One Million Words

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My marathon, two-year  adventure has concluded, and now I look to the next twelve months with new ambition.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The downsides?

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:

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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 conclusion

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?

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Why a writer needs self-discipline – and a schedule

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Well, my writing seems to be getting back on track, although it’s definitely early days yet

Last week, I decided that the time for change had come. I’d been in a quandary for a while, constantly churning out profitable short stories and novellas, but at the expense of my sequel to ‘A Construct of Angels.’

I was writing, yes, but not getting anywhere with my long-term projects. I’d released one book, but my peers were on their second, third or more and I was merely treading water. I was also upset that some indie authors had ten or even twenty books in their back catalogue

I had one – and I needed to prove to myself that it wasn’t a fluke. Not only that, but I was being (politely) nagged about my lack of progress – thanks Peter.

So changes were made. Towards the end of last week, I created ‘Angels week.’ During this time, which would repeat on the fourth week of every month, I would put aside all other projects, completed or not, to concentrate solely upon ‘A Vengeance of Angels.’ The word count for this project can be seen at the right-hand side of the page (beneath the cover for ‘Construct’). It has shown no change since I posted it there about two months ago.

Not any more.  With ‘Angels week’ in place, it should begin to grow steadily, being updated at the weeks end.

This sort of self-discipline has been long-overdue, but in my defence, I have been very busy trying to keep the wolf from the door.  Short stories write and sell quickly, novellas almost as fast. They bring in much-needed funds and cannot simply be ditched. But they are short-term and will quickly be forgotten, lost amongst the ocean of small tales that appear every week. Larger projects, such as novels, are the slow stones that grind steadily away, producing small, but steady rewards that include not only currency, but confidence, credibility and that faint sparkle of a dream that is discovery.

Another blogger commented that this confusion is fairly common amongst writers and authors as they develop their craft. They must not only find their own voice, but they also need to integrate their writing into their lives so that it neither takes over nor gets swamped and lost. The metaphor of ‘finding the right jacket’ was suggested (thanks Jon!) and it works. There is a jacket for every situation in life – and every writer needs to find one that fits and will work for their lifestyle.

Has your writing life become a muddle? Are you always starting but never finishing? Are you so busy helping others or churning out short stories and fragmented scenes that you are creating nothing in real terms?

Perhaps you need to develop an ‘Angels week’ too…or just set aside that much-needed ‘me time’ that will get your writing back on track.

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