This is my annual end-of-the-year post, where I discuss my writing and the books I’ve read. No movie talk this year. I watched a lot of ’em, some good, some bad, but couldn’t even begin to come up with a list of the best ones. I’ll try to do better about that next year, when I may bring back my end-of-the-month updates, if I can remember to do it. (Remembering anything is more of a challenge than it used to be.) So . . .
At the beginning of the year, I got this crazy idea: what if I could average 500 pages of fiction per month? That would give me 6000 pages for the year, something I had never achieved before. Was it possible? Was it even wise to attempt it? I’d thought about it in previous years but always given up by sometime in the spring. 500 pages a month, month after month, is just too hard a pace to maintain. Fall behind, and it’s almost impossible to catch up.
But wouldn’t it be cool, I asked myself, to stack up twelve reams of paper and then stand beside them to illustrate how much I’d written? There were a couple of problems with that. One, it’s a stupid, show-offy idea. So you write 6000 pages. If they’re not any good, all you’ve got is a 6000-page-high pile of crap. Two, I don’t have twelve reams of paper, and since everything’s digital now, I probably won’t ever need that much paper again and refuse to waste the money buying it for some dumb picture. So, no photo.
But yes, I wrote my 6000 pages. 6017, to be precise. Looked pretty iffy for a while, but I made it. Being a dinosaur from the typewriter era, I don’t keep a word count. It’s all about the pages with me and always has been. But I know that many pages comes out to be somewhere between 1.3 and 1.4 million words, the most I’ve ever written in a year. It breaks down to 16½ books under seven different names, including my own, and about half a dozen short stories. It also includes my first original e-book, RANCHO DIABLO: HANGROPE LAW.
On the publishing front, I had 16 books published in 2010 (books written vs. books published usually comes out pretty close to the same like that), under six different names (all of the above except my own, but REDEMPTION, KANSAS will be out in March with my name on it). Plus a few short stories.
Will I ever write that much again? I don’t know, of course, but I have my doubts. While I’m sure there are some crappy pages among the 6017, I think for the most part they’re pretty good. I think at least a couple of the books I wrote this year rank among my best ever. But the readers are the ultimate judges of that. However, that pace is a little too much, even for me. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I’ll do my million words again in 2011 – I already have about 1.1 million under contract – but unless something else sells or I find myself with more time to work on spec projects than I expect, I don’t think we’re looking at 6000 pages again. Probably more like 5800.
My biggest goal is to get everything back on schedule again. My primary editor has been remarkably patient about me turning in books late. I really appreciate that, and I’m going to do everything in my power to get things squared away so that by the middle of the year, the books will be coming in on time again. There’ll be a few logjams along the way – I have three books due on April 1, for example – but I’ll work through those.
So what it boils down to is that I wrote a lot, I think I did pretty good work, and I intend to keep going as long as the editors have faith in me and the readers enjoy what I’m doing. And none of it would be possible without all the help I get from Livia, Shayna, and Joanna, so a great big thanks goes out to them as well.
After a few down years, I got back on a more normal pace in my reading. I read 146 books in 2010, which I consider a good year. I read a wide variety of books, in many different genres, as I usually do, some old, some new. I read a number of books in manuscript because the authors wanted blurbs from me, something I’m always glad to do as long as I have the time. Coming up with a list of ten favorites wasn’t easy (it never is), but here are the books I liked the best this year, in the order in which I read them:
THE BUNTLINE SPECIAL, Lou Cameron
ONE FOR HELL, Jada M. Davis
THE HARDBOILED DICKS, Ron Goulart, ed.
THE CROSSROADS BLUES, Troy D. Smith
THE TOYMAN RIDES AGAIN, Robert S. Napier
THE WALK, Lee Goldberg
RAINWATER, Sandra Brown
SIEGE, Brian Michael Bendis
DEATH NOTICE, Todd Ritter
TARZAN AND THE LION MAN, Edgar Rice Burroughs
Troy Smith’s Nashville-set crime novel is one I read in manuscript, and I don’t believe it’s out yet. The others are all either in print or easily available in used copies on-line. A couple of them, THE HARDBOILED DICKS and TARZAN AND THE LION MAN, are rereads of books that I loved when I was a kid, and obviously I still do. And yes, I’m aware it’s an odd list overall. I’m an odd reader. There were dozens of other books that could have made this list, and might have if I’d been coming up with it on a different day. I don’t believe I read a really bad book all year (mostly because if I start one I don’t like, I don’t finish it). But I’m happy with the mix and hope to keep it up.
In conclusion . . .
2010 was a pretty good year, very, very busy but enjoyable for the most part. I was able to stay on a fairly even keel and get a lot done. If 2011 continues that trend, I’ll be pleased.
David Ogilvy’s 1982 memo “How to Write”
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