Saturday, May 12, 2012

Myth #1: A Million Words Of Crap

With every new author that graces the scene there seems to be a new piece of writing advice stacked on top of the writer's totem pole of rules. Some are new ideas. Some are old ideas that have been modernized. And some are just the same old pieces of advice that every other author is chirping.

I've read a lot of books on the craft of writing. The one I hold in the highest regard is Stephen King's take on the craft.

But there have been a couple of pieces of advice that I don't subscribe to or just ignore entirely. The one I'm here to talk about today is the old Million Words of Crap myth. I call it a myth becuase to me it holds no significance whatsoever to a writer's journey. It's been hyped up too much

The theory goes that as soon as you've written a million words of God awful material, you will have reached your peak of creative genius and every word therafter will be sparkling pristine prose.

A complete load of garbage.

When I first started writing, Sixth grade I believe, I had never heard of this highly toted piece of advice. But I did know one thing: with every project you do, you learn from your mistakes, polish and move on. Now, if you're a slow learner, it would conceivably take you a while to get your bearings.

But just imagining these numbers is ridiculous. You may not even want to write at all. It's an incredibly high standard that has left many aspiring authors by the wayside.

Some people shrug this rule off and cheat by saying, "Oh, well when they mean a million words of crap, they mean all the emails and letters that I've written in my entire life."

While that is a nice shortcut to make for yourself, it doesn't attack the subject head-on.

Think about it.

A million words of crap.

Imagine a million peices of paper stacked in your living room. Depending on how big your living room is, you'd either be facing a tall white pillar or several stacks completely cluttering your space. That image alone causes me heartache.

If every novel you wrote was exactly 50,000 words long then that means that you will have written 20 books of complete failure. Some have said don't publish anything that is within the margin of the million words. That you will fail. But also, that you will fail horribly.

My goodness, that's a cynical take on the whole thing.

I've written many practice fiction books. I wrote a pretend goosebump book which was fifty something pages. I've written a sequel to a childhood book which was twenty something pages. I've also written several pieces of fan fiction.

One book I deleted entirely was 168 pages.

Now, I'm sure that all of those projects don't even come close to a million words, or a hundred thousand for that matter. But with each new project I learned something different.

Look, I'm not the greatest writer in the world. But I do know of a good unique idea or two when it comes to fleshing out a story. And to limit yourself this much is just going to bring you nothing but grief.

Sure, I'm aware that there are some people who have used this method and it took them ten to forty books in order to get their first one published. For that I appluad you. But as for the other aspiring authors out there, don't kill yourself over this stuff.

Practice makes perfect but you certainly shouldn't be chained to an ideology that is going to do nothing but give your competitors a little more time to churn out those good ideas before you do. In my eyes it's nothing but a stalling tactic that has been held in high regard for far too long.

Myth or not, you decided. It's your writing life, after all.

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