2012 Annual Review

For the past several years, I’ve been doing annual reviews of my life and work, based on the format from Chris Guillebeau’s wonderful Annual Review on his blog, The Art of Non-Conformity. Chris’s system is exceptionally detailed, more so than I really need, but the gist is there. It’s a great system for those of us who are self-employed and want to do an assessment of our work for the year. I don’t know about you, but I like accountability. I like the feeling of accomplishment I get when I look back over the past year’s worth of work and see what worked, and what didn’t. Here’s the link to the actual post. Go on over there and take a read. I’ll wait. And if you're interested, here are the links to my previous annual reviews for 20092010 and 2011.

The Year in Review - 2012: The Year of Simplicity

I went into 2012 with a single goal - to get back to basics. More writing, more reading, less travel, and less time wasting, ie: time online. I was supposed to only read books I already owned, and read many more of them. I didn't succeed. Not even close. We ended up on the road for nearly six weeks straight this summer. My library has grown to a ridiculous number of books, a TBR pile that's spread from three floor to ceiling bookshelves into Kindle and Nook apps chock full of titles. I did stick with my yoga, deepening my practice, and lost ten pounds. I am not a fan of resolutions, as I feel anytime I'm resolute, I have a tendency to get brittle and eventually break, but I tried living without goals, and it didn't work for me. I like goals. Goals make me feel like I'm accomplishing something. It's like my love of lists - I'm guilty of even adding things to my To-Do list in order to get the satisfaction of crossing them off. 

I tried blogging daily, then not at all, then only on Fridays. I've come to realize that as much as I'd like to steer away from non-fiction entirely, I came into being as an author whilst blogs were all the rage, and it's a habit I have a hard time breaking. I do like discussing writing, so I'm working on the best way to blog without interfering with creating. So you're stuck with me for a while, it seems. 

I did simplify my process, eliminating millions of apps to focus on those I really use - Scrivener, Word, Evernote, Mr. Reader. And moved into my office - I've had a bad habit of spreading through the house, a tsunami of books and notebooks and tablets and pens and pencils all over the place. Even though they were always neatly stacked, they were still encroaching. So with everything writing related upstairs in the office, including, at the end of the day, my laptop, I found a much better work/life balance. 

Add to that two professional firsts - I hired Writerspace to handle my newsletters, contests, and various website issues, and hired an assistant, who was amazing but sadly has moved on to greener pastures. As much as I loved being able to give direction and no longer think about things, I've decided not to replace my day-to-day assistant, and my wonderful research guru has offered to help if I get in a pinch. But the takeaway - I (finally) relinquished control in order to free up more time to write. Hurrah, me!

The Nitty Gritty (AKA Nerdology)

I was dreading totaling my words this year, namely because I had set myself a lofty goal of 300,000 words fiction, and I knew from my daily tracker I wasn't going to make that goal. Add in two months lost - one to travel, and one after the loss of Thrillercat, and I was pretty sure the figures would just plain suck. 

Guess what. They didn't. I didn't hit my goal, but I wrote more fiction this year than any year since I began tracking. I think it's safe to say I've little perspective on my own work. Last week, I read another author friend's year end wrap up, and gave myself a nice little shake. She'd finished a book, written a book, written a novella, researched and started a new book, and she was thrilled. It was her biggest output ever, and (shall I repeat it?) She. Was. Thrilled. 

I did the same amount of work, and I was disappointed in myself. I am apparently lacking in the perspective department.

Here's the top line of what happened in 2012. I released and toured two books, A DEEPER DARKNESS and EDGE OF BLACK. I wrote and released my very first novella, WHITEOUT, a Taylor Jackson story that can be found in STORM SEASON, alongside my dear friends Erica Spindler, Alex Kava and Deb Carlin. I teamed up with Catherine Coulter to start a new series, A Brit in the FBI, which I researched, wrote a proposal, outlined, sold two books, and have written over 50,000 words on the first book, JEWEL OF THE LION (current release autumn 2013). I sold three more Samantha Owens novels to Mira. I finished a novel, wrote a novel, wrote 1/2 of another novel, published 7 individual short stories, wrote 94 blogs, sent 7 newsletters, wrote 14 essays (several of which even paid). I taught at SEAK, attended several conferences, was nominated for two awards, a RITA for WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE and a RT Reviewers Choice Award for A DEEPER DARKNESS, and received my first Indie Next Pick. Ummmm.... yeah. It wasn't just a full year, it was a pretty damn good one. 

