Words, words, words

“If you want to be a writer, write a million words.”
Ray Bradbury

Last year, Lisa and I were talking about that quote and I got curious what my total was since I started “seriously” writing. I only bother with the quotes because I think there’s a definitive delineation between writing as a hobby and really trying to make it into a career. For me the separation started in the late ’90s so I figure the numbers I’m about to give you have accumulated over the last 12 years or so.

One point four million.

One million, four hundred sixty thousand, three hundred and seventy-six words … and counting. *grins* Give or take the numerous blogs, fanfiction, the odds and ends and bits of stories in files on my computer and elsewhere. That is the total word count of some thirteen novels I’ve written since about 1999. (In some cases written and then rewritten. ;D )

The funniest thing is that the words aren’t the point. As I mentioned in my last blog I think writing for the word count can cause problems for a writer in regards to their ability to craft good sentences, plot, character development, etc. I wasn’t trying to write more than a million words, I was just writing. One book here, another there, two complete rewrites of a story that I just can’t get to come out on paper the way I see it in my head. (And there’s a third on the way because it’s still not right.)

All I was doing was telling a story, somewhere along the way I wrote more than a million words.

So what have I done with that first million? Nothing and I don’t have any plans for them. Because the other thing Mr. Bradbury suggested was “burn them.” You throw them away, let them go, call it exactly what it was – practice.

A person improves their craft (any craft) through practice, through repetition, through constant striving for improvement. The revision I just finished last week is far better than the original version and tens of thousands of times better than the very first novel I completed.

That first novel? It was a great story, but there’s nothing to be done with it. Some of the characters might be resurrected and I’ll probably steal a plot idea or two, but it’s not something that can be redone. Sometimes you just have to let go of stories and trust that they’ve already served their purpose – in this case teaching me how to not write god awful dialog. *grins and winks*

I look at my writing as a practice (there’s that word again), the same a yoga or kung fu. It’s something that requires daily effort on my part or I’m just not going to get any better at it. If you want to be a writer, write every day. It doesn’t have to be much, you just have to put fingers to keyboard or pen to paper every single day and never look back.

Unless you’re doing it to see how far you’ve come. 😀

(burn photo by Don Branum of PhoenixBlue Photography)

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6 responses to “Words, words, words

  1. “Unless you’re doing it to see how far you’ve come.” Absolutely. Part of why we write.

    “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” ~ T. S. Eliot

    The long and winding road.

  2. Writing everyday is a must. Agree,
    eden

    • Yup. *nods* I think people sometimes misunderstand that as you have to work on your WIP or something equally massive every day. When I say “write everyday” all I mean is that I try to write something everyday.

      Sometimes it’s just a line or two in my journal. *laughs* But it’s something.

  3. Wow… that’s a lot of words. Now I’m curios to know how many words I’ve written.

    I do have to disagree with the writing every day part. I think writing to a schedule is more important than writing every day.

  4. And then there’s Malcolm Gladwell – and I quote him all the time about this exact same thing. He says that to be an expert at ANYTHING you have to spend 10,000 hours – which seems to me to be about the same as a million words. And then I follow it up with saying that if you’ve taken a year’s worth of ballet lessons, you don’t expect to be in The Nutcracker with Nureyev or if you’ve played tennis casually for a few years, you don’t expect to be Rafa Nadal.

    Practice, practice, practice, and the only way to practice writing is to actually write.

    Kate

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