One Million Words

I’ve only been tracking it on 750words.com since I joined. It took 2 years and almost 8 months: 1 May 2011 to 29 Dec 2013. That also only counts rough words, because I take them out of there when I finish and edit, rewrite, tweak, whatever’s needed elsewhere.

One million words feels huge. But when I count all the writing I’ve done before I joined, there might be a million words there, too. I know it’s hard to translate words into pages, but it would be about 4000. It might be 10 books worth, if it could be organized that way and was worth throwing together.  

My longest streak is 384 days, spanning two moves and having a baby. I’m creeping up there again, currently at 307 days in a row.

I’ve been told that writing a million words is more like an apprenticeship in writing than anything else. That it takes ten years to get good at something, and putting the time in is the only way to get better. I’m not sure I can say I’ve put that time into anything else. But writing, that I do, and I continue to do, every day. I’ve been writing more than ten years- it can be traced back to elementary school, though as I get older I get more dedicated to my craft.

What will the third million teach me that the first two didn’t?

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More Research

Some days it seems like whenever I think I have things in line the way I like them, the dominoes fall down and I need to start over. 

I’ve mentioned 750words before in this blog. I’ve enjoyed the time there, but it looks like it might be time to move on to another site. The site had been free, but starting 1 March it will require a paid subscription. It isn’t much – only $5 a month or $50 a year. But it’s difficult to justify that when I could find the same thing free elsewhere. 

So I’m looking at other sites between now and the March deadline. I missed that with Duotrope, who also required paid subscriptions this year for the majority of its information. [The same subscription rate, even.] And while I loved browsing Duotrope for new markets, I don’t use it enough at this time to go with a paid subscription. The new FAQ at 750 words even said he doesn’t take it personally if the requirement doesn’t fit the writer’s needs – and mentioned a few possible suggestions for replacements. 

All of that ought to light a fire under me to get things edited (which is always my sticking point) and be ready to get them out there so I can be part of Duotrope and feel legitimate because I would be sending things out. 

Which reminds me of an essay I read recently in Write Good or Die – where the author [Kristine Kathryn Rusch] talked about discipline in a way that meant more than simply punching a clock to meet a deadline and get a paycheck. She made a lot of points about why people make it in what they’re doing, especially writing. It’s because we love to do it, and we love to get it right enough to make things happen. The things that need to happen are the ideas, writing, editing, promotion, and the things that we allow to happen that distract us from these goals. 

That essay still has me thoughtful, and it is likely I will read it a few more times until my brain gets the message that I think is in there. I know most of it. I sit myself down in the chair to write daily. Recently I’ve discovered that editing doesn’t come so easily and I need to change how I go about it and how I think about it. After so many years of writing fiction, I finally figured out how to do an outline that makes sense for me, so it can’t be a lost cause to put some more research and purpose into how I go about editing. 

I needed something else to squeeze into the quiet moments when my kids were sleeping, besides the yoga and Pilates books, the fiction I haven’t caught up with, and the never-ending outpouring of words for my own rough drafts. It’s no wonder most of my friends love to read – they’re the only ones who could understand how I get so lost in the worlds I create. 

Flowing Words

Some days they do; some days they don’t. I’m excited to say I’m coming up on 300 days of writing in a row at 750words.com. At a minimum daily count, that’d be over 222k words.

I’ve written more than that.

I actually joined that site a year ago yesterday. In the 367 days, I missed 12. My streak as of yesterday was 297 days. Yes, somehow I managed that through moving (Thanks, Mom!) and having a baby (always with the technical gadgets when he slept) and figured how I could do that minimum through my phone if I had to.

My fastest entry took 7 minutes to reach the goal, over 100 wpm. My 355 completed days have accumulated 344,110 words. The most I ever accomplished in a day was 4944 and makes me wonder why I didn’t push to the 5k mark. [Personal best writing day is over 8k – before I ever had children or found 750words.]

The site also tries to give insights into my writing, whether I’m feeling affectionate or thinking about death or if I use present tense verbs or what sense (read: vision) I’m using for description.

But that isn’t the information I turn to when I want to understand my writing better. Besides the words themselves, and there are a couple budding novels in there if I’m not careful – or maybe if I am. Some days it’s hard to tell. The information I gather lends more to understanding the process.

I learned I can type off the top of my head and still send words flying out of my fingers over 100 wpm. When I say they’re on fire, that’s pretty close. I learned I can type over 3000 words in an hour. That might seem like a modest 50ish wpm, but keeping it up for an hour or more is daunting.

My best time of day is the morning, but I can’t type in the morning because I’m busy with kids. So I almost always do my writing during afternoon naps. When I have to do it in the evening it takes longer, especially if there are distractions like the TV or my husband. [I told you I was writing. Go do something else until I’m done!] Longer often means five times as long, slowing me down to the average at this site, somewhere around 13 wpm when averaged with the distractions.

When I get warmed up and set a timer, I can shut out pretty much everything else. It’s really fun to just sit there and commune with the characters while they’re doing weird things.

So now I’m working on figuring out how to do that all the time. Because every now and then I end up with random brain dumps that, while helpful, aren’t exactly fueling my fiction word count. Except they do by getting the other stuff out of the way. It’s amazing how full the brain can get just going about your daily business.

I keep working to refine what I write, to learn more from this tool, to pursue more goals in my writing. It’s an ingrained habit for me, and whatever else it teaches me, that alone has been good enough to keep me at it.

Now what I need is a tool that makes me sit there and edit things on a daily basis. Because having the rough draft out only gets you so far. My drafts are improving, which means some of them are not complete dreck when I spew them out.

And today, when I sit down to write my words again, I’ll be figuring out something else to take time and make my words count. It doesn’t always have to be a race for speed. It’s about what I need to get out in order to do the writing I want to complete.

What tools do you use to keep your habits going for writing, editing, publishing, social media, other writer-type habits I’ve forgotten? Please share.