A million words

Heron, Hardcastle Crags
Random Image by Richard Carter via Flickr

Wow – two posts in one day?  Unheard of around here, but here it goes.

You know the saying that a writer can’t really begin to write well until they’ve written a million words?

It’s like anything, really.  It takes lots of dedicated, consistent practice to develop a skill or talent.  It’s the same for a sports activity, or the work that you do.  If you’re a cashier, after working 40 hours a week at it for, say, three years, you are a super star.  You can check out those items, count back change, and bag their stuff in less time than it would take me to say, “You want frys with that?”

Let’s do the math.

40 hours a week, 52 weeks in a year, minus four weeks for vacation/sickness/what-have-you – that’s 1,520 hours a year.  After three years at it, you have close to 5,000 hours logged on a cashier.

Of course you would be better at it than me!  I sit on my butt all day, making maps and shuffling around data.  And I’m really good at it.  I have over 15 years of experience behind me.

It’s the same with writing.

For some unknown internet reason, a million words has been thrown out there as the magic number of representative time and effort needed to develop the skills of a writer.

Of course, no one is saying that after a million words you’ll be a good writer.  No, after a million written words (in the form you are interested in – fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc.) you’ll just be ready to start writing like a writer.

Some folks make the effort to write a million words in one year.  I don’t think I can do that, but I thought it would be fun to keep a running tab on this blog (to the right).

Since discovering three years ago that I wanted to write, I’d say I have written about 150,000 words.  I have the 73k of my first novel, four short stories at 5,000 to 8,000 words each, and roughly 20 flash pieces in various states of disrepair.  Plus all the other stuff I’ve half started, I’m gonna go with 150,000 words put towards my one million words of crud.

Woohoo!  Only 850,000 more to go!


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