And when I finally got up the nerve to aggregate my numbers for the year, I had a big surprise. Not only did I write more fiction than any year before, I dropped my non-fiction by 116,000 words. Success!

I wrote on average 1454 words per day, 726 of which were fiction.

2012 Word Total: 782,530
Fiction Total: 265,000
Non-Fiction Total: 183,530
Email: 334,000
Fiction percentage:  34%

The Year Ahead - 2013: The Year of the Pencil

Replace online time with fiction and reading. Have faith in myself, letting travel and conferences and promotion go on the back burner in favor of more personal time. The focus: BE MORE CREATIVE 

This is an odd title for a year's goals, but you'll see where I'm going in a moment. Last year was a failure in many respects, especially as far as simplicity went. My life became infinitely more complicated, in fact. So for 2013, what I want is to cuddle down with my stories and family, be more productive, read more, procrastinate less, and keep more to myself. I'm climbing into a wine barrel to age myself, as it were. I'm getting offline. I've got two books to write, and a novella, and a non-fiction dream book in my spare time. I'm focusing on the simple things that bring me pleasure. To whit: the pencil.  

I love pencils, and I eschew them in favor of fountain pens. No more. I've broken open a box of Blackwings and a new Moleskine and did all my goals and planning in pencil, and, listening to the pleasant scratch of sharpened lead on paper, realized that I need to be spending more time focused on me and my writing. Over the past two years I've found myself talking about writing and stories instead of just sitting down and writing. So my huge resolution is to do just that. If the choice is between writing a chapter on a dream book, or checking in on Facebook, I'm going to work hard to make the right choice.

I need to revamp my website, upgrading it to Squarespace 6. I don't have any books coming out from Mira this year, so my promotion responsibilities are truncated, and that's a good thing. I have set the same goal as last year for my fiction, 300,000 words. I hope I make it this time. If I don't challenge myself to do more, and do it better, I can't grow as a writer or a person. I want to be a better writer, a better reader, a better friend, a better wife. (A better golfer, too, but that goes without saying.)

I'm on deadline this month, with a book due February 15, the same day Lent starts. So for the first three months of the year, I am going to be mostly offline, working my tail off. It should be an excellent way to start 2013. When I reemerge at the end of March, I hope to have finished both JEWEL OF THE LION and the next Samantha Owens novel, WHEN SHADOWS FALL, or to be very close to finishing the latter. 

As I was crafting my goals for the year, I read this on Zen Habits. Leo is giving a year long course called Sea Change, and each month focuses on a new habit. I list them here because it encapsulates everything I'm about this year: 

  • Stop procrastinating
  • Eat healthier
  • Meditate
  • Exercise
  • Write daily
  • Simplify your day
  • Get organized
  • Declutter
  • Be grateful
  • Let go
  • Read more 

2013. Focus, creativity, and many books to read. I foresee good things ahead. Happy New Year!


The Deets: 2012 Writing





Novels STANDALONE 20,000
  EDGE OF BLACK 105,000
  Others 22,000
  WHITEOUT 16,000
  WHEN SHADOWS FALL (Sam #3) 2,000
Fiction Totals   265,000



Essays 14@1000 14,000
Interviews 9@1000 30,000
Newsletters 7@1500 7,000
Tao of JT Blogs 94@500 56,400
Twitter  2642@15 39,630
Facebook 365@100 36,500
Non-Fiction Subtotal   183,530
Email 3340@100 words per 334,000
Non Fiction Total   517,530
Total Word Count   782,530
Fiction Percentage   34%
Total Words decrease 2011-2012   104,050
Total Fiction Increase   12,700
Total Non-Fiction Decrease   116,750
2012 Words Per Day   2,144
2012 Fiction Words Per Day   726
2012  Fiction was % of all words excluding email 34%
2011-2012 WPD decrease   -451
2012 wrote 35 more fiction WPD   35