2009 Annual Review

It’s that time of year again. Time to look back on what I accomplished in the past 365 days, ascertain what I did right and what could be improved upon, and using that knowledge, set my goals for the coming year.

I’m not a fan of making resolutions, so when I discovered Chris Guillebeau’s wonderful 2008 Annual Review on his blog, The Art of Non-Conformity, I hitched on to the ride immediately. It’s the perfect scenario for those creative types who are working for themselves but still want some accountability. (Here’s the link to the actual post. Go on over there and take a read. I’ll wait.)

Okay, now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the system…

Last Christmas, with Chris’s template in mind, I set my goals instead of fretting about resolutions. My focus was on Work, Family, Self, Home, Knowledge, Health, Friendships, and an overarching “theme” goal focusing on enhancing my creative time by cutting back in other time consuming areas.

When I looked back on them today, I was pleased to see I’d achieved many of them, especially in the categories of writing, family and friendships. I’ve become much calmer, much more Zen about life in general, and my workflow is cleaner and more productive. I’ve surrounded myself with happy, productive people, worked hard, and played hard. This year was full of ups and downs, and if the goals were anything to go by, I accomplished about 80% of what I set out to do professionally, and 50% personally.

Not bad.

This year, I set different goals. I went rather whole hog and named 2010 the Year of Evolution. I’ve altered my categories a bit to match with my current world view: Writing, Business, Self, Education, Health, Home, Family/Friends, and a Five Year Goals section. I won’t go into details, but I have a lot on my plate for this year, including launching two books, writing another Taylor Jackson book plus proposals for future novels, writing a stand-alone, making my social networking more meaningful, working on my golf game, and taking the final steps toward a real fluency in Italian.

I also did something new, a breakdown, albeit estimated, of how much actual writing in did in 2009. What I found was disturbing, to me at least.

I wrote 505,938 words in 2009.

Only 136,738 were fiction.

A whopping 369,200 were non-fiction. Now, this includes email, but still, that’s insane. Email alone counts for 215,200 words. (I sent 2152 emails last year, so that’s an average of six emails a day at 100 words apiece.)

27% of my writing in 2009 was fiction. To break it down even further, I wrote on average 1386 words per day, 374 of which were fiction.

Considering I make my living as a novelist, I find that horrifyingly low. Granted, all my dates changed for my book releases, and I took a few months off during the summer to deal with some life stuff, so I didn't do a lot of writing during that period. But that's still not enough creative work versus business work.

The numbers were enlightening, to say the least. Twitter, which I joined in February, added up to 48,000 words. That’s 3200 Tweets at 15 words per tweet. Facebook must be about the same or even more, so it gets 48,000 too. Murderati blogs* came in at 45,000 (30 blogs at 1500 a pop), and I probably wrote another 5,000 words of original content for the Tao of JT. Add in essays and interviews, and we’re at 156,000 non-fiction words before email.

With the numbers in front of me, I can’t help but see just how much time I spend on non-fiction endeavors.


So. 2010 is the year I turn things around. I’m going to make every non-fiction word count, utilizing Artist Data and Tweetdeck to post to Twitter, Facebook and MySpace simultaneously, eliminating over 1/2 of my social networking word count. I'm also going to be a much less frequent visitor to the sites.

My blogging will stay about the same, with 2 posts a week at the Tao of JT and bi-monthly columns at Murderati.

Email is a necessary evil, and if you think about an average of 6 emails a day, that's not too bad.

Most importantly, I’m going to up my fiction totals tremendously. My word counts really should be in the 250-300,000 range, which I've achieved in the past.

My goals are set, my plan is in place, and I’m really looking forward to achieving all that I set out to do this year, and more.

How about you? Resolutions or Goals this year?

Happy New Year!

 Rough Estimate of Words Written in 2009 (all numbers approximate)

Novels The Immortals   80,000
  The Pretender   20,000
  The Cold Room   30,000
Short Stories Killing Carol Ann   4,338
  Chimera   1,500
  Have You Seen Me 900
Total Fiction     136,738
Essays The Charm School 3,000
Murderati Columns* (30 Blogs x Avg Words 1,500) 45,000
Tao of JT Columns*     5,000
Interviews     5,000
Total Non-Fiction     58,000
Email (2,152 Emails X Avg Words 100) 215,200
Total Work     215,200
Social Media      
Twitter (3,200 Posts X Avg Words 15) 48,000
Facebook     48,000
Total Social Media     96,000
Total Fiction, Non-Fiction, Social & Email Word Count 505,938
    % Fiction          27%
    % Non-Fiction          11%
    % Social Media 19%
    % Work/Email 43%

* I know most media analysts include blogging in the social media category. But since mine are more columns and essays, I've decided to include them in the non-fiction category.

The Book is Better

I've been on a Harry Potter movie marathon this week, something to keep my mind occupied while I'm re-gearing between books. I have the first five, and I spread them over three days. It's an excellent way to pass some time.

Last night, when I finished THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, I wanted to go back and fact check a couple of items against the book. I hate that so many of the scenes are altered, making Harry look weak - especially when he has the prophesy and Lucius Malfoy confronts him. In the movie he hands it over. If I remember correctly, in the book, that is far from accurate.

I was planning a late night anyway because I was expecting a call from the West coast, so instead of flipping to the appropriate spot in the book, I started at the beginning.


These books lend themselves well to the visual medium, no doubt about it. But the difference was overwhelming. It was like going from watching a black and white silent movie to reading in luscious Technicolor. The imagery J.K. Rowling evokes just can't quite make it to the screen. They come close - I did a step by step match-up of the beginning of the book and the movie, and the movie captures the essence of what the book describes. But reading it, glorying in the details, was a far more satisfactory experience for me. There's just so many minute details that the movie encompasses into one broad stroke, which is an art unto itself.

As a writer, I can only imagine how difficult it is to adapt a popular novel to the screen. Every reader has a completely individualized experience when reading a book. Characters form in your mind, and each person's description is a little bit different. I had this problem when we were choosing a reader for the Taylor Jackson audio books - I know EXACTLY what Taylor sounds like, deep, husky, slightly southern, slow and decorous. But what I hear in my head may be completely different than what every other reader hears in theirs.

The same goes for a film adaptation, and that's where a really visionary director can make all the difference. I had major issues with the first Twilight film, I felt like it skimmed over too many of the importance parts. But NEW MOON was just the opposite, I thought they did a great job of mining the little details that make Meyer's stories so unique.

So there you have it. Some movie adaptations are a hit, and some are a miss. Regardless, when someone tells me the book is better, I do listen.

What's your favorite adaptation? Least favorite?