The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
Fenris
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Fenris » January 16th, 2011, 7:08 pm

Watcher55 wrote:In other words, by the time your work reaches a level of competence, your "trash" files will take up 10 to the power of 6 more kb than your actual completed work.
The man has a point...
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Mike Dickson
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Mike Dickson » January 16th, 2011, 7:31 pm

Watcher55 wrote: You can rake the leaves cluttering up my yard; that's relaxing. >:}
Leaves, what are leaves?

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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Watcher55 » January 16th, 2011, 7:45 pm

Mike Dickson wrote:
Watcher55 wrote: You can rake the leaves cluttering up my yard; that's relaxing. >:}
Leaves, what are leaves?
c'mon over and I'll show you. Heck, I'll even let you meet Mr. Rake.

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polymath
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by polymath » January 16th, 2011, 8:18 pm

I don't think the million-word milestone is set in stone. S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders between the ages of 12 and 15. She encountered a creative wall afterward. It would be a decade before she completed another novel. I doubt she'd written a million words prior. Perhaps since.

Whatever medium one writes in as long as it's focused creative expression goes toward creative writer growth. If there's any specific writing areas which are more productive to practice than a broad organic approach, in my opinion they orient around narrative voice and narrative point of view, of which narrative voice is an attribute. Studying Hinton's writing for how a teenager accomplished, one, early publishing success and acclaim, and two, second bestselling purposed young adult novel of all time, though it was first until the Potter saga, with narrative voice and narrative point of view is a productive exercise.

Fascinating to me is how a young teenager would be able to grasp those two related narrative concepts and stay on point. A young teenager has just begun to develop an ability to notice and process the viewpoints of outsider others not of the immediate family, let alone try on and make-believe own exotic external viewpoints. My general conclusion about Hinton's writing is she's a keen and sensitive empathic observer, and sensitive both intellectually and emotionally.
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Nathan Bransford
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Nathan Bransford » January 17th, 2011, 2:49 pm

polymath wrote:I don't think the million-word milestone is set in stone. S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders between the ages of 12 and 15. She encountered a creative wall afterward. It would be a decade before she completed another novel. I doubt she'd written a million words prior. Perhaps since.
I actually had a conversation with S.E. Hinton about that, and what surprised me is that even though she wrote THE OUTSIDERS when she was very young, it wasn't the first book she had written. She had already written several novels. I don't know whether it was a million and agree that the actual number probably varies for every writer, but it wasn't her first stab either.

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polymath
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by polymath » January 17th, 2011, 5:19 pm

Three novels to stardom also seems to be a milestone. Nicholas Sparks had two previous unpublished novels under his belt before his first modicum of success with a co-authored project, then his major breakout novel, The Notebook.

Whatever milestone makes or breaks a writer, I note both a focused and flexible application of structural formulas, aesthetics, and nuances develop over time. Ten years, ten thousand writing hours, one million words, three novels, whatever, of dedicated writing apprenticeship.

Sadly, if it was just time on task, there would be more successful writers competing for the limited number of publishing opportunities than there are. Other tangible factors come into play, and not a few intangible factors.
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Leila » January 19th, 2011, 3:47 pm

Wow, I'm a toddler compared to everyone else it seems! I started writing about a year ago and I've written two books, totalling about 220,000 words.

And I just have to say I love the humor in these forums. You guys are so sharp.


Obviously everything we do in life becomes more refined as we gain more experience, and certainly as our perspective widens. I just can't help but feel that with writing specifically, you could write a million words and be plenty practised, but if you don't have that intrinsic story telling ability to combine with your writing skill and experience, you may end up writing another ten million and still not have the whole package. That probably sounds harsher than I mean it to be.

Just making an observation. I take your point, Margo, about it being a fun thing to look at amongst ourselves, hence arriving at my toddler status. I know my writing is certainly improving the more I write, research, learn about the craft and refine along the way. It just got me thinking.

