A million words of crap

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

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Azure Skye

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I've heard this statement thrown around quite often. Is there really any truth that we must write a million words of crap before we get to the good stuff? What constitutes a million words anyway? Can it be poetry? Research papers in college? Volumes of journal entries?
 

ChaosTitan

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I wouldn't take the statement literally. It seems to serve as a guidepost, more than anything else. So many beginning writers think that their earliest stories are wonderful! fantastic! perfect!, even when they are pretty bad. Most writers need to write, write, write. To fail, to experiment, to learn and keep trying until you reach the point of publishability. <--is that a word?

Some folks reach that point after their very first story. It's rare, but it happens. Some can write 5k worth of crap. Others 150k. Even more may write 2 million words of horse apples before they find something worth publishing.

I honestly don't think it matters exactly what you write, just as long as you are writing and always trying to write well.
 

KTC

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I don't believe this statement. It's like saying monkeys on typewriters will create something. No they won't. I am finding a new faith in my writer's voice. This million words of crap has the potential of crashing against this faith. I'm no longer into disparaging myself. I've been told my writing is good. I did not have to write a million words of crap to get to where I am today. Some of my earliest stuff has been published. Maybe for so-so writers there is a certain degree of faith given to the saying...maybe I will get better if I continue to write for ever and ever? Then again, maybe not. Maybe some writers are meant to be good or better than good from the very beginning. Maybe others are like monkeys pounding away on typewriters...only unlike the monkeys they have a dream of actually inadvertently hitting the right keys one day. I may be sounding harsh...but with this newfound faith in self I feel like I am allowed to speak out against statements like this 'million' one. I did not write down a million words of crap before finding myself where I am today.
 

The Lady

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When I first heard that statement I despaired, thinking how long would it take me to get my million words of crap written so I could get to the real good stuff.

Then I made a discovery. All those years when I thought I hadn't been writing, I had. I'd been to workshops, writing groups, had spasmodic lashes at things and then stopped. In all I discovered two boxes full of old handwritten stuff.

Looking through them and thinking when I earth did I write this stuff, I realised there was pretty close to a million words in there, all in.
And yeah there was some foul stuff but also some pretty salvagable ideas ( except they will just have to get in the queue with the rest of the ideas.

So yeah, I do think the craps got to be written and got out of the way.
 

Azure Skye

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I don't believe the statement either. I mean, what, when you reach one million and one, suddenly you're going to write fabulously? teehee

It seems like a good motivator though. Keep on writing, and writing, and writing...
 

icerose

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No after the million words are done you don't just start writing fabulously, but speaking from experience after six years of writing I have slogged through more than one million words and if you use that time correctly, learning, improving, getting critiques, editing, revising, learning what works and what doesn't, the learning curb takes off to new highs you could never imagine. It makes all the earlier work look like utter crap. I have tossed four completed novels because they need so much work to be at the current level I am at. I have abandoned a few half written books because my writing ability was increasing faster than I could get them out. Now that I am over that marker, I am writing everything in hand then typing it up so that even if the first round through changes drastically it is much easier to bring it all up to the higher quality when I type it up.

Whether you believe in it and whether it works for you or not well that's your business, but I can vouch for it that it made all the difference for me. You don't look at the stuff your writing as crap and you don't keep a mile post but when you look back and see that pile of words it really does make all the difference in comparing the work then and now. Unless you didn't learn anything along the way.

I've had earlier work published, and mid work published, and later work published, but those first million words pale by far in comparison to my current work.
 

PeeDee

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It's not that you have to have 1.023 Million words written before you start producing anything good. It's said that you have a million words of crap that you have to get out of the way before you start writing good stuff.

What it means is that you need to write, every day, lots of stuff. When you've first started, what you write will not be fabulous. You have a lot of learning to do.

A lot of things that you learn will work and things that you learn will not work. You have to find not only the ropes and how to tell a story, but how to entertain an audience, how to be clear, and eventually, how to stop sounding like a mixture of other writers and start to sound like yourself.

It's just a slang term for the period of time between when you put your first word on a piece of paper with the intention of telling a story, and when you put down the word on paper which you know is, for the first time, really good.
 

CBeasy

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I think that one must write a pretty good amount of crap before they hit something good, but I don't think the ratio is quite a million to one. I like to think that I write about 45% crap/55% good stuff. ;)
 

alleycat

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Oh. At first I thought this thread was about Pete and Carrie writing their routine for Auction #25.

Never mind.
 

