Kyle Willey

Year of A Million Words Week 1: What I Think Will Work

I’ve started a project to write a million words this year.

It’s half crazy New Year’s resolution and half realistic endeavor.

I want to talk about what I think will make it work right now. I might have to change, but it’ll be for posterity if nothing else. Then we’ll see if I succeeded or failed, and how far I went astray.

1. Stick to a Routine

When I don’t stick to my routine, I have problems getting stuff done.

This may be a chicken and egg problem. The mornings when I want to sleep in are mornings that I’m not feeling well. I skip my morning walk, because I need to make up for lost time, and the death spiral continues.

And by the end of the day I’ve done a lot of things that don’t add to my progress.

I’m going to obsolete the snooze button this year. My new goal is to get up early in these early months and write first thing in the morning. Then I’ll do my normal walk once I’ve got some stuff done.

When it gets too hot to go for late morning walks, I’ll already be in the habit of getting up early. I’ll switch the order of operations there, doing my walk and then writing when I get back.

2. Work on Three Things Each Day

I’m ridiculously productive when I let myself be.

The problem is that I’m also infinitely capable of running headfirst into brick walls.

My goal is to work on three writing projects that satisfy the challenge each day. That will be divided between one or two blog posts, since I’m trying to start my game development back up, plus a book like Herding Your Cats, a game, or one of my novels.

I also must find things to write. I’m doing revision on two novels right now. I’m nominally revising Herding Your Cats, but that’s more of a complete rewrite.

The revision is going to be more painful than the rewrite for word-counts. Worse, for the next couple months it’ll eat up the lion’s share of my time.

I’ve often kept multiple projects going at once, but that was back when I was working in games. I was more comfortable juggling them. Games are failure-prone, like any other extensive project, but I had a 1:3 ratio on completion.

When I focused my efforts on my MFA capstone novel and my NaNoWriMo novel last year, I got both done. I’m at that 1:3 rate on my writing for things other than games, so I’m going to go fast and break things this year.

3. Read Like My Life Depends on It

I’ve already read two books this year, since I finished the Two Treatises of Government by John Locke today.

One reason for going through so much reading is because it’s a good way to do two things:

  1. Keep new ideas flowing.
  2. Study other writing.

I don’t often micro-analyse other writers’ work, at least not at large-scale. One thing I picked up during my MFA is doing “shopping trips” from time to time, but usually I’m about ideas and not presentation.

I need to discipline myself to approach texts as a student of both ideas and form.

The latter is where I struggle.

If I’m going to write a million words, I want them to be worth reading. I can ramble on and still meet my goal on paper, but there’s less craft to that.

4. Start Strong Right Off the Bat

I haven’t updated the tracker I’m using for my progress today, but right now it’s saying that at the pace I’ve hit over the last few days I’d be done with my goals by December 30.

That’s counting a zero for today so far, because my average over the past three days has been 3600 words versus the 2700 I need every day.

I’m in somewhat of a fortunate position right now because I’m working full time on my degree program, so I don’t have a regular day job. I’m itching to get back to work, and not just for the money, so that will change later this year.

That means that my actual goal is to hit a threshold about ~25-33% higher than I need while I’m still a full-time student. That way when I get my next job I can tolerate a little jostling of my schedule.

In particular, setting up good habits is going to be the deal-maker here.

5. Say Yes to Ideas

I’ve got a dangerous habit of having ideas that I don’t bring to fruition because I’m already busy.

That doesn’t mean that I can say yes to everything, but I need to expand my approach.

Right now I’ve got an idea for a weird novel, and I’m going to write the first chapter tonight. I don’t know where it’s going, I have only vague ideas where it’s going, but I’ve got this first scene absolutely crystal clear in my head.

So it’s going to be something I post somewhere.

6. Build a Following

I didn’t focus-group “Year of a Million Words,” but I think it would be a hit.

I’m hoping to get something of a profile, even if small, this year.

Part of that is being more social, so I’m going to be updating Twitter more often in particular.

Some of it’s also being consistent with Hive (see @loreshapergames, @kwilley, and @kwilleywrites, because I keep my content separated by type).

Fingers-crossed, I’ll also be a Goodreads Author by June at the latest, so we’ll see that be a potential platform.

Obviously I won’t say no to fame or a rising profile, but the real purpose here is to have accountability. If people know what I’m doing, and they’re rooting for me, I’ll have a better shot at success.

Wrapping Up

I’ve written a lot before, but committing to a feat like this is exhilarating.

There’s an odd feel, something like NaNoWriMo but bigger, to trying to take on something like this. Coming back mostly refreshed from a staycation (thanks noisy neighbors!) and having a clear goal is going to be a change from the drudge of lots of last year, especially the summer months when I was really struggling to finish up a novel I had no business procrastinating.

My goal is to start strong with a foundation, though, and not just burn out half-way through.

I think I can do that now. If there’s one thing that summed up 2020 for me it was “skill acquisition.”

Fingers crossed, “skill utilization” will be the summary of 2021.

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