3 thoughts on “Questions 308: A Million Words?”

  1. Because I’m the kind of guy who does the math (I’m a quant, that weird intersection of mathematician, investment banker, and computer programmer) here is something to remember:

    If you are harden back to the genesis of this podcast and it’s original theme, doing a NaNoWriMo every month and you do that exactly, that is have 50,000 new words on the last day of every month in the form of a novel you started on the first of that month it will take you 20 months, a mere 1.67 years, to reach 1,000,000 words.

    Also, some programmer wisdom. The exact verbiage varies but the classic form for me is, ” if you read the article, you are most assuredly in the twenty percent category. The other eighty percent are not actively thinking about the craft of software development. ” (source: https://blog.codinghorror.com/mort-elvis-einstein-and-you/ ). If you listening to this podcast and others enough that you are sending in questions, taking notes, and taking it back to your desk to write every day guess what.

    You are doing the ongoing learning and you are in the 20 not the 80. How do I know? Because for a long time I was a want to be writer with five linear feet of writing books on my shelf, mostly unread, and a stack of half finished stories and NaNoWriMos that died around 13k (ie, the dreaded one third). I loved telling stories (I was “the story guy” on my last submarine) but I was a dilettante.

    Now the books are getting read, stories are getting finished, and despite wanting to chuck it all between 13k and 14k I have pushed my novel past the dreaded one third.

    Admittedly at my current pace it’ll take me six years to hit 1,000,000 words but I think that is a case of you can only run so far your first day.

    Not sure how much my ramblings about myself help anyone as frightened as I am at the 1,000,000 word goal. This reply might be a pep talk for me as much as anything but maybe one of you needs it too.

    1. The other thing to remember with that calculation you did is if you finish a new story of 50,000 words each month until you hit the million words, you have 20 stories in vomit copy. Yes, they need an edit or three, but they are there ready for it. 20 of them.

      And if you challenged yourself every project, if you stretch your craft, they’ll be getting better as you go. Your process will be getting tighter as you go, becoming a better fit. You’ll know more about your creative process than you did before. Writing multiple books will become a thing you have evidence you can do.

      When you decide you want to learn to edit, you have choices for a project to start with. You can pick one that you have an idea about tidying to start with. With 20 projects, you can hone your editing skills, learn about your writing, and have something to get more feedback on if you want to get beta readers involved.

      It’s not just the words you get from doing the NaNoWriMo every month, or stories of that length until you hit the million words mark. You get a body of work. You get IP properties. You get evidence to hold onto on days that feel like you don’t get things done. You get data.

      And when someone asks what you write, you can tell them about one of your many projects. It’s always fun when you can back up ‘I write’ in conversation, especially if you can find a project that’s in line with their reading preference. It’s great for practising pitches and really honing your understanding of your stories too.

      I hope this helps. It’s probably as much a pep talk for me too, since I’m digging into my million word apprenticeship. The calculation was honestly helpful for me, so thank you.

      1. Zoe,

        Thank you because that helps to. It is easy to think that 1,000,000 words will be all bunk. I don’t even have 100k yet but I believed in one story enough to put it up for sale (just on Amazon and as much for learning process as anything) but you are right. Even if only one in 10 things I write is worth publishing prior to the million work breaking work that’s two salable works.

        And probably several worth revisiting even if most of the text is lost.

        In terms of creative process the novel I started in June will have, if nothing else, has developed a work flow that works for me mixing some ideas from podcasts and books I’ve bought due to podcasts with a programming system called NoWeb that lets me mix notes and writing easily. It also lets me write one scene at a time and easily reorganize them. It is a programming tool but as someone whose career is currently programming it was a natural fit.

        So I am learning some craft both the obvious (dialog, story, plot, characters,etc) and not so obvious (cover, blurbs, formatting, workflow). Even if no one but me reads this novel (and I have one story I read and my wife read and that’s that) I will know that much more when it is done (my goal for this month is to finish it).

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