A million Words in a Year?

"Focus ubt" by photo by Tomasz Sienicki [user: tsca, mail: tomasz.sienicki at gmail.com] - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Source: “Focus ubt” by photo by Tomasz Sienicki [user: tsca, mail: tomasz.sienicki at gmail.com] – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

A millions words in a year. Seems like a lot. Just typing it, I feel daunted. Truly, my fingers feel weighted down at just the hint that I might have them undertake such a task.

Yet, I also find myself intrigued by the concept. I just came across it a week or so ago. At least came across it as an idea of something writers strive for. I was checking out my also boughts in the Amazon.co.UK store, and came across a writer who my UK fans love: Colin Barnes. So, I checked out his site and blog posts and saw that he wrote a post about his goal of writing a million words in a calendar year.

While it seemed daunting, it also seemed doable. Like it was something quite entirely plausible. Now, I’ve struggled this year to achieve my thousand words a day, a pledge I took up midway through the year (in May). But, the truth is, a thousand words a day is quite doable and, relatively speaking, easy (I said relatively! As in, compared to 3,000 words a day, the amount you need to write to get to a million words per year). A million words a year is a lot.

Yet, shortly after coming across Mr. Barnes’ post, I came across a post by Dean Wesley Smith, whose philosophy is to write a lot and publish a lot. He contends that publishers make money not by publishing one book, but several books, and if you’re going to be a self publisher, you’ve got to do the same. His post discussed the famous pulp fiction writers of the early/mid 20th century. These guys’ word counts were phenomenal. The low end was a million words a year. Top producing pulpers (is that a word? let’s pretend it is) were pumping out 2 million words a year. So, that’s 6 times that thousand words a day stuff.

The interesting thing is, I know it’s doable because earlier this year, I wrote 35,000 words in one week. And a couple of weeks later I wrote 20,000 words in one week. Now, these tales were a little different for me because they were shorts and I had a pretty decent map of what exactly would happen, whereas I tend to be a little pansterish with my typical stories. But, to do a 20,000 word week is roughly 3,000 words a day, and a 35,000 word week is a about 5,000 words a day. The key is keeping that up, day in and day out. I suppose that’s the grueling part, the reason it feels daunting.

Of course, if all you had to do was write 3,000 words a day, that might be OK. However, you’re not publishing a million word novel. You’re probably chunking those at 100,000 words apiece (or less), which means you need to read, revise and edit those 100,000 chunks while still writing 3,000 words per day. Yeesh. That may be where the plan falls apart for me. I spend a fair amount of time revising, and to try to get big output while revising is hard for me.

While I am skeptical of my ability to hit a million words in a  year, I do think upping word count is a good thing. I know there are writers who hate to feel chained to the desk to reach some arbitrary number. But, I think, like all things that people get good at, after a while, it doesn’t seem like a chain. It seems like routine. Sit, write, repeat. It’s how you get better at it. It’s how you grow.

I’m still thinking of what I’d like my goals for the new year to be. I’m definitely not ready for a million words yet, but I do think I’m ready to up my game (in terms of output) and see what happens.

So, what do you think of a million words in a year — a worthy goal, or just crazy talk?


About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at http://rjcrayton.com/subscribe.
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4 Responses to A million Words in a Year?

  1. Charles Ray says:

    Whether you actually make the million word goal is less important than striving for it. Actually, though, you’ve got me thinking, maybe that would be a good goal for 2015. Wish me luck.

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