It has been 107 days since I called the Pictonaut Challenge to an end. Since then this blog has remained eerily silent; dead, but dreaming; trapped in an uneasily and restless slumber. This is because I decided that I needed a bit of a holiday from writing. After three and a half years of constant self-imposed deadlines I was getting a little burnt out and my mind had begun to fray at the edges. Writing had become less than easy and less than rewarding. So what have I been doing with myself? Not a great deal that could be counted as productive, that’s for sure. It’s been a delightful spell of general pottering, television, computer games and reading. All without the looming spectre of deadlines and expectations. The rest has done me good, and although I don’t expect to restart the Pictonaut Challenge any time soon it has made any writing I’ve chosen to do a lot easier. Instead of staring at a screen for an entire day, battering my brains out and only having 200 words to show for it, I’ve actually gotten things done. Only last week I managed to knock out 1,800 words over the course of a day without so much as breaking a sweat. It was a refreshing change and reminded me that writing doesn’t necessarily have to be hard. Once I’m satisfied that my convalescence is at and end I might even find the time to finish those bigger projects which have been living on the back-burner for far too long. But in lieu of any actual new content, and being a scientist at heart, I thought I’d dig into some of the statistics from the Pictonaut Challenge.
To bring you these stats and numbers I’ve booted up my old and rusty copy of Excel, an ancient and arcane thing from the hazy days of 2002. It might not be pretty, but it can do numbers and graphs and sundry whatnots, so it’ll do.
The Pictonaut Challenge, as mentioned above, ran for 42 months. Starting in September 2011, and finishing in February 2015. Each wordascope was given a target of around 1,000 words. So simple maths would suggest that the total volume of words would be somewhere near 42,000. As it turn out, the final word count of the combined stories actually sits at 54,557. A whopping 12,557 words (or 29.9%) above the asking price.
The longest of the wordascopes was from March 2013 (Going for a Walk) which weighed in at 2,043 words. The shortest was, incidentally, from exactly a year before, in March 2012 (Any Direction.) These two pieces, despite their radically different sizes, represent two of my favourite stories from the whole endeavour. Which just goes to show you that size isn’t the be all and end all.
There was a lot of peaks and troughs over the course of the three and a half years. A month that produced a long piece was usually followed by a month with a shorter piece. Though the months from April 2013 until October 2013 proved to be something of a flat period, with all works hovering only just above the 1,000 mark. By the time the project finished the average wordascope size was 1,299 words (a figure which possesses a relative standard deviation of 28.2%.) The arbitrary target which I set myself and others, was one which I failed to hit on only 9 occasions (a “failure rate” of 21.4%)
After crunching through the raw numbers, I assigned each of the wordascopes an approximate genre. Sci-fi, fantasy and horror are all fairly self-explanatory. Magical realism is slightly nebulous umbrella heading I gave to any of the stories which could be described as “weird stuff happening in normal places.” Historical or real-world is the catch-all title I used for anything that could broadly be considered as normal things happening in normal places, past or present.
Up until the day that I started compiling these statistics, if you’d asked me what kind of writer I was, I probably would have said that I was the sort of person who generally wrote fantasy themed pieces, and very occasionally dabbled with science fiction. This is not something that appears to be actually supported by reality. It would in fact appear that I have secretly been a writer of science fiction all along. A whopping 41% of everything I’ve written over the last three and a half years. Fantasy doesn’t even come in second place, it doesn’t even manage a comfortable third, it manages only a very uncomfortable third. The late 90s retro coloured pie-chart would have me believe that my main side-line is writing about strange, bizarre and generally magical things happening in ordinarily mundane environments. Admittedly there’s probably a fair amount of cross-over between these genre pigeon-holes, but it’s still a bit of a shock to my identity as a person who writes things.
This little genre pie-chart would however look quite different were I to take into account the 17,000 words of pulp fantasy I wrote for The Working Barbarian over the year an a half between April 2013 and August 2014. So perhaps I’m not as entirely wrong as I originally thought.
And that’s about as much statistical analysis as I’m willing to stomach outside of work.
While regular blog service is unlikely to resume in the near future, I do hope to have a few bits and pieces to show you all, as and when I finish them.
Leave a Reply