2012 In Review: Writing and Blogging

Last week I started looking back at the year 2012 by reviewing how I did against my goals for the year.  I started with looking at the books I’d read.

But I wasn’t just trying to read last year.  I was also trying to step up and write.

What were my writing goals last year?  I had four writing-centric goals: first, to write for at least 2 hours each week for at least 45 weeks out of the 52 weeks of the year.  Second I’d intended to have finished the background work and worldbuilding and plotting for my current WIP January 25th of last year – or roughly almost exactly a year ago (which gives you an idea of how far behind I am on reviewing last year and getting to my goals for this year).  Third, I intended to write at least 2,000 words of new first draft for each week that I spent writing after the completion of my background work.  Finally, I’d intended to have written at least two short stories written, each theoretically 8,000 words or less.

How did I do against the goals?

Well, to start, I never did track the number of hours I spent writing each week.  The only thing I’ve been tracking is my total writing productivity – relating to the third goal.  But based on the idea that 2 hours a week gives me 2,000 words, I figure that’s a good enough figure to count for both those goals.

Around the mid-point of the year, I’d checked up on my progress toward these goals, and at that point, things weren’t looking to bright on the writing front.  Well, here, after the old year has ended, things still aren’t super-bright.

Out of the 52 weeks in 2012, I actually wrote something, anything, on 34 of them – or roughly 65% of the time.  That means that I wrote nothing at all on 18 weeks.  However, I actually met my goal of 2,000 words per week only nine times last year.  If I treat my goal a little flexibly – say I count it good if I got within 75% of my actual 2,000 word goal – then my success rate rises to only twelve weeks.  Even looking at the year with a rosy outlook, I failed to meet my goal 77% of the time last year.

As for the short story goal… I started writing one short story, though I didn’t finish it in 2012.  I figure I’m about three-quarters of the way through that story as of the end of the year.

All told, I wrote a total of about 48,902 words in 2012.  That’s not nothing, but it’s not where I wanted to be, not by a long-shot.  If I’d met my goal of writing 2,000 words a week for at least 45 weeks of the year I’d have written 90,000 words.  Which means I’m sitting at around 54% of my writing goal for the year.  I’d hoped to be some 50-65% done with “The Book of M” by the end of 2012.  Instead, I’m sitting in the just-over-16% range.  At this rate, I won’t finish “Book of M” for another 3-4 years.

None of which is very encouraging for me, as a writer.

Sure there were lots of good reasons why I didn’t write very much in 2012.  But the fact remains: I didn’t really write very much.  And at the rate at which I’m writing, I’ll never have written much.  This isn’t a rate of writing that is conducive to me developing a career as a writer.  If I’m ever going to be successful at writing, I’ll need to be a lot more prolific than this.  Someday, I still hope, that will be possible.  But for the immediate future, as I consider 2012 in retrospect, I know that’s just not in the cards.  2012 was a busy year in non-writing.  Looking ahead to 2013 doesn’t looks pretty much the same: different things going on, but still extra-busy in the non-writing part of my life.

Now… as to my Blog… well… I’ll invite you to take a look at my 2012 Annual Report.

The long and short: I had 14,000-ish hits in 2012, which is down from 16,000-ish hits in 2011.  That’s not surprising considering I wrote only 122 posts in 2012 (just over 2 per week) compared to 189 in 2011 (just over 3 per week).  Fewer posts means fewer hits.

Interestingly, my highest trafficked posts in 2012 were all posts I’d written in 2011 or earlier, among them my series of posts in which I analyzed Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, or the post where I uploaded some of my pics from the 2011 Dragon*Con parade, the one where I talked about some research I did on the relative lengths of books in popular fantasy series, and the one in which I leveled a fairly strong critique against those people in the self-publishing universe who seem to be hoping for the demise of traditional publishing (and  have the most to gain from it).  In fact, of the top ten posts in 2012, only one of them was actually written in the year 2012: my post on genre explorations and “Post-Tolkien Fantasy“. 

After that, next in popularity among the posts written in 2012 was a follow-up genre article called “Epic Fantasy: Archetypes and Window Dressing” in which I continued the discussion I started in “Post-Tolkien Fantasy”.  I’ve got more ideas for topics in that same vein, but those articles are pretty meaty, and take a lot of time to write – and time has been a commodity in increasingly short supply around these parts.  The next most popular post written in 2012 was one in which I discussed the business side of being a writer, from my perspective not as a published writer in the business, but as an aspiring author with business experience and an MBA (and highlighted some of the systemic problems with the industry as it is currently structured).

So that was the year (2012) in writing and blogging for me.

How was your year?  Did you meet your goals for the year, or fall short?  Tell about it in the comments, or link to your own year-in-review posts, if you’d like.

2012 In Review: The Books I’ve Read

Near the start of the year in 2012, I set about some goals for myself.

