Million Word Challenge: January

When I decided to enter the million word challenge I had no idea whether I would succeed, or even whether victory would be a useful thing in the long-term. After one month, I still do not know whether I will succeed; but I do have a slightly better idea of how I might and how the attempt might be useful.

I am using the first few months of the year to identify my current writing speed and process rather than aiming for the mean average of 2740 words/day from day one. Based on my perception of how I write I set myself three goals:

  • Weekdays: Most weekdays last year I wrote what felt like a not insignificant number of words, but I was not certain how many; and some days I knew I did not write very many. So, I picked a goal of 2000 words/day to balance not falling too far behind the average.

  • Weekends: Unless I had a deadline or was really deeply into a project, I spent weekends last year relaxing or working on tasks that did not directly produce words (such as speculative research, brainstorming, and discussing writing in various communities). Because I was already pushing myself to produce a significant number of words each weekday, I chose not to set a target for weekends.

  • Carrying Forward: One Million Words is so large a target at the beginning that it is hard to judge the pace. To ensure that I neither attempted to “buy” easier days from my inner critic nor give it a stick to beat me with, I decided to make each day’s target distinct: any words over the target did not carry forward, but if I missed the target I did not need to make anything up.

This gave me a target of 42,500 words with weekends off.

Dave wearing many hats
Even when feeling overwhelmed, I try to stay cheerful
(photo of the author. source: unknown)

I actually wrote 58,429 words in January and wrote every day.

Most of the extra words were due to writing on the weekends, but I often wrote noticeably more than 2000 words on a weekday. So I have adjusted my goals up for February:

  • Weekdays: My aim was to stretch myself on days where I might not stop writing if I were still behind target. Fourteen days were above 2,200 and five days were above 2,300, so I have chosen 2,250 as a daily target.

  • Weekends: To cement the writing every day without losing the ability to take a break if needed, I am aiming for 500 words each day.

  • Carrying Forward: I am keeping this as is.

While the targets have produced more words written than I anticipated, they also influenced my choice of projects. I did work on a few poems during January, but the knowledge that the first draft of a poem involves much more considering the perfect word than writing out the shape of a novel meant I put off poems I might have started unless I had either already met my target or thought I had plenty of time later in the day to meet the target.

Whether the challenge will be helpful – or even realistic – over the year, I am still enthusiastic about writing rather than feeling drained like I did after NaNoWriMo 2012. So, a positive first month overall.


2 thoughts on “Million Word Challenge: January

  1. this is great, this is wonderful. I’d spend months trying to write 50000 words but you could make it in less than a month. Don’t forget, the journey of a million miles begin with a single step. Have a year full of thoughts and endless words, best wishes. 🙂


    1. Thank you.

      I feel the single step metaphor is spot on. I wrote that many words in a month in January, but January was not my first month writing; the 50,000 words came after several years of writing every week, the nearly every day.


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