And I guess it also comes down to how 'professional' is defined.

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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Margo » January 19th, 2011, 5:24 pm

Leila wrote:I started writing about a year ago and I've written two books, totalling about 220,000 words.
Regardless of how much practice it takes to reach a professional level of proficiency, that's an impressive amount to write in about a year.
Leila wrote:And I guess it also comes down to how 'professional' is defined.
True. In some genres, 'professional' has been defined by an organization comprised of authors in that genre (the SFWA for instance), but I was thinking more about proficiency in eliciting the intended reaction from the target audience.
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Leila » January 20th, 2011, 12:07 pm

Thanks for the supportive words, Margo. I love writing so much, as I'm sure we all do. I'm just a newbie by comparison to a lot of you guys. And your definition makes perfect sense.

I wonder if the nature of 'becoming' professional is more about the time and pathways one takes to produce the quality of a story than the number of words? I realize that the number is meant to be an indicative element, encompassing all the bits that go into achieving it, and the concepts are not mutually exclusive, but writing a million words, without developing one's self along the way perhaps won't take anyone a great deal further down the 'professionalism' path than where they started.

Anyway, great topic, quite thought provoking.

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polymath
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by polymath » January 20th, 2011, 12:55 pm

Any given writing milestone is just something empirical observed by statisticians who track such things and compare them for establishing a mean, an average so there is some basis for predicting unpredictable time spent on task. In creative writing, they're benchmarks, but otherwise meaningless as outliers are more the norm than the exception for creative expression.

There are productive pathways to pursue though it is creative expression. Mr. Bransford covered these some time ago on the blog. Style, craft, and voice. Style meaning the mechanics of Standard Written English, the accepted by tacit agreement grammar, punctuation, and spelling principles of writing English prose. Craft of narrative writing, which is about as structured as style for many areas, and as much an unquantifiable aesthetic as it is methodically approachable. Voice is as individual as DNA. It can be developed methodically, taught and learned; however, again, voice is as much an unquantifiable aesthetic as it is a structured quality.

Learning craft is about learning the structural attributes of literary elementals plot, character, setting, discourse, theme, and rhetoric.

Developing voice from what's methodically accessible is about narrative structure and rhetoric, especially irony's several species, verbal irony, situational irony, dramatic irony, comedic irony, and courtly irony. As well as a gamut of thousands of other rhetorical schemes and tropes. Though a methodical approach to learning rhetoric isn't essential, native language users absorb rhetoric osmotically, a methodical process will short cut out a lot of aimless wandering in the wilderness for one's voice.

Narrative structure most closely relates to who narrates to who about what; in other words, narrative point of view. Covert or overt narrator, biased subjective or reliable neutral objective, narrator viewpoint expressing commentary or narrator reporting viewpoint character viewpoint, and a few other essential structural discourse choices a writer must make at some point for drafting a narrative.

Narrative point of view's structural attributes include: grammatical person and number, tense, narrative distance, narrator standpoint and attitude, psychic access and motility, tone, tenor, mood, and register.
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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Claudie » January 20th, 2011, 3:41 pm

Leila wrote:Thanks for the supportive words, Margo. I love writing so much, as I'm sure we all do. I'm just a newbie by comparison to a lot of you guys. And your definition makes perfect sense.
There's no better place to be a newbie than around here, Leila (I know, I'm not much further along than you are). You'll learn faster by perusing these boards and listening well than by writing another 100,000 words.
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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Re: The Million Word March to Becoming Professional

Post by Leila » January 21st, 2011, 9:06 am

Claudie wrote:
Leila wrote:Thanks for the supportive words, Margo. I love writing so much, as I'm sure we all do. I'm just a newbie by comparison to a lot of you guys. And your definition makes perfect sense.
There's no better place to be a newbie than around here, Leila (I know, I'm not much further along than you are). You'll learn faster by perusing these boards and listening well than by writing another 100,000 words.

Indeed! Good advice.

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