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I am going to attempt to write 1 million words in 2015.

Now, I know I’m not the first to do this. I also will not be the only one to do it in 2015. That’s not the point. The point is that I am going to do it.

What is 1 million words?

1,000,000 words/year is the equivalent of:




If a novel is 100,000 words, that’s 10 novels.

At 75,000 words/novel, it’s 13.

Or 66,000 tweets at 15 words/tweet.

How can I accomplish this?

I write about 1200-1500 words/hour, but I suspect that if I go for three straight hours, that will go down to 1,000, so I am going to say for now that 1,000 words = 1 hour, which means that if I put in 20 hours/week, every week, I should be able to write one million words by the end of the year (thanks to Rob Weldon for helping me with the math).

20 hours a week. A half-time job.


Skill Building. I heard somewhere that you’re no good until after a million words. I figure if I count my dissertation and the few unfinished novels and memoir I have sitting on my hard drive, and then add in seminar papers, articles, blog entries, and even undergrad papers, a conservative estimate might put me at 250,000. I could say I was going to go for 750,000 words this year, but it doesn’t sound as cool as 1 million.

Practice. If I can pull this off, I will have developed not only the skill, but a habit of writing on a regular basis and in a serious way.

Discipline. Again, the habit of writing everyday.

Raw Material. To have a million words of raw material will give me a lot to work with, to turn into something (or many somethings) worthwhile.

What ever happened to quality over quantity?

Are these two things mutually exclusive? Sure, some of the words will suck. If 80% of what I write in 2015 is unusable crap, I still have 200,000 good words. That’s a few books. Not so bad, right? Plus, that’s what editing is for.

What counts towards the goal?

Novel writing. Essay writing. Blog posts. Emails to my mailing list (which you can join above or below).

I will not count social media, personal emails or teaching-related communication.

What challenges do I anticipate?

Inertia. Hopelessness. Running out of ideas.

Seriously, this will necessitate a change in many of my habits:

  • I will have to learn to eliminate or avoid distractions.
  • I will have to come up with solid writing times. If I’m trying for 3 hours/day on average, I have to make that time, which might mean waking up earlier than normal, or writing in the evening, which I don’t currently do.
  • I may have to drink less in order to accommodate a different schedule. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this, but it may.
  • I may have to cut down on social time.

All in all, this will mean I need a mindset that Steven Pressfield calls Turning Pro. In other words, I will have to act like a professional, and treat my writing like a job (but not in the bad way of having a boss and dreading it, I hope. More like a “this is what I do, so I’m going to do it” sort of thing).

What about publishing?

The plan/hope is to publish some of this. The idea is to stop treating my work as precious, tinkering endlessly at the same projects, never releasing anything because it’s not perfect, or good enough. When you write a millions words in a year (I hope), you have to stop treating your work as a masterpiece, or something that has to be a masterpiece. Maybe I will start thinking of it as marketable or shareable products, something people might want to read (and might pay for). When a novel is just one of several you’ve written this year, there has to be less pressure on it. If it’s your one little baby, your precious masterpiece, then it accrues too much importance, carries too much weight.

Want to join me?

Put a comment on this post, or share on social media. The reason I am doing this so publicly is for the accountability and the community. That’s why NaNoWriMo is so great for so many people: the community. Thinking about writing a lot next year? Tell us about it here. Enter into a pact. Declare your intentions.

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