A Journey of a Million Words

Hi there All!!

Welcome to my introductory Million Words blog post. For those of you not benefiting from the video feed, picture me doing an epic, muppet arm-flail.

Ok…well, maybe you shouldn’t do that.

Anyway, if you’re just tuning in, let me take a step back and lay down some ground work.

The idea for this website and all of the awesomeness therein came about at the last Roaring Writers writing retreat. It came about, in large part, as the result of several Corpse Revivers and several pounds of baco-*Kaff, kaff* Discussion. Rounds of thoughtful and insightful discussion.

There is an idea floating around out there that every writer has a kind of back-log of a million words that they need to get out of their system before the really good ones start coming out.

A Million Words.

That’s a lot of words.

Does it need to be a million?  I’m of two minds about this (naturally), but before I get into that, I want to take a moment to let you all know where I am in the process.

I reach my final number by virtue of an incredibly complex formula* that borders on the eldrich.

  • I don’t count blog posts.
  • I round down to the nearest hundred words.
  • I keep track of the words I write each day.
  • I treat 1 hour of editing as equal to 400 words**

I take these numbers and, using elder magics and caffeine, I enter them into my utterly complex formula*** to produce my total word count.

So where am I at?

As of today I am currently at 288,600 words.  There’s some change there, but I’m rounding down to the nearest 100. That leaves me with 711,400 words to go.  So I’m a little over a quarter of the way there.

So, about that back-log of words.

I’m in complete agreement with my fellow Roaring Writer and Million Words contributor, Janet in that I don’t think that there’s going to be a band**** or any kind of champagne fanfare when I hit a million words.

In fact, I’ve already got a pretty good idea how it’s going to go:

Me (on a Sunday morning, doing math***** because I generally don’t write these posts ahead of time): Math, math, math…*pauses to scratch head to make sure the coffee is working*…Wow, I’ve hit a million words! In fact, I hit it on…math, math…Wednesday??? And I still went to work??? Damn…well, time to write a million more.

Ok. It won’t go exactly like this.  I’m not taking into account the adult beverage that’ll be coming later and the celebratory dinner, but I’m self aware enough to know that I will almost certainly hit a million words and not realize it until later******

Why am I not paying closer attention? I mean a million words is a pretty significant pile-o-words, and even Stephen King has mentioned the million words that a writer needs to get out of their system. Why am I so casual about my accounting?

Well, not meaning any disrespect to Uncle Steve, I think that number – that exact number – is horseshit.

Right about now, I’m picturing my fellow Roaring Writers either shaking their heads or recovering from some form of spit-take or another, but hear me out.

That number seems a little too precise and too ungainly to be anything other than arbitrary. After writing the equivalent of 9 complete novels, you’re still not writing well? After a million words you’ve got no room for improvement?

It’s like whomever came up with the idea originally wanted to make sure that they’d be right if anyone ever took the time and effort to do a real study of it.

Of course, at the end of a million words, you’re going to be a vastly improved writer than you were at word “Zero”. It’s unavoidable, spending that much time at any one task and not improving greatly at it.

My point is that, like so many other things, the journey is hugely more important than the destination. As you write those million words you are going to face victory and defeat (if you’re submitting your work…you are, aren’t you?), you will face self-doubt and self-confidence. You will find stories that seem to write themselves and others that simply crash, burn, and explode after thirty-thousand words (Those words count towards your million). You will face days when you can’t wait to get to the keyboard and you will face days where you’d rather do anything – and I mean anything – but sit down and stare at that damned story another day.

You will find your crutch words. You will develop the skills to put together a decent sentence. You will develop an ear for dialogue. And some of your closest relations will start to think you’re a little bit nuts.*******

You will also discover that writing is not only an art and a craft…

It’s a job.

Some days you won’t want to do it, but you do it anyway. Some days you cant do it, and that’s ok. But, by the time you hit a million words, you’ll be doing it regularly because it’s what you do.

That’s what I think the million words idea is supposed to do for you. It’s not the destination, it’s the transformative and, at times, self-enlightening effort you put in to get there that really matters.

And it’s worth it. I’m just over a quarter of the way to my first million out of many and I’m here to tell you that every, single second of effort is worth it. All of the joy and the pain (and yes, there is pain in being a writer) is worth it.

If you’re considering making a go of this thing called writing, know that the journey of a writer starts with a single word:


It will take you to places you’ve never dreamed of and you will find your tribe upon the path. It never ends. Not after a million words, not after a hundred million words.

The road goes ever on and on…

Walk with us a while, wont you?


*It isn’t complex at all.
** I totally stole this idea from Mur Lafferty – it’s one of the many things I have to thank her for.
***Seriously, it’s simple addition. How I have managed to Bamboozle my fellow writers into thinking that math and I have anything other than a strained acquaintance is completely beyond me.
****If I’m wrong about the whole “Band” thing, I’m hoping for Blind Guardian.
*****Aaaarrrrrgh…thank the tiny gods for coffee.
******Unless I’m wrong about the “Band” thing…
*******Or is that just me?


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