Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Grim Statistics

At the end of each year I compile the numbers on stories I've completed, those in circulation and in process, against those I've managed to sell.  As usual, I get depressed.  Despite this year's effort to increase productivity and pay more careful attention to craft, I've done no better than usual: I produced about 160,000 words of completed and edited material and sold approximately tenth of that (Three stories.) This is even more depressing when you realize that I generally draft twice the amount of words that make it to the final cut!  True, there is a lag between production and sales, but experience has taught me not to be optimistic. That same grim statistic holds up when I look at all the stories written and first sales (I do not count re-sales in my totals): for every sixteen words of finished words I produce I manage to sell but one.

I am not a prolific writer. I struggle to get a thousand words a day of semi-edited work done and end up casting most of that away during the editing process. I constantly hope for a plot to appear in the story, for my characters to come alive and their dialogue to be less wooden.  I wait for my scenes to glisten with reality and a theme to emerge.  I cast this way and that, the emerging story drifting with the tide, rudderless and lacking the wind of creativity.  It becomes an increasingly confusing mess and all the time, overlaying every writing moment, is the certain knowledge that whatever it becomes will not be found worthy of being published.

Which raises the question of why one chooses to write if there is so little acknowledgement, so little success from so very much hard work?  Am I so different from other scribblers out there?  Is the cursed reality of being a short story writer to face more rejection than acceptance?

And my answer is this: I continue to write day after day, ever seeking that perfect phrase, that precise word, that well constructed paragraph, scene, or chapter and, when I do manage even one of those little accomplishments, it makes it all worth the while.

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