So from a late-night Facebook post after doing some goal setting and planning for next year to a group on Discord and Facebook, here we are. I thought when I posted the idea of writing a million words in 2020, a bunch of writers would say things like”

“No way, dude. You’re nuts.” (Better than your nuts, if you know what I am saying grammatically)

“I’m behind you. A long way behind you.”

million words

“I hate you right now. How can you possibly write that much? Oh yeah. You work at home and have all the spare time in the world.”

So here’s the story. First, the first time I tried this, I was still working a day job. And if it had not been for some unfortunate events, I would have made it, too. You can do this no matter what your circumstances.

Second, freelance writing is a job with a lot of non-writing things to do. I wish I had all the time in the world, but I don’t. I know you don’t either. That’s why they call this a challenge.

It won’t be easy. Here are some answers to common questions and an explanation of how this all works.

What Words Can I Count?

The answer I have been giving is simply this: you can count anything you want. This is a very personal challenge, but I would encourage you not to include Facebook posts, personal emails, and similar items. You want to count words that are productive.

The reason is the challenge is not all about getting one million words written in a year, although that is the name of the challenge. The idea is to develop a regular and productive writing habit. There is no waiting on your muse to show up—you have an appointment or time set, and you sit down, and words come out of your fingertips or dictation, or whatever method you choose.

I am counting the following projects:

  • Capital City Murders Novellas (I hope to write 8 this year)
  • Monster Marshals Novellas (I hope for 2 this year)
  • Teaching Moments (Novel)
  • The Good Shepherd (Novel)
  • Short Story Challenge (one short story a week, minimum 2K word count)
  • Freelance and Ghostwriting
  • Writing as a Business for Freelancers (non-fiction)
  • Blog Posts and Web Content

This multitude of projects is one of the reasons I think this is doable for me this year. You can count the things you want, just be sure they are work-related and productive, they further your overall writing goals (you have those, right?), and that what you have planned fills the word count.

How Does This Break Down?

The word count breaks down to just under 2,800 words a day if you write 365 days with no days off. That’s just north of 19,000 words a week. Almost a novel.

As Jim Lambert (not related, but also a writer) put it on our original post, intending to be encouraging: “It’s twice as much a day as NaNo, and twelve times as long.” Okay. Maybe as encouragement that needs a little work. But let’s break it down to what you really can do.

If you write 4-5K words a day, five days a week, you will more than make your word count, and you can still take two days off a week. This also lets you “bank” some words for those inevitable days and weeks when you won’t be able to write at all, or at least not as much. However, you do what works for you.

How Do I Do This?

Promotional plug here: in my book Writing as a Business: Production, Distribution, and Marketing, I break down how to write more, faster in the production section. However, what is breaks down to is this:

  • Set a time and place to write.
  • Keep the appointment with yourself.
  • Trick your brain. Use certain programs to write certain things. Train your muse to show up—you don’t have time to wait for her.
  • Write every day. Make it a habit. That habit will also chemically change your brain, and you won’t be able to not
  • Set your calendar as busy. This means for your kids, dogs, spouse, and anyone else who might interfere with your writing. The key is to be distraction-free.

There are also various methods of writing, from timed sprints to multiple writing sessions a day. If you work a day job, this may mean your breaks and lunch hour will also be spent writing. The key is to do what it takes.

In our Facebook group and on Discord, we will have time for sprints and other writing prompts designed to get you moving. Just be sure to have a method, a time, and a place for your writing. The more structured your writing time, the more successful you will be.

You are also welcome to, and encouraged to, set up write-ins and other gatherings in your area. The idea is to hold each other accountable and encourage you toward your goals.

Falling Behind

Look, there really is not a failure here. We want you to reach a million words, no doubt, but above that, we want you to develop good, solid writing habits. This challenge is not for everyone. The idea behind goals is that they be achievable but challenging. If you can’t dedicate a few hours a day to writing, you probably won’t be able to fulfill this particular challenge.

Instead, set yourself another one you can achieve. Try a quarter or half-a-million-word challenge to start with, or even something simpler like writing a page a day. Do that, and in a year, you have a book written. This is not a place for judgment or bragging.

However, it is a place for encouragement. Need a sprint buddy? Reach out. Want to have a write in to catch up? Post here. Even if we can’t join you physically, we can virtually. Need a pep talk? Reach out to nearly anyone in the group or your own accountability partner. (Please have one. You will need them, and they will need you.)

We want you to catch up and even be ahead. We want you to succeed just like we all want to succeed.

Questions? Ask in the group page, or reach out to me at [email protected] with the subject line “One Million”. I’ll do my best to answer as I can. I may be busy.

I have a lot to write, and so do you.

What will this challenge do for you? I bet it will change your life. The only way for you to find out is to say “Yes.” Join us?

P.S. Feel free to share this post and the group with your friends. Let’s make this an epic year for every writer in our lives.