Have You Written Your Million Words of Dreck Yet?
“[W]rite out your million words of dreck before you’re at the place where you’ve learned enough to be really ready to start to publish your works on a regular basis.”
I love a million words of dreck as a measure of the learning needed on the journey towards regular publication because it gives a sense of the scope of development required. A million words is a lot, approximately 10 novels.
I had the mixed blessing of winning the first short story competition I entered. I was thrilled to see my story in print and to cash the associated cheque, but I still had a lot to learn about writing fiction. When I fret over the less successful pieces I have written since that first story, I remind myself that I am still a beginning fiction writer.
I spent decades writing copious non-fiction, well over a million words, but only sporadic poetry and short scripts. The jump into novel-length fiction is a huge leap, one I believe I am capable of making, but one that is requiring time, diligence, practice, and a lot of words.
But, it can’t be enough just to write a million words. Analysis, critique, feed-back, and striving to improve are part of my growing process.
I am constantly developing my craft. My first attempts at novel-writing showed me I needed to get a grip on plotting, so I spent almost two years studying plot and working on my ability to craft a plot. Recently, I have focused on developing characters and worlds. And through it all, I continue to work on wordcraft – structuring sentences, choosing vocabulary, and making the details count.
Study plus writing. I’m well on my way to a million words of fiction, and the dreck is getting better.