Azure Skye

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CBeasy said:
I think that one must write a pretty good amount of crap before they hit something good, but I don't think the ratio is quite a million to one. I like to think that I write about 45% crap/55% good stuff. ;)

That's sort of the point I was trying to make. Why one million? Of course everyone writes crap while they learn and some of us still write crap.
:e2tomato:

I'll shutup now.
 

C.bronco

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I don't buy it. Even looking back at my high school poetry (ack!) I still find some lines that I really like.
When my brother
http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=21039726
was five he wrote "The Silly Poem." My Mom might still have a copy of it in her wallet; she used to keep one there. Okay, five, he wrote
"The man who can make it through the rain,
The man who can make it through the pain,
The man who can make it on his own
Is the man who is quite unknown."
 

Bartholomew

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Azura Skye said:
I've heard this statement thrown around quite often. Is there really any truth that we must write a million words of crap before we get to the good stuff? What constitutes a million words anyway? Can it be poetry? Research papers in college? Volumes of journal entries?

If you write a 100,000 word text, and then edit it to completion, you've probably just written 300,000 words.

:)
 

PeeDee

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well, the really wonderful thing about this is, you don't have to buy it or believe it or express any interest in it whatsoever. It'll happen anyway. At some point, you willl begin to write better than you did before, and you will begin to write things which will sell, and then you will have done your experience building writing that is classified under "a million words of crap."

So by all means, don't buy into it at all. Keep working hard as you can at everything you write. You should be anyway. Judging it garbage comes much later. I wouldn't have been able to point you to my junk early-learning stuff until years had passed.

And of course there will be good bits in there. I have lines in very, very old stories that I still think aren't shabby. I'm not above recycling a good line of dialogue. It doesn't mean word for word it's crap. It's not a literal statement.
 

Higgins

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I wrote about a million

Azura Skye said:
I've heard this statement thrown around quite often. Is there really any truth that we must write a million words of crap before we get to the good stuff? What constitutes a million words anyway? Can it be poetry? Research papers in college? Volumes of journal entries?

About a million all together before I started writing okay stuff on a regular basis.
 

Higgins

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Well the crap doesn't have to be PURE crap

Azura Skye said:
That's sort of the point I was trying to make. Why one million? Of course everyone writes crap while they learn and some of us still write crap.
:e2tomato:

I'll shutup now.


It can't be pure crap or you won't be getting anywhere.
 

icerose

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No one ever said it was pure crap. It's just where you overall quality raises and the bar becomes higher than it was for the first million, it happens without thought or notice, until you turn around and read what you first wrote. Of course you're going to find things you still love about it, there was passion when you wrote it and it still shines through, but you will notice a real difference.
 

Chasing the Horizon

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To say you have to write a million words of crap and then will write good stuff is total .... crap. Most people will never write anything good, even if they sit there and pound out a billion words.

That saying probably refers to the fact that practice does improve your writing, particularly in the beginning. I'm new enough to writing that I'm still seeing improvement at an extremely fast rate. The overall quality has at least tripled since I started my WIP and I've only done a little less then 100k words. Does that mean the chapters I wrote earlier are crap? Of course not. They need edited and polished to bring them up to the standard of what I'm doing now. I'm sure in a few months I'll be doing the same thing to the chapters I'm writing now.

When I finish my trilogy I will not have any crap because when I realized how fast I was improving I made a rule of spending half my time editing and rewriting older chapters, so that when I finish all will be of fairly equal quality.

I will not send the book to agents until I have seen the rate of my improvement slow. I know this will happen eventually because I reached a very high level of proficiency at writing poetry when I was younger. I have my poetry organized chronologically. There are about 60,000 words total of it. For the first 20,000 there was a lot of improvement. The next 10,000 had some improvement. After that it leveled out and pretty much everything I wrote was good or great. The same will happen with novels and it will not take me any words of crap to get there. The only difference between this trilogy and my next will be the amount of time I spend editing and rewriting. I don't write crap. I rewrite crap into decent work.
 

PeeDee

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1) One million is not a hard number.

2) Of course some of what you wrote was good.

3) Some of it was probably also bad.

4) It's a figure of speech.

It's like analyzing How many roads must a man walk down? "Well, logically, if he wishes to get somewhere, he's going to have to turn off onto a second road soon. "Yes, but is it a second road, or a continuation of the first road...?"

Just write the best you can with every single thing. Don't worry about a million words of crap.
 

Carrie in PA

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Do my grocery lists count?

/smartass

:D

I try not to write crap. And I'm really striving to not hit a million words of it. ;)
 
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