The Last 35,000 Is The Hardest

According to my tracking spreadsheet, I have 33,327 words left to hit the one-million-word mark and that doesn’t include the 2,200 I’ve written already today.  But, man, is it hard to get those last 35,000 words or so down.

I don’t know why.  They’re not actually coming any slower than any of the other words have come.  It just feels like I’m so close and it’s killing me that I’m not there yet.

Of course, does hitting the million-word mark really matter?

On one hand, yes.  ABSOLUTELY.  Why?  Because it means I stuck with this writing thing through almost four years of lonely struggle and, mostly, rejection.  Oh, yes, there were some nice personals mixed in there and I’ve gotten some decent reviews on my self-published stuff and had some nice comments and likes here on the blog, so it’s not like it’s been this dark pit that I’ve wandered through blind and alone and starving.

But on the other hand, it doesn’t matter at all.  A hundred thousand words, a million, ten million, a hundred million, none of it matters unless I find a way to engage with my audience.

Now, there is that 10,000 hours of practice theory that’s become oh-so-popular that tells us that it does matter because it means you’ve achieved some sort of mastery.  (Although, according to my spreadsheet I’d need to write 11.7 million words to equal 10,000 hours of effort.  Hm.  Seems I have a ways to go…)

But that theory is flawed. Somewhere around here I have an article from the Rice magazine about how they’ve figured out that practice only makes perfect if you’re actually trying to improve.  It isn’t a matter of doing the wrong thing over and over again and suddenly, miraculously having it morph into the right thing at some magic point.

It’s about trial and error.  It’s about falling down, getting back up, and trying it again with a slight adjustment or a drastic adjustment.  It’s coming at the problem from a different angle until you finally see the answer.  (Like Jim Butcher finally realizing that he should write urban fantasy instead of epic fantasy and then writing The Dresden Files.)

And I think I have been learning throughout all this.  I’ve certainly read a decent number of craft books and psychology books and good fiction books and taken classes and been critical with my own writing and listened (somewhat) to my beta readers and adjusted my covers and my blurbs and my prices and everything else to see what works and what doesn’t.

But at the end of the day the million-word mark is just one more step taken on a, potentially, should I choose, never-ending journey.  I’m sure I’ve flown a million miles in my lifetime.  And read a million words.  When did that happen?  No clue.  Somewhere along the journey I’m on.

Hell, I’ve actually already written a million words.  Multiple millions.  Between the blog which is probably over half a million words at this point and the countless work reports I’ve written in my career (some in the 100+ page range) and all those school assignments and my journals and, oh boy howdy, my e-mails (some of which sound surprisingly intelligent as opposed to the majority of them).

Don’t get me wrong.  A million words has been a good goal to reach for.  It’s kept me motivated when maybe I would’ve slacked off here or there and I’ll be proud the day my spreadsheet ticks over to those seven digits.  But I’ll be a helluva lot more proud when I have a cadre of screaming fans begging for me to write the next…anything.

Baby steps, I guess.  First a million words, then some fervent fans.  And then I can complain about how much it sucks to have people demanding that I write specific things and wishing for the days when I was free to write whatever I wanted or nothing at all without anyone really caring….

Ah, life.  It’s fun that way.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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