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.

one-million-words-challenge-banner

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?

acern270ginger write on

Is half a million words per year normal for a writer?

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Goal achieved.

Acer Switch half million words

Fifty-four short stories and a 60K First Draft later, I finally reached my target, with three weeks of 2015 still to go.

*celebrates*

Entering NaNoWriMo for the first time this year probably helped me to hit the magic number a little earlier than I would have.

half a million

My average for the year to date was around 1,400 words per day (very much an average. Some days were noticeably better than others), and November’s average was a little over 1,700 per day.  I would still have reached the half million, but the race would have been much closer to the wire.

The obvious question now hangs over me:

Can I do it again in 2016? Would I want to?

The answer would largely depend on how much work I can bring in. 2015 has been particularly fruitful for short story projects, keeping me busy for the entire year. If I work as hard as I did in 2015, half a million is possible.

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Over the past few months, I’ve begun to wonder what the ‘normal’ output is for a writer, particularly someone who writes full time. For the record, I also have a full-time job. I was speaking to Sheila Quigley, another North-East (England) writer  about my endeavours. When I told her about my target, she stared at me, then blew out a long breath.

I got the impression that 500k is not the norm. 🙂

My work / life balance means that I work away from home and have my evenings free from distractions as I write in my hotel room. When I’m not away, I find it tricky to concentrate with the TV on in the background much of the time.

So, what is everyone else producing over twelve months? I’d be interested in hearing from both full-time and part-time writers. How do you manage to keep up the pace when you work AND live with a family? What’s your routine?

Andrew Toynbee logo

 

Half a million words in a year?

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source; Stock.Xchng

source; Stock.Xchng

Back in June, I wrote a blog post about my aim to achieve Quarter of a Million words by midsummer. That particular goal was achieved, and more, so I looked ahead and wondered if it would be madness to aim for half a million before the end of 2015.

Crazy, I thought. Half a million?

Now, at the time of writing, I’ve somehow (and it still amazes me) racked up 410,000 real words, most of them the in order right.

(Yes, I know I did the same joke back in June) *shrugs.*

So, at this point, half a million words before the year end seems achievable. My target for the end of September (this week), if I had been writing consistently, was 375,000. Bang. Blown that figure out of the water.

How have I been able to put down so many words this year? Having a whole string of short stories to write has been a major part of this, leaving me with no shortage of writing material. Got a block? Simply skip over to another story until the block passes.

The downside of all this is that my third book, and the last in the trilogy, ‘A Fury of Angels,’ has slipped behind schedule, so if I’m to complete it in time for my editor to savage (kidding!) in January, I need to put aside at least a month to complete it.

If only I had a cloning machine…

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Does a second book imply greater determination?

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image courtesy of Miklav at Stock Xchng

The first week my debut novel was listed on Amazon, back in 2012, I was buzzing with excitement – and personal pride. However, that feeling settled after a wee while and I began thinking about the sequel, which has now been over a year in the making. As the First, and then the Second Drafts dragged on, a mild sense of panic began to rise within me.

What if I can’t do this again?

What if the first book was all I had inside me?

And so, a renewed determination to finish the sequel arose. I would NOT be a one-book wonder. I wouldn’t end my days thinking ‘What a shame I only ever wrote the one…’ *croaks*

Sure, I’ve written many, many stories in my time. A lot of them have even begun paying me back for the time I spent on them. But a novel is something else, isn’t it? It’s the obelisk of the publishing world, the menhir of our career, the monolith…

Well, you know what I’m getting at. To me, the magazine articles I’ve written are fine, if a little thin, like single sheets of paper in a breezy doorway. My short stories (especially electronically-published ones) can feel like leaves in the wind, but in comparison, the novel is a bit of a cast-iron doorstep.  To have published one feels like a serious achievement; to publish a second means it wasn’t a one-off event and I really, really can do it.

And then, of course, there’s the pressure to sustain the output until the end of days. Once that begins, there’s no getting off the roundabout.

Can anyone else relate to this feeling?

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acern270ginger write on 

 

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