One Million Words
My marathon, two-year adventure has concluded, and now I look to the next twelve months with new ambition.
Somehow, by randomly pressing keys on five different keyboards, I put together 97 short stories and two novels, and after 24 months, I ended up with a grand total of 1, 013, 548 words. As an average, that works out at around 1400 words per day, which isn’t far short of NaNoWriMo pacing.
Little wonder then, I’m struggling to ease up in 2017. In the first week, I managed to keep my word count down to 5,000, although I was editing for about half of that time.
I’ve no intention of aiming for another million word target, but I’ve set myself a provisional target of 250,000 for 2017, which will allow me to keep track of my writing, and utilise the spreadsheet I created during my 2015/16 sprint. If I reach the quarter-million mark during this year, great. 😀
What have I learned by writing one million words?
Targets are essential. If you want to take your craft seriously and finish stories, set yourself a target, whether it’s a completion date, or a word count, or even a chapter-by-chapter pace. Of course, it should be realistic and work with your lifestyle. Work, health, and family all take up time, and none of them should be neglected. Fit in your writing where you can, but fit it in! Even 100 words per day will result in a 36,500 story by the end of the year.
Set your targets 25% higher. If you don’t reach them, you can always adapt and extend. Don’t be dismayed. And if you’re easily reaching your targets, kick them up a notch and push yourself. However, you’ll be surprised by what you can do if you tell yourself ‘just one more paragraph before I go to bed,’ or ‘if I get up ten minutes earlier, how much more can I write?’
Keep a daily track. Achieving a goal becomes more feasible if it’s broken into bite-sized chunks. As many people have learned with NaNoWriMo, a target of ‘50,000 words by the end of the month’ is very much on the distant horizon. However, writing 1667 words per day brings the task much closer to home. And watching those numbers grow is both rewarding and encouraging.
Be as organised as you can be. Whether you use a notebook and pen, or create a complex spreadsheet filled with calculations, keep a note of what you’ve written, and what you’re currently working on. If you’re writing for people, keep notes on who they are, and what they require (genre, word count, payment rate-if applicable). When you’re busy, it’s so easy to miss something and ruin your flow.
I missed out on a lot of things I wanted to do during my million word sprint:
Big movies, which I love to see on the big screen, went unwatched because I ‘didn’t have time.’ I couldn’t spare the three hours journey, waiting and watching time when I had (sometimes) 2,000 words per day to complete.
I also have a number of short movies on YouTube, which haven’t been added to in many, many months, although I’ve been itching to create more.
Editing, an essential part of the writing process, has tended to be rushed because I was heavily focused on building my word count toward one million. So my third novel is still only available in Kindle format, despite requests for a paperback version.
However, I managed to find time to strip a bathroom back to bare brick and completely refit it during the second half of 2016, so I didn’t spend the entire year at my keyboard.
Was it all worth it?
Definitely. I set myself a major target and managed to achieve it, although there were times where I believed it was beyond my ability to complete the challenge. Midway through 2016 was a difficult time, but the graph I created to illustrate my progress showed me how close I was to being back on track. The daily numbers were all very well, but seeing this told me a completely different story:
I’m currently on a high, and as I said earlier, I’m still trying to throttle back to below ludicrous speed. It’s all very well writing like a mad person, but the scenery needs to be enjoyed every once in a while. I may never slow down to my pre-2015 pace, but I’m not sure I want to. Writing is what I want to do, and I believe doing it every day can only help to improve my skills.
97 short stories and two novels were created during the process, something I’m proud of. I also proved to myself that I can juggle three different genres at one time, and keep them compartmentalised in my mind. It’s a wonderful way to prevent writer’s block. If one story stalls, or needs a fresh approach, then jump tracks to a different genre and return to the problem at a later time.
In the writing business, motivation can be difficult to find. Sometimes it’s entirely down to us as individuals to push, otherwise our enthusiasm wanes and we fail. Setting targets isn’t the only way to fire up the neurons, but it can be a useful for the writer. I know I would have never achieved my goal of one million words if I hadn’t set myself the target, and then monitored it closely every day. I’d have taken days, nay weeks off and written only when I felt like it, achieving only a fraction of my total.
If you aren’t already in the motivation mindset, create a realistic target for yourself, whether it’s a word count, a half-hour sprint using the Pomodoro technique, or ‘just one more paragraph before…’
And then add 10%, or if you’re more ambitious, 25%. 😀
If any of this has been useful, or if you have questions, please let me know.
What targets are you setting for this year?