It’s fair to say that thus far my relatively ridiculous challenge to myself to write 1,000,000 words this year is going well. I’m some 13,000 words into February’s novel, and going strong, and I am finding that writing 2,740 words or so each day is a comfortable pace for me, one that I currently enjoy and does not put much strain upon me. As long as I can continue to come up with novel sized ideas for the rest of the year, I don’t foresee much trouble at all.
But why? Why this approach? Would it not be wiser, saner, smarter and more mature to say endeavor to write 500,000 words this year, and spend every other month editing each previous novel to perfection? Why essay such a rapid pace, such that I can barely go back for edits, rewrites, or give myself much time for thought? Why a year long mad dash toward a completely arbitrary finish line?
Serious thought reveals several reasons.
One is ego. Can I do this? Can I write twelve novels in one year, can I actually write from beginning to finish twelve coherent stories of novel length? I think I can. I don’t think many others can. When you spend time within the writer’s world, when you come to realize that there are hundreds of others seeking to become published, that editors and agents are besieged by queries and manuscripts, being able to stand out from the crowd in some way is gold. Writing 12 novels in one year is one such way, though it’s liable to shoot me in the foot, because I’m producing rushed work that won’t stand a chance of being approved of until each receives a good polish if not through rewrite. Still. It’s good to test yourself. Hercules had his 12 Labors. I have my 12 novels. I call it equal.
Second, it’s a great platform to promote myself from. Hey, look at me, I’m writing 12 novels! That stands out much better than, Hey, look at me, I like writing! Which is where I was last year. So, it’s a good method of promoting myself, of gaining some attention.
Both of which are pretty superficial reasons to be doing this. While definitely part of the parcel, if they were all that motivated me than this would be a shallow endeavor indeed.
No, there’s more going on. See, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always seen myself as one, and never as anything else. Any other job has always felt like a masquerade, as if I were playing pretend. However, throughout my 20’s I did precious little writing. Lots of thinking, lots of wanting, lots of reading, little writing. Every year I’d write a novel, but that would take me two or three weeks, working in a white hot heat and churning out about 9,000 words a day. So, for those few weeks, yes, I was a writer. The rest of the year? Not so much.
Which is why this challenge is so good for me. I’m not going to write a novel in under a month and then stop for the year. I’m going to write a novel in under a month, and then keep going. And I won’t stop. I won’t stop writing, I’ll keep going, creating worlds, characters, settings, designing plots, hammering out endings, experimenting with genres and moods and tones and voices.
This whole Challenge is, ultimately, akin to Vulcan’s Forge. I’m going to fashion my weapons in here, I’m going to work on my flow, my voice, my ability to structure novels, but most importantly, I will develop discipline, good, solid writing habits that will stand me in good stead for the rest of my life. My goal is simple: to create a work ethic that will allow me to write a novel not but once a year, but after all this is said and done, at least four times a year, with the other eight months devoted to editing.
I believe myself a writer. I want to make a living doing nothing more than writing fiction. The only way to do this is to write, write like a madman, write as if possessed, write as if there were no other alternative. Because for me, there really isn’t.
So, my First Million Words. A challenge, a gimmick, a ways to promote myself. But underneath all that? It’s a bid to realize the person I’ve always believed myself to be.
What about you? What are you doing to realize your dreams?