Now that we’ve put 2012 to bed, it’s time for me to look back at what I accomplished and what I failed to accomplish, and also to look forward and plan for the next year.

To kick off my 2012 retrospective, I wanted to take a look at the books I’ve read.

Reading a certain number of books was a popular goal that many people set for themselves in 2012.  I wanted to do the same: the first year in which I would set such a goal for myself.  But there was a problem.  The unit of “a book” is not universal.  I can put two books side-by-side and they will not have the same salient features that determine how long it might take me to read.  A book might be anywhere for 75,000 words (or even fewer) to 400,000 words long.  The word itself, really, is the more salient measure (and considered en masse, is a more consistent unit of measurement).  So instead of looking to read a certain number of books, I set out to read a certain wordcount worth of books.

The goal I set for myself?  550,000 words worth in 2012 – or about 5 books at an arbitrarily-picked 110,000-word average length.

How did I do?

I blew that goal out of the water, by my own reckoning.

In 2012, I read approximately 977,000 words, give or take.  I read five whole books and parts of three others.  Here’s the run-down:

I read the entire “Hunger Games” trilogy this year, starting with The Hunger Games at the beginning of the year, then later catching up with Catching Fire and finally Mockingjay as my last book of the year.  Those three books accounted for over 300,000 words.  I read the last two-thirds of The Children of Amarid, which I had started in 2011, and I read about 12% from the middle of A Clash of Kings.  (The latter has been difficult for me to get through, and I’m still not done.)  I also read the debut novels of Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss – Elantris and The Name of the Wind, respectively.  Both of those left me with quite a lot of something or other to chew on and think about with respect to my own writing.  Finally, I read almost half of the first Steampunk anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.  (I couldn’t read the whole thing because I ran out of “renewals” at the library; I’ll be checking it back out sometime to read a few of the other stories in that volume.)

You want a gut-level insta-reaction or review of each of the above titles?  No detailed reviews, here, but some thoughts:

“The Hunger Games”: I’m probably the last person to read it (because time, she has not been my friend), but I really enjoyed these books, and would recommend them.  On the other hand, you probably already know whether you want to read “The Hunger Games” trilogy and in fact have probably already read them if you’re going to.  Be that as it may: very good books with very few caveats.

The Children of Amarid: was entertaining but not particularly ground-breaking or original.  It was a debut novel, so that says something: it was good enough to get someone (in this case David B. Coe) the attention they needed to get published in the first place.  But on a purely critical level, I found it mostly predictable.  (For example, there were red herrings thrown in to try to hide the villain of the story, but I found it easy to figure out the difference between a red herring and a real villain.)  On the fourth or fifth hand, I felt bad about not liking the book more, because I personally like the author himself (whom I have met). 

A Clash of Kings: I think I’ve discussed my general reaction to Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” before, but if not, I’ll not belabor the point here.  Again, this is a super-popular mega-epic where most of you know whether you like it or not already, so my opinion won’t change things much.

Steampunk: My reactions to the stories I read was highly variable, ranging from “WTF was that?” to “That’s pretty good… but…”  Overall, the stories I did read (from roughly the first half of the book) were not as good as I wanted them to be.  The non-fiction essays were more interesting.  But there was a lot of really great imagery in those stories.

Elantris: was good and yet… disappointing.  This was the first pure Brandon Sanderson book I’ve read, after having read two books co-authored by Sanderson and the late Robert Jordan (The Gathering Storm and The Towers of Midnight, of the “Wheel of Time” saga).  Those two books were fantastic (IMO) and really breathed new life into a series I loved but which had, let’s be honest, grown a little long in the tooth.  Given how strong those books were, I had pretty high expectations for my first all-Brandon book… not sky-high, as I knew this was his first published book, but still pretty high.  And it was pretty good.  But it didn’t rise to the level of my expectations.  And there were noticeable, problematic flaws with the book.  I think I could go on about my thoughts on this book and so… assuming there’s time I intend to dive a little deeper into this one in a future “Interrogating the Text” post.

The Name of the Wind: Mostly lived up to its hype.  It was an enjoyable read that felt fast and well-paced despite it’s potentially intimidating length.  (I say “potentially” because, to a reader like me, a book this long isn’t intimidating at all… it’s practically par-for-the-course.  But I realize that to many readers, it’s very long.)  Most interesting to me was the way in which this book tackled some of its key themes, a few of which are themes that have been tumbling around in my head for a long time, and are similar to things I wan to write about in my own fiction.  Apparently Patrick Rothfuss got there first, and he did it very well.  There’s enough in that book that I think it’s also worth a future “Interrogating the Text” post.

So that’s it: what I read and the short version of what I thought about it in 2012.

