One Million Words Day


On January the 3rd, 2010, spurred on by an unfinished NaNoWriMo novel, I decided that I would write a fixed amount every day - 500 words, which seemed to me like reasonable progress to make. I kept it up until April, when I finished the novel. Then I kept going - just writing little scenes, something every day to keep my fingers limber and my brain generating ideas. I did it every day - one holidays, when I was ill, on Christmas day, and so on. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it was hard, but I kept at it.

When January 3, 2011 came around, I felt comfortable continuing - I increased the writing load to 750 words a day. It was difficult to start with - 250 words extra doesn't seem a lot, but stitched onto the back of another 500 suddenly it seems like a surprise extra mile tacked onto the end of a marathon. Again, though, I got to the end of the year without missing a day. On Jan 3 2012, I started writing 1,000 words a day, and then a year later, this January, I began 1,250 words a day.

There's a saying among NaNoWriMo writers (attributed sometimes to Ray Bradbury, but as always take that with a pinch of salt) that you have to write a million words before you get to the good ones. So, writing at this rate, when roughly do I get to my million word mark?

Well, I got there today (give or take).

Actually as part of this program today is roughly 970,000 words in, but if you include the fact that every November I wrote at least 1777 words a day to hit my NaNo target, I figured out a few months ago that today would be the day.

So... am I at the good words yet?

A tricky question - what I'm really asking, I suppose, is whether I think this has been good for me as a writer. Are my writing skills improving as a result of this constant productivity?

And the answers are - I'm not sure, and perhaps no?

One measure of writing success is whether people are interested in reading what I've written, and the simplest way to judge that is by stories sold - because if someone likes something enough to pay to put it in their magazine or on their website, they must actually like it.

I have sold precisely zero stories since I began.

But it's worse than that - because of the constant pressure to think of ideas and do my writing, I have actually written fewer whole stories. On the plus side I've written a lot of scenes, and I think my creative powers probably have waxed slightly - thinking up a new idea every day and writing 1250 words on it is hard (even harder if you factor in now thinking up serious ideas every week for He Goes She Goes), and you can't do hard work for that long without growing your brain muscles a bit. But I feel as though I've lacked the mental space to let stories sit around in my mind for a long period.

I said to myself that when I reached the million words mark I might stop, if I thought it wasn't helping. I'm still unsure whether that's true or not. Perhaps it would be good to give it a rest. On the other hand, I'm looking forward to the point in November 2016 when I start NaNoWriMo and find that my daily target for that is lower than the number of words I'd be writing anyway.

I guess I'll write 1250 words tomorrow and see how it goes...

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