The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

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Margo
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The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Margo » November 29th, 2010, 1:06 pm

I noticed another post here: (http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/bl ... riter.aspx) mentioning the idea that we all write about a million words of suckfulness before we start to hit professional quality, and I thought it would be fun to volunteer where we are and milestones along the way.

I actually opened an excel spreadsheet and listed all the short stories, novellas, and novels I can recall writing and listed their word counts next to them. I don't even have some of them anymore and had to guesstimate. It looks like I'm coming in shy at only 700,000 words or so. Of course, I suspect (hope) a couple hundred thousand words give or take isn't that big an issue. :) To be fair, I started seeing short story publications somewhere around the 400K or 500K mark, and I think I was under 300K when I got my first agent and almost landed a book deal. Unfortunately, book deals ain't horse shoes or hand grenades.
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Quill
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Quill » November 29th, 2010, 1:29 pm

Not sure how this is to be calculated. Does one's first (sucky) draft count as well as one's final (polished to diamond perfection) count? Five drafts @ 50k words = 250,000? Why wouldn't it. Rewriting is writing.

Does journaling count? 100,000.

Posting on forums? Of course it does (if one is consciously attempting to improve one's craft while writing them). How would one estimate those? 10,000 posts over the years at an average of 50 words = 500,000.

Almost there.

1200 poems, my memoir, short stories, my other ms (12 drafts), my other, other ms (3 drafts). All the contracts, proposals, and manuals written at those office jobs.

My school essays. Don't say those don't apply. We had to start somewhere.

I'm at 2 million easy. Where's my agent?

Or do they all have to be finished product, and in one genre? (Why would non-fic count toward fict totals. Different animal entirely.)

I don't think the number game is valid, even as a rule of thumb.

As the crew boss said, after asking the carpenter how much experience he had and the carpenter replied ten years, "Ten years? Or one year ten times?"

Depends on the progress one makes.

Margo
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Margo » November 29th, 2010, 1:46 pm

Quill wrote:I don't think the number game is valid, even as a rule of thumb.
Yeah, I suspected someone would jump in and say that pretty quickly, which is part of the reason I pointed out that I was seeing modest successes much earlier than 1 million words. I counted only final word count, btw, and only fiction. I think I'd go way over 1 million if each draft counted separately. Several times that if I counted non-fiction for school and work. But, yeah, I know this can be a touchy subject, but I thought people could have some fun with it.

Is it valid as a rule of thumb, which is squishy and imprecise in the first place? My personal opinion is yes. Because the ultimate point is that it takes a lot of practice to get good, and putting a number like one million into the mix is just a way to highlight the word lot in 'lot of practice'. I think the point is also to reinforce the efforts of writers who don't get an agent or a contract with Book 1, Book 2, Book 3... And to warn newbies that this is a marathon rather than a sprint.

And it was a good excuse to use the word suckfulness. Hmm, should it be suckfullness?
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BetweenTwoWorlds
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by BetweenTwoWorlds » November 29th, 2010, 2:29 pm

I don't know if "million" is the right metric, but I do believe with all my heart that the way to become a better writer is to continually be writing, so it's probably a good point to shoot for.

My problem/issue/situation is that my professional writing has nothing to do with my passion writing; I write for a corporation, and a novel cannot be like that. (Unless you are the kind of person who enjoys reading corporate communications.)

But given that, my word count for "creative" writing in the last 5 years is about 500,000 words, most of them in the last year (2 novels, a journal, short stories, poetry, general essays). So maybe I'll get half an agent.
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Margo » November 29th, 2010, 2:34 pm

BetweenTwoWorlds wrote:So maybe I'll get half an agent.
Ohh, let's timeshare. I like that idea.
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cheekychook
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by cheekychook » November 29th, 2010, 4:39 pm

Margo wrote:
BetweenTwoWorlds wrote:So maybe I'll get half an agent.
Ohh, let's timeshare. I like that idea.
Count me in for an agent timeshare. I'll even take the off-season. ;)

I think I'm well over the million word mark, even counting just fiction. My potential future agent must be out getting drunk with quill's potential future agent.
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Quill
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Quill » November 29th, 2010, 4:48 pm

We writers who aren't there yet, to be fair, only warrant an agent who isn't there yet as well. Possibly an intern, but more likely a college student. Or in some cases maybe only a snotty-nosed kid in short pants, you know, a superagent to be.