What did you read in 2012?  Any surprises, stand-outs, or disappointments?  Did you take any writing lessons from the books you read?  Please share (or share a link back to a post on your own blogs where you discuss those things, if you’d like).

Auld Lang Syne

Well, it’s 2013 now, and the old year has passed away.  That means it’s the time of introspection, reflection, and thinking about goals, plans and dreams.  So I’ll be getting to those posts in the next couple weeks, as I find the time.

But first, it’s become something of a blogging tradition, for me, to talk about how my Christmas Holiday went, what I got and what I did.

As with last year, I didn’t get a lot this year that was writing-related, which is fine.  I didn’t get any new games this year (neither of the tabletop variety nor of the video or computer varieties).  Last year I got two new Zelda games, and I’m still working my way through the first of those two games.  (As I mentioned then, I learned pretty quickly to ration my video-gaming time in order to make time for writing.)  Given that basic fact, I wasn’t hoping for nor expecting any new games this year (and told Dear Wife as much before the holidays).  On the other hand, I was hoping for both books and music.  On the books front I got a paperback box set of the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull.  I’m already about a quarter of the way into the first book of the series.  It’s light reading, Middle-Grades or YA stuff, but it’s fun and entertaining so far.  (And it was the perfect palette-cleanser after the book I’d just finished, but I’ll talk about that next time when I do my 2012 Year-in-Reading Review.)

Music-wise I got a few new soundtracks: the Danny Elfman “Batman” soundtrack (which created what is, for me, the sound of Batman, the excellent Christopher Nolan movies notwithstanding), and the “Superman Returns” soundtrack (which wisely, in my opinion, is built around the main Superman theme originally written by John Williams), the “Gladiator” soundtrack (which is a great sound for writing to) and to my utter delight the new “Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” soundtrack.  (Last year I gushed all over the trailer for the Hobbit movie, which I have seen and greatly enjoyed… and ever since then I haven’t been able to get the Lament of the Dwarves out of my head.)

Little B.T. has been at least as big a fan of the soundtracks as I have, though his top two preferences are for the “Superman Returns” and “Batman” soundtracks.  He asks for them almost every day.  As for why?  Well… I’ll get to that, I will.

I also scored a digital photo frame for my desk at work.  That’ll be cool once it’s loaded up with some pictures of Dear Wife and B.T. (and eventually of V.R., which is to say the coming baby brother).

One member of the family has a real talent – I should say Talent with a Capital-T – for quilting, and both Dear Wife and I got hand-made, personalized quilts.  Mine is a lovely and wonderful motley of blues, greens, browns and golds.  It is a work of art, and I like it quite a lot.  Plus, it’s already come in handy as the temperature in the house has been sometimes colder than I’d prefer.

But the single most awesome and incredible Christmas present this year I actually opened on Christmas Eve, a day early because Dear Wife was afraid it would get overshadowed.  There’s a story behind this, of course.

You see, as part of our ongoing Home Project, one thing we’ve done is to set up a craft-room of sorts.  In theory this will also someday house the office, so that it is a joint Office-Craftroom, but for now only the craft-room part of it is set-up.  Therein is now enshrined Dear Wife’s hand-me-down (but still quite excellent) sewing machine, and she has taken up learning to sew as another of her slate of crafty and creative hobbies.  (Dear Wife is a creative person at heart, although she’s told me before that she’s not creative, but I take as evidence the numerous creative activities which she has shown an interest in and chosen to pursue.)

And predictably, Dear Wife decided to use her new creative outlet to create Christmas presents.  The story as I understood it was that she was making a door-frame puppet theatre for B.T. to go with some puppets we were getting him, as well as a few other sewing-based gifts for other relatives.  And this story wasn’t exactly untrue – she did create the puppet theatre, but that project took substantially less of her time than she had led me to believe.  Because somewhere in there, she was working on one of the most awesome and geeky and loving gifts that a geeky dad could want.

A pair of matching father-and-son Super-Capes.

Behold:

The super-capes come complete with super-cuffs and super-masks to protect our secret identities.  All three pieces are reversible, on one shide bright and shiny red with the Superman shield symbol emblazoned on the cape, the other black and green (for father and son, respectively) with custom-designed super-emblems reflective of their wearers.  (Mine is a D with a lightning bolt for Super-Daddy.) 

B.T. and I both love this gift.  And it ties in perfectly with those soundtracks I mentioned.  Because what happens when B.T. asks to put on the Batman or Superman soundtracks, which he does almost every day since Christmas?  This is coupled with a request that we each put on our super-capes and costumes and fly around the house being… well… Super.  (Fighting evil is a secondary aspect of our adventures.  Mostly, we just fly.)

As a fairly geeky dad, can I just say?  Flying around the house with a Super-cape?  Pure Awesome and Joy.

So that was my Christmas, and that’s at least part of an explanation for why I haven’t posted recently.