“I am sure it has been done with less, but you should be prepared to write and throw away a million words of finished material. By finished, I mean completed, done, ready to submit, and written as well as you know how at the time you wrote it. You may be ashamed of it later, but that’s another story.” ~ Jerry Pournelle (probably)
One million words.
That’s a staggering amount of words. Perhaps it’s easier for this generation, but I don’t think that it’s saying write a million words in total (on combined social media accounts, I imagine that some people will hit a million fairly quickly). Because of the era in which this was written, I believe that Pournelle was saying ‘write a million words on a story or perhaps many stories’, and then when you’ve reached that mark, you will have arrived.
If you know me or have been hanging around the blog for some time, you may know that I’ve been writing since I was about seven. Back then, it was in those cheap, spiral-bound notebooks that Walmart sells for a dime right before and after school starts, and it was in that enormous, loopy cursive that children often have (when taught cursive, I suppose).
I wrote terribly interesting mystery stories that weren’t mysterious in any way. From there, my writings moved on (after a few mystery novels, of which I was quite proud) to a rewrite of Erin Hunter’s Warrior Series (of which I had read the first book and then wasn’t allowed to read the rest), to an extensive fan fiction of Tolkien’s works (not just LOTR, no. I was the 10 year old that knew more Tolkien than anyone I knew- basically everything published at that time), to the very beginnings of The Keepers of Elenath. I wrote three books in that series, with countless revisions and additions. Then, Shards of Glass and (consulted) on Little Red Robin Hood as well as the MSs that I have unfinished now: Imperfect, Duchess, Shards of Glass 2, and a handful of others that haven’t seen much work at all.
Through it all, I have written over one million words. I counted it all up once, a long time ago.
Do I feel as if I have arrived and that my writing a quality that people envy? No. I know better. I know the struggle~ and maybe it’ll take me another million words to get to a place of confidence.
In the meantime, I’m going to keep typing out those next million, the best I can do now. And just hope I won’t be too ashamed of them later.
What about you? Do you have an inkling as to how many words you’ve written in your lifetime? Do you feel like a million words are enough, or like me, do you feel as if a million words is just enough to get started?