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BetweenTwoWorlds
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by BetweenTwoWorlds » November 29th, 2010, 4:56 pm

Or maybe the kind of agent who will mass-mail your work to "Dear Colleage I have a FABULUS!!!eleventy! WRITER you wil die if you don't hire!"

I mean, agents gotta practice, too, right?
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Louise Curtis » November 29th, 2010, 5:17 pm

The million words and/or ten thousand hours is a nice way to say (a) success takes time and work, and (b) progress is [probably] happening, even if it doesn't seem like it.

I've written twelve books - 20,000, 200,000, 50,000, 120,000, 50,000, 50,000, 40,000, 30,000, 30,000, 60,000, 10,000. 60,000. That makes around 720,000 words before I start counting my short stories - or rewrites. Or unfinished books. Unfinished books would take me to 800,000, and a hundred short stories (that's a conservative estimate, naturally) would take me to an even million.

It's nice to have some notion of nearing the end of my period of maximum incompetence. I do see progress in the responses of publishers (which is far less arbitrary), but my first novel-in-an-acquisitions-meeting was years ago, so I like to dabble in the magic-number illusion every so often.
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Margo
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Margo » November 29th, 2010, 6:50 pm

Louise Curtis wrote:...period of maximum incompetence...
What an amazing phrase. I likes it. I steals it. I run away in the Daffy Duck way, chanting, "Mine! Mine! Mine!"
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Leonidas
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Leonidas » November 29th, 2010, 7:11 pm

Let's see.

100,000+ words of the same story, but two different drafts, for two different NaNos.
34,000 in various short stories
50,000 in other fiction writing.

That's 184,000 words. Not too bad, considering I'm still a teenager and only seriously began to consider writing for publication a year ago.

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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Margo » November 29th, 2010, 7:19 pm

Leonidas wrote:That's 184,000 words. Not too bad, considering I'm still a teenager and only seriously began to consider writing for publication a year ago.
Yeah, you and BetweenTwoWorlds are on the balloon payment plan for writer's dues. :)
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Down the well
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Down the well » November 29th, 2010, 9:57 pm

I probably come in around 500,000. Apparently I'm only half way there. Damn. Any more of those half-agents sitting around?

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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Fenris » November 29th, 2010, 10:31 pm

Louise Curtis wrote:The million words and/or ten thousand hours
I'm glad someone mentioned this, and in a way the two may be more related than you'd think. Think about it: 100 words an hour isn't that hard, right? By the time you reach 10,000 hours, you're bound to be at least somewhere in the vicinity of a million words total, likely more (I know I would be, I've written 50k in a day before. Of course, then I had to go back and edit...).

Leonidas: good to see there are fellow teen writers out there. More power to you!

Now, as for my word count:
Current WIP: around 130,000 words total (estimate), but that's including an experimental rewrite I've started. My first draft was right around 105,000.
Other fiction: I've been writing as long as I can remember, but nothing seemed to make it past page 30. That's about 7,500 words each, so...somewhere around 100,000 words.
Essays, short stories, general whims: If I include only fiction here (which I will, as that's the genre I'm currently writing in), it'll top off around 50,000.

So around 250,000 words! Not bad, but I'm only a quarter of the way there. I guess I've still got a long way to go, but at least I've already taken the first step!

But this doesn't mean I won't still try for publication now. :)
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by polymath » November 29th, 2010, 11:21 pm

Someone or another has noticed writer breakthroughs take an average of a million creative purposed words written and/or ten years from committment to breakthrough. I've done my time and task at least fourfold.

So what else is it It I've asked and attempted to answer. The closest I've come so far is recognizing several impermeable veils separating purpose and outcome. No matter how well-crafted or how exhaustively marketed a novel is, nothing matters but being buzz worthy. Artistic appeal has a niche. Mass culture popular appeal has a niche. Crossover artistic and popular appeal has a niche. Unique voice aesthetics expressing vigorous commentary, timely timelessness, engaging participation mystiques, deep vicariously visceral experiences, artful, intimate proxy reality imitations of existence, profound transformations, and potent emotional payoffs generate buzz. Passing through those veils is another matter, one that neither time nor purposed writing will guarantee. Buzz worthy is it It.
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