Count Me In

The Snark Zone: Letters from the Editors
Stephanie “Baker” Lenz

Photo Credit: Stephanie Lenz

I belong to the 52 Weeks 25 Stories challenge and for the purposes of the group, some writing doesn’t “count.” Within the discussions, this idea of what “counts” expanded beyond the group and I discovered that some writers don’t “count” some of the things they write. At first I assumed what counts meant work that wasn’t short fiction and didn’t count for the 52/25 challenge. Turned out that one person meant flash. Another person meant drabbles (stories of around 100 words, sometimes up to 1,000, depending on who’s defining “drabble”). These fit the definition of short fiction (and, therefore, the challenge) as far as I was concerned and the discussions piqued my interest about writers who don’t “count” their work for one reason or another, whether it’s the word count, the genre, or the purpose.

I understand why some things “count” and some don’t within the confines of 52/25. If the goal is to write twenty-five short stories in a year (and submit them), then editorials, blog entries, and even novels don’t count (nor should they). But there are writers who dismiss their own work and that’s where I’m intrigued.

When it comes to “counting” my writing, where should I draw the line? If I write something for publication it counts? What if I write it and can’t get it published? Is the intention enough? Is the practice enough?

Is there a Great Whiteboard where the Muse is keeping track of my word counts and tally marking my publication credits? She’ll have to box off a corner of the whiteboard for Snark Zones and another for Absolute Blank articles. Oh, and one for blog entries. One for emails and texts. That’s all of our corners. The center is taken up by novels and the edges are full of shorts: flash across the top, short fiction across the bottom, and genre fiction down both sides, some started and never finished, some finished and never published and some published. It’s all on that mythical whiteboard, though, because I count it all.

I don’t have criteria in place that my writing has to meet in order for me to count it as writing. By writing, I’m indulging in a creative effort. It’s not about the purpose of the work, at least not for me. I don’t give weight to certain pieces of work and take it away from others. That’s fine for some people but it’s not going to work for me. If I only counted certain writings, I’d write only what counts.

I haven’t written part of a novel or any short stories for quite a while. That said, I did win NaNoWriMo by writing blog entries. I also wrote the December Absolute Blank article. In some circles, I couldn’t say I’d written anything lately because of the lack of novel, short story or poetry writing. My work doesn’t “count.”

The fiction I’m creating—writing nearly every day—isn’t traditional. I don’t intend to publish it in any way; I’ve hidden the blog from Google searches. I’m writing for myself. For practice. For fun. I’d gotten burned out blogging and I was tired of the criticism from random fly-by trolls. I had an idea of creating a “fake” blog of sorts: gleaning from my own life but writing under a false identity (a pseudonym).

Then I read about Fernando Pessoa and his use of heteronyms: imaginary characters created by a writer in order to write fiction that a reader might assume to be non-fiction due to its subject matter, presentation, voice, style, etc. A heteronymic character has his own biography and writing style. I thought it would be much more fun to create a heteronym character and then have him write a somewhat traditional blog. So not only is the blog 100-percent fiction, it has a first-person narrator who appears to be a real person.

But those couple thousand words I write just about every day don’t count.

I spent months researching the December Absolute Blank article, deciding what publishing terms to include and refining definitions from several sources. It’s not fiction so it doesn’t count. Moreover, research isn’t supposed to count toward my creative efforts, according to some of those who determine what counts.

I write up little things for my business (adult novelty home parties, thanks for asking) like letters, emails, blog entries, jokes for delivering during my shows, etc. None of that counts either because not only is it not fiction, it’s for work. Same goes for this essay.

To me, writing is writing and I count it all.


Email: baker[at]

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