Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Year in Review

Soon after the turn of the year, as in other years, I've updated my archive files, cleaned out the messes I've created, and looked at the various pieces I've worked on during the past year.  I've been doing this assessment since I started writing again in 1991, partly to see how far I've come and partly to torture myself with the realization that I could have done much better and causes me to reassess what I am doing.

During the last year I managed to get several short stories and another novel sold. I also made progress in getting some more work done on the remaining three. These seem to remain around 98% completed due to continual rethinking and rewriting. I am anticipating the publication of another collection of short stories published in the last decade in January and another novel in May.

The number of pieces I count in a given year is the gross number of files, so novels get the same weight as novellas, novelettes, short stories and articles.  I do not count the number of multiple drafts, edits, and crap I threw away in frustration at my fickle muse.  Some of my friends obsessively count and report their word production and suggest that I really ought to keep track of total words written (drafts, sketches, edits,etc ) instead of a simple file count, but even for me the resulting number would be too horrifyingly large with ratios of written words to words sold at  millions to one.

The chart at right shows the arc - the blue line representing the cumulative number of files worked on and the red the cumulative number of stories sold year by year (I don't count sales of reprints,audio productions, or donated stories.)  The total number of unique sales is 126 (nine in 2016) and the cumulative number of files is just  520. This makes my "lifetime" sales average remains at 24%. The green line is the ratio of sales to files each year, which declines as the number of works increases.

The chart shows the ups and downs of my working/writing career. Strangely, the years I had problems with my day job turned out to be the most productive for writing.  In my peak years I sold almost as many as I wrote, the bad news being that I didn't write very much in those years.  The chart also shows the decline of the novella markets, which was my first love, and which I continue to pursue against all reason.  It was only after I'd relearned how to write short, that my sales increased. Periods spent attempting novels also meant a lower production count, much to my regret.

So, looking back on 2016 I have to say I've not done badly.


Saturday, December 10, 2016


Another morning and another struggle to craft words from dreams and refine them to story.  Doing this has become more difficult than it was in the past, and I wonder if that struggle indicates a more serious concern.  Is my difficulty a momentary lapse, a way my brain is recovering from the overproduction of the last year or is it a further manifestation of the ADD that has afflicted me my entire life?

Years ago I could polish off a 5k story in a weekend plus two or three days of editing before submitting. As I shifted into novelettes and novellas writing a complete story turned into a months-long process. When the market for novellas dwindled I attempted to learn to write short once more only to find it more difficult because I had become used to having the freedom of more involved plots and descriptive material. It took a few years but I did find my way back.

But I discovered that the story ideas didn't fly as they once did.  I told myself it was because I now had higher standards that required more thoughtful approaches, but that was self delusion.  Perhaps it was a function of having drained my creative pool, being distracted by work, or simply illness - a cold, a headache, or an upset stomach.  But those were transitory and could not explain why the blank white screen remained so difficult to fill with words, words, words.

I noticed long ago that short story writers tend to have a limited literary life, appearing less frequently as they shifted into producing or writing novels or quitting entirely.  Is this happening to me?  Could I be descending into the ephemeral hole of forgotten writers, a fading phantasm of what I aspired to become? Or, most worrisome of all, is this an early warning of a declining mind, dementia, or, worst of all for a writer, the early signs of Alzheimers?  The only bright spot in those horrid possibilities is that at some point I will be able to read my own work for the first time.  But putting that aside, I continue to struggle to write words that the tide will soon wash away.

Maybe it's time to write something humorous...?


Saturday, December 3, 2016

On Again, Off Again

I just saw ARRIVAL  and was very impressed with how the producers captured the ambiguity and circularity of the original short story.  Most intriguing of all was the declaration that language is what we use to "think" and that, without words, we cannot "talk" to ourselves or reason.

This was much on my mind as I returned to UN#3 and got perhaps a page done before telling myself that I needed to rethink my premise on the recent short story (SS#14) and perhaps veer off onto a different track.  No sooner had I thought that than my mind switched over to writing a new scene that had little to do with the original concept except for the heroine and the planet.  A thousand words later and a little voice in my head said "Stop procrastinating and get back to work!"

So I jumped back to UN#3 and tried, really tried, to concentrate on the scene under development but could not withstand the nagging idea that SS#14 really needed even more work.  Actually, SS#14's voice was merely the loudest voice of a number of unfinished pieces (SS#1-14) needing attention and even of fainter voices of the muse provocatively suggesting new story ideas but never their resolution.

Others have writers block while I have to deal with a plethora of random ideas that threaten to overwhelm my best efforts to escape the cycle of my ADD. I fervently wish that if I had the talent to concentrate and do justice to the stories these voices suggest but my published attempts fall far short of my desire and mostly become pedestrian trivia to be read and sooner forgotten.

So I talk to myself, using words, the only tool at my disposal.