My Scrap File: Then and Now by Donnell Ann Bell
When I was a new fiction writer, I joined a critique group in which a multi-published author said to us, “You’ll write one million words before you’re any good.”
At the time I thought that was a rather narrow statement. I’d met authors who were natural born wordsmiths. They’d sold their novels shortly after completing them. Surely, they hadn’t written one million words. Surely, I wouldn’t have to wait that long.
Later, I realized I’d heard that author’s words through a young writer’s lens. She wasn’t criticizing our work at the time. She wasn’t even talking about selling, which we all desperately wanted to do. She was sharing her philosophy about craft. What she meant was that with every sentence we write, and every manuscript we finish, the more we grow and fine tune our skills as a writer.
Just for fun I pulled out my earlier scrap files. My first abandoned files have less words than my files of today. Was I a better writer then? I hope not. My scrap files of yesterday were from a novice writer learning. My scrap files of today are of a more advanced writer, more critical of the work she puts out, and who still has a lot to learn.
For the record, I’ve written a great many words since I began my fiction career, and I’ve easily surpassed one million words. Know what I plan to do? Keep on writing. I hear if you write two million, you get even better.
How about you? Do you share my critique partner’s writing philosophy? Or how about that of Edgar Rice Burroughs? Do you look at future projects as a job, a contract, or a chance to get better?
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Donnell Ann Bell gave up her nonwriting fiction career in newspapers and magazines because she believed she could write a mystery or thriller. An award-winning author, including finalist in the 2020 Colorado Book Award for her latest release Black Pearl: A Cold Case Suspense, Donnell’s other books have been Amazon bestsellers. Currently, she’s writing book two of her cold case series. www.donnellannbell.com