Authorguy's Blog

A Million Words

Posted on: February 15, 2019


I don’t know who said it, but the usual wisdom in writing is that you have to write a million words before you’ll come up with anything worth reading, or getting published. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, so far everything I’ve written has been published, but I will agree that the book I wrote after that million words was a significant level-up from the stuff I wrote before it.

When I started I had no real training in writing or being an author, nothing but a lot of books read, with attention paid to how they were written. I knew what I didn’t like, first among them being descriptive prose, and I created my own writing techniques so I wouldn’t end up writing the sort of stuff I hated to read. I ended up developing a technique for creating techniques, as every novel I’ve written is structurally different from the novels that have come before.

I was in the middle, well, not quite the middle, of my third novel when I hit a snag. I thought I was doing a story about my MC’s nephew Jasec, telling stories about his uncle in the town square, embedded somehow in a larger story. As I was writing it that larger story turned out involve a war, and after the war came a refugee priest, and…

I had to seriously consider the priest’s backstory. So I stopped writing that novel. And then a contest wanted a new short story, so I started writing that. And then I finished St. Martin’s Moon, and that turned out to be my third published novel. And then I met Ginjer Buchanon at Lunacon and she seemed vaguely interested in the story that would become Ghostkiller (her assistant didn’t take it, and Ghostkiller became my first self-pubbed title). At the same time I discovered fanfiction, and after a few short pieces I threw myself into an epic story, rewriting the last three seasons of my favorite show.

622K words later, I was able to get back to that third sequel, having written a story with a much stronger plot than any I’d ever written before. More characters doing more things, and a grasp of how to pace the things they were doing so they all came out where they were supposed to. I rewrote the text I already had for Tales of Uncle, rearranging it rather than writing a lot of new stuff.

The priest’s tale took over, with a much larger audience to hear it, and they spread that story to others, and the novel expanded to include a cast of dozens where my earlier works had never topped more than a handful.  Side characters threw themselves in my way, and were allowed to take center stage. One of them told me he was gay, the first time that’s ever happened. I put the book together in an entirely new style, one chapter of real time, followed by a chapter of story, alternating and slowly drawing nearer to each other until they meet and switch places, as the teller becomes a character in someone else’s story.

I can’t wait to see what will come to me after the next million words.

2 Responses to "A Million Words"

A million words written is quite an achievement!!! Awesome. 🙂

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Thanks. I just hope I can keep that going with the next book, which I’m currently writing. I came up with a really unusual character and thought I could use her in the story, so I’ve spent most of the writing I’ve done so far developing her, and then plugging her into the story at exactly the point where the last book left off. There’s a lot more to do beyond that, so this book will really be a stretch for me to write.

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