I was curious just much I wrote for the Whatever in 2005, so I checked. Leaving out July, in which this space was taken over by my lovely and talented guest bloggers, and not counting what I wrote in comments, I wrote about 220,000 words here in 2005. To put this in perspective, the two novels I have coming out this year, The Ghost Brigades and The Android’s Dream, are about 95,000 and 110,000 words respectively. Or to put it another way, Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded will be about 100,000 words, which means the amount of space I will have to cram in six years, three months of Whatevers will be half that of what I write here on an annual basis. Get the shoehorn.
Now, I don’t think you can extrapolate from last year for the entire run of the Whatever; back in the old days, I would skip a couple of days here and there. But if I had to guess, I’d say I’ve probably written somewhere in the area of 800,000 words here since I started in September of 1998. This means that at some point in 2006, probably October-Novemberish, I’ll have written a million words worth of Whatever entries. Which are a lot of words to devote to any one thing.
Writing 800k worth of words takes time, and so here’s an interesting question to consider: Did the time I spend writing Whatevers take away from time I could have spent writing books? Between 1998 and right now I’ve written five nonfiction books and four novels; add those babies up and you’ve got probably another 800k worth of words. One could make the compelling argument that the opportunity cost of writing here over the last several years has been equivalent to nine books I could have written but didn’t.
Fair enough, but I can think of two counterarguments to this. First, I’m not entirely convinced that the time I spend writing here would be entirely transferred to writing books if I weren’t writing here. Of those nine books I written so far, six were written since 2002; that’s two books a year. This year I’m putting three books and a new edition of an older book in the pipline. So, you know, I’m already spending quite enough time on books, thank you very much. I do this to no small extent to get away from the bookwriting. It’s either this or Half-Life 2 deathmatches, and as much as I enjoy using a gravity gun to flatten some pimply 14-year-old’s online avatar with a toilet, deathmatches don’t do anything else for me other than stress relief.
Which brings us to the second counterargument, which should be familiar to most of you by now: Of those nine books that I’ve written, six — including all four novels — were sold either directly or indirectly because this site exists, and the three books I’m writing this year are also directly or indirectly related to this site. So rather than being an opportunity cost, this site has been an net opportunity benefit, and it’s been an 800,000 words well spent, given the rate of return for my book-writing career.
Now, just between you and me, I’d like to believe that one way or another I’d eventually have sold my books and novels, even if I’d never bothered to build this site. But that alternate reality would have required a lot more organization and motivation on my part. So, really, it’s hard to say. I’m just happy that in this reality, my farting around here has had serendipitous results.
That’s 600 more words, incidentally. Well, 604, now. Actually, 607. 609!