that in 2020 I produced 780,000 words), but at the same time, there are two differences between these years, both of them trips. 2020 was the lockdown year. Not that I vacation often, but in 2021 I took two trips, one to visit my brother and his family, and one to do some fishing in Alaska. The latter of which ended up costing me four weeks, which would roughly be about 60,000 words plus.
Oh hey, that’s almost exactly the amount lower this year from the last.
So in the end, despite coming in at less than three-quarters of a million words, I’m pretty confident that this was a decent year for writing work and there weren’t any major slips save that one trip. In fairness, it almost goes without saying that most would be ecstatic to even come close to half a million words, to say nothing of three quarters of a million.
That said, for 2022 I’d like to exceed three quarters of a million again. That should get both a new Jacob Rocke book and a new Axtara title written out. I think the pace is a solid one, even if a little bit on the edge of burnout for a particularly strenuous book (like Starforge).
Work Completed or Started in 2021
All right, now we get into the real meat of things. What sort of work did my writing produce this year? Well … quite a bit actually.
For starters, I will acknowledge the usual yearly allotment of 40+ Being a Better Writer posts. Delivered each Monday, discussing a different aspect of writing and how to be a better writer.
But as always with something that’s a regular Monday feature, those tend to fall into “assumed.” After all, those have been hitting the marks for years. What about the big projects, the books?
Well, here I’ve got some news too. Well, not news, but … you get the idea.
Starforge. Yes, started in 2020, the first draft of Starforge was completed in 2021. Weighing in at a titanic 500,000 words, Starforge is the last book in the UNSEC Space trilogy, concluding the adventure that began in Colony and continued in Jungle. Readers have been patiently waiting for this one for a few years now, and 2021 saw the completion of the first draft.
Of course, that wasn’t all that 2021 saw either. 2021 was a banner year for my books in that it saw the first paperback releases for two of my books: Axtara – Banking and Finance in February, and Shadow of an Empire in October. Two paperbacks in a single year! While ebooks still seem to be the choice of most buyers, there have been a decent number of paperback sales for both.
Actually, where those paperback sales have been is interesting as well. At the start of 2021 I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that by the end of the year there would be German and Brazilian bookstores carrying and selling copies of Axtara, but there are! Winging her way around the world, Axtara has continued to be a hit, most recently with the Christmas season (I’ve already heard from one parent that got the book for their kid for Christmas, and not only had they already finished it, but their immediate reaction was to close the book and find said parent to ask if there was another one yet).
But that wasn’t all that came out of 2021. I also did some fan projects, one experimental that I’ve talked about before (and was a bit of a whiff) and another that was a contest entry that did pretty well for itself.
Oh! And I got a bunch of short stories written. Some of you Patreon Supporters have already seen these, but a number of shorts were written this summer with the goal of being in a new shorts collection, a sequel to Unusual Events. When it’ll come I can’t say, but rest assured there’s always more content on the way!
All in all, though this section may seem short compared to last year (though in fairness, last year I had some entirely new things that had never shown up before to talk about), I think this year did have a lot going for it. Multiple paperback releases, drafts finished, new markets reached, and several experimental projects concluded.
So, what about the site in 2021? How did it perform compared to prior years? What were some of the most popular posts? Is it worth keeping this place open?
Okay, that last one is a dumb question. Very much the answer is yes. While not quite as high in page views and visitors as the plague year of 2020, 2021 still showed substantial growth over the years prior … and even in a few ways ended up superior to the higher flat numbers of 2020.
See, 2020 had more views and visitors overall … but less interaction per user. 2021 saw more likes and comments per page view than 2020. In addition, it saw quite a lot more visits per search or referrer, meaning that more people are regularly checking the site itself rather than stumbling upon it from another corner of the web.
However, it’s not all good news. With deep sadness (not really), I must inform you all that the site is no longer the #1 result for those searching “Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic,” nor is the site’s write-up the websearch default answer anymore (instead the writeup is from a fan wiki and provides almost no information). In addition someone seems to have stripped all reference to Being a Better Writer‘s write-up of the laws on Wikipedia, which used to just be a quotation from the site. Boo.
Granted, BaBW‘s write-up on the three laws is still the #2 result on search engines. The fact that it was #1 for several years was pretty entertaining. The write-up remains the most popular Being a Better Writer post of the last year (and the year before that) so it’s not like it isn’t drawing in a lot of eyes.
But what about works that were written in 2021? What posts were the most popular? Well, where writing was concerned, the three most popular posts were “Worldbuilding from Maslow’s Hierarchy,” “Making Characters Pop,” and “The Rubber Duck.”
The least popular writing post? “How to Be a Good Editor,” which amassed a grand total of eleven views, whole orders of magnitude lower than most other posts.
What’s funny to me about that one is that it was a requested topic. More than once actually.
As for non-writing, the most popular post of the year was … my expression of disappointment that Microsoft had doubled the price for Xbox Live Gold. Given that the decision was so unpopular it was reversed in twelve hours … I see it.
Also, I am glad to report that the pieces on why libraries are good for authors and discussing whether or not books are overpriced in our modern era compared to 25 years ago are still showing strong focus and attention.
All in all, the site is doing great, and continues to reach tens of thousands of people around the world, from the expected like the United States and United Kingdom, to the less expected, such as Morocco, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
So, if that was 2021, what can we all expect from 2022 as things move forward?
Well the obvious one is Starforge. This project has been a titan, and will be for a good chunk of the year. But … It. Is. Coming. The goal is the get Starforge out this year. In fact, I start editing the Pre-Alpha this week.
With that come a few other projects. Updated versions of Colony and Jungle will go live for all owners this week. Nothing big, just small typo fixes and corrections here and there in the text. In addition, however, with Starforge moving to completion this year, once it’s had a wordcount narrowed down, I can finally give you all an answer to a question I’ve been asked so many, many times.
That’s right: Once Starforge is nearing publication, I’ll finally know if we can get the whole trilogy in paperback or not.
We can do Colony, I know this much. I’ve tested it and the sizing works. However … Jungle and the even larger Starforge are at risk of not being able to be in print without sizing problems. There are workarounds, but all three, being in a series, need to be uniform (and readable without a magnifying glass). So that’s a project for this year, but one that’s a “maybe.”
All I can really say is that I’m trying to get paperbacks of the trilogy for you readers. I really am.
Of course, Starforge isn’t the only project on its way. At long last, I am working on another Jacob Rocke book. Not a huge one, if anything it’ll probably be closer to a novella (hah hah, you all know me), but that’s been promised for long enough.
Naturally, there’s another Axtara book in the works as well. Axtara – Magic and Mayhem is in the planning stages and is another project I hope to get to writing this year. Sands, if things go smoothly, maybe it’ll even get a release!
Then naturally, I’ll still be delivering Being a Better Writer each monday. That’s not stopped in years, and it won’t stop now!
With that, I think it’s time to call this look back to an end.
It’s a new year, everyone. 2022. Starforge is coming, the site continues to flourish, and I’ve got writing to do.
I’ll see you all in few days. For now? I edit!
Happy New Year’s, readers.