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Taking On The Million Word Challenge

One Million Words by The Beth Edges A few days before the close of 2012, I discovered a project begun by author Colin F. Barnes: a challenge for authors to write one million words in calendar 2013.

I’m not much of a joiner, but something about it struck my fancy. I reached out to Colin and became one of the dozen writers “officially” involved.

Will I Really Write A Million Words?

Now, one million words is, on average, about four thousand manuscript pages. Put another way, it’s roughly equivalent to ten big novels.

I’m under no illusion that I’ll be writing ten novels in a year. In fact, I have most of 2013’s output planned, and it’s nowhere near a million words’ worth of material. Also, I fully consider editing and pre-writing to be a big part of the writing process, so there will be days when I might not write anything that could actually count toward the daily quota of 2,740 words.

So. Why officially put my name on the leaderboard?

Incentive and Support

Here are two things I know about myself:

  1. I need to write a whole lot of stuff in the coming year.
  2. I need help building endurance.

By the end of 2013, I want to have a new novel, four to five new non-fiction works, a revised and expanded new edition of an old novel, and many installments of a serial fiction project on the market, plus be a good way into a new novel. It’s a heavy workload for me, especially since writing is not my primary income source.

Thing is, I’ve discovered that I can write about a thousand words in an hour, and that I can write for a sustained period of maybe two hours. Also, it seems that my “writing energy” takes a day or so to build back up.

It should take me, on average, about three hours to hit 2,740 words. Every day. Day in, day out. No breaks. I’m going to need a support group to help me get stronger and have more writing stamina just to get done with the work I have planned, let alone come anywhere close to the million words.

It’s my hope that simply committing to putting my word count into the public eye will keep me going. This is not too different from my decision to periodically write in public via my Writercam streaming webcam sessions. Joining the Million Word Challenge is, basically, a way to keep shoveling soul coal into the creative engine.

Does Word Count Matter?

I understand that one of the inspirations behind the Million Word Challenge is the oft-quoted adage that a writer needs to produce a million words before they’re out of apprenticeship phase.

I think that’s kind of bullshit, honestly. I think you’re out of your apprenticeship phase when you have works on the market and people are willing to give you money in exchange for those works.

Also, as I mentioned, I think most of the real work of writing does not actually involve typing words in a manuscript. Yes, you’ll log hours and hours stacking manuscript pages, but there’s an awful lot of effort and time invested in preliminary work (plotting, planning, outlining, research, and so on) and post-draft work (editing.) You can’t measure that kind of work by word count, only by time elapsed.

For me, the Million World Challenge isn’t necessarily about hitting that word count quota every single day of 2013. Word count doesn’t truly matter.

What does matter for me?

Every day in 2013, I must be doing something that gets me closer to producing content and putting that content into the marketplace and the public eye. Whether or not I hit 2,740 words of output every one of those days doesn’t matter as much as if I do work, period.

I think my participation in the Million World Challenge will provide powerful incentive and encouragement in that regard. And I look forward to providing reciprocal encouragement and incentive to my fellow participants!

Visit The One Million Words In A Year Challenge website for more information, and to see how I get along with this as the year progresses!

Comments

    • Matthew Selznick says

      That’s a very respectable goal, Stephen! As I wrote, I don’t have any illusions that I’ll come anywhere near one million words written in 2013. That’s not what the One Million Word Challenge is about, for me, anyway. I’m more interested in making sure I stay productive, and that my level of production is constantly improving. Hopefully, being part of the challenge will help me stay on mission!

      What are you doing to help you reach that 350K milestone?

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