There’s a writing philosophy that floats and meanders through online groups, forums and as advice from veteran writers to younger ones.
You may have heard of it. It goes something like this…
One million words. Your first million is junk.
It’s there for you to practice, hone your craft and find your voice.
After that first million, your writing is now possibly decent.
The first time I heard about it was from Michael J. Sullivan, indie self-published fantasy author of Ryria fame.
This was back in March or May of 2014. I forget when. It was during Michael’s Kickstarter for “Hollow World” which I backed, and when later surveyed after it was funded, I flat out asked on the form if he’d be open to an interview. I’m unconsciously gutsy like that.
Frankly, I didn’t think he would. But his wife (and ersatz assistant) wrote me a week later he was game.
During that thirty minute call, I was asked a lot of seemingly basic questions about my fiction writing but was stumped and speechless on. Questions like, “What do you want to write about?” (No idea at that time.) And “What have you written so far?” (One novelette back in 2007 rejected by “Science Fiction and Fantasy” and nothing else.) And “What are you reading?” (Surprisingly, not enough fiction.)
In short, I felt like I wasn’t taking this fiction writing business very seriously.
Or in three words: I felt inadequate.
But that’s OK, I like being the underdog with a big mountain to climb.
2014 was the year I took the idea of telling stories seriously again. I was in a home-study screenwriting course and that summer I was talking with Dogwood about writing fiction together as partners. We had a lot of great premises and concepts. Many I’d still like to see come to fruition. Others I’d love to see Dogwood write.
But frankly, that year I was reading way too many “how to” books and not doing enough of the nit and grit of practicing my craft: actually writing fiction. Which is, obviously, athwart to the goal of getting one million words of fiction under your belt.
That’s why I proposed the idea of a writing group to Dogwood and Nicholas in the December of 2014 when the three of us were in West Palm Beach, Florida. I needed some accountability partners so I could, at the very least, pump out one thousand words a week. Get my chops in. That’s what eventually led to becoming Garage Fiction 1.0 with Monsieur Brack finding the great Dave Grohl quote that graces our name today.
(In my opinion, the live episode we did two months later in Orlando is still the episode that fully explains everything we were trying to do and is the great seed mother of this whole project. You can listen to it here…)
And yes, Garage Fiction 1.0 was a great start to a catalyzing journey. But still, at that pace, I’d be far from one million words for a long while.
And if I had to estimate how much I’ve done so far with Garage Fiction 1.0… and my one novelette, “The Icarus Remix” back in 2007… I think I’m sitting on maybe sixty to sixty-five thousand.
Let’s be frank here. That’s a long way from one million.
It didn’t help that Garage Fiction had that long sabbatical between October 2015 to October 2016 when we all threw in the towel until I rebooted the group/podcast. (Tangentially, there’s another story to be told on how Garage Fiction 2.0 started. It starts with a girl named Senna. Another time, maybe.)
So it’s been bugging me. A lot. All talk and no walk for so many years now. Decades even.
If I’m going to make 2017 count, I need to pick up the damn pace.
Now, when it comes to “practicing the craft” and art in general, you probably shouldn’t be whipping out your dick and measuring it against others. It leads you to becoming vain and bitter as Max Ehrmann once famously wrote.
But unfortunately, I’m gracelessly competitive. I just had to ask the more veteran members of Garage Fiction 2.0, Bryan and Olivia, what their word count for fiction was.
(600K and 500K, respectively.)
Again, that feeling of, “fuck-I-gotta-get-my-shit-together-and-catch-up” burned through me. I mean, I turn 36 in ten days. I’ve been wanting to be an author since kindergarten. I can’t keep putting this off.
That’s when the goal of writing 1,000 words/day began to feel concrete.
I first heard about this crazy daily goal from a post on Reddit. It was written by /u/moebius23. This guy had just completed his third year of writing 1,000 words of fiction a day. You should check out his post on “lessons learned” here. It’s pretty fucking awesome.
But anyway, this sounded like a great goal. Something to aspire to. And frankly, this seemed like the perfect way to “catch up”. It’s ambitious but not unrealistic. And apparently, this is a thing that a lot of writers do. Committing to daily writing. Shortly after committing to the goal, I found a private Facebook group who does this.
So here I am on January 1st writing this at 2:44 AM in the morning: My dual 2017 goals that will dovetail with each other:
1. Write 1,000 words a day, every day, of new draft fiction. This excludes my work in the copywriting world, a media/blog website business I have in the works, journaling and anything else. Only new draft fiction will count. Not editing, revising and rewriting.
The ultimate goal is to write a 5,000-7,000 word short story each week so I can have more post-mortems on my work and hone the whole craft of telling stories.
But I think a softer, more subconscious goal is to build a habit and fall in love with the process instead of struggling to write each time I have to… as I have somehow haphazardly ran my copywriting business successfully for eight years now.
(I’d like to stop that procrastinate-and-panic-last-minute cycle now please…)
Secondly, because I’m inspired and frightened by Olivia’s reading speed of two books a week… (check out her absurd GoodReads list here.)
2. I’m going to read one fiction or history book a week. As long as it tells a story. The key here is to read, read, read, because as Stephen King once said very bluntly, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
I have a long list of books on my Kindle and on my bookshelves ready to go. I’m not saying I fall short in this department. I think I managed at least 25 or 30 fictional works this past year. But I can pick it up.
Oh and I guess there’s a third goal that’s a bit of a hanger-on…
3. I’m going to blog/journal about these two goals every week, right here on Garage Fiction.
I figured if I’m going to train for my year-long marathon of 1k/day and 1book/week… somebody out there in our universe would be interested in seeing the entire process unfold.
Those are my 2017 resolutions and goals. And I am officially announcing it here on the Garage Fiction website.
P.S. There might be a little cheating on the a book-a-week for the early parts of the year. I have a ton of unfinished books. I’m going to knock those off and count them as my book of the week.
P.P.S. By the way, Olivia has committed to the same crazy goal as I have. This should be interesting.
P.P.P.S. Oh, if you want me to keep you posted, you should subscribe to our newsletter below.
Be seeing you… ☣