Guest Blogger: Donnell Ann Bell – My Scrap File: Then and Now

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.






18 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Donnell Ann Bell – My Scrap File: Then and Now”

  1. Scrap files – lol. I thought you meant the tons of scrap paper I put notes on and save. Yup, I save because, to me, they tell a history of the book.

    1. So true, Vicki. I’ve never sat and read through that morass of words 🙂 But it interesting to see where my mind was heading, what direction I planned to take vs. the one I came up with. Also, how some of it was just plain old overwriting! Thanks for sharing your system with me!

    2. Vicki,
      Thanks for stopping by today. Glad to read about your scraps of paper … I’m a scribbler on paper in case something might work. When i get to the book itself, it’s different, but the ideas can end up on anything.

    1. Barbara,
      I can empathize. For every book and story, I kept each draft; each printed version people commented on; each rewrite I reviewed. It was all in plastic containers that one might keep sweaters in (multiple containers). When we sold our house a few weeks ago, I opened each box and with sorrow transferred almost all versions to bags for the shredding company who was also picking up prior years of tax info I no longer needed to keep. It hurt!!!!!!! But, it also was very freeing. Appreciate you stopping by.. hope to see you again.

  2. I heard that bit of advice years ago, probably close to writing my first mystery, and have wondered ever since, Have I hit the million words yet? In my counting I include all the versions I reject, so maybe I have reached it. In any event I hope I’m getting better with each ms. Good luck with your series.

  3. Hi Donnell… regards to your scrap pile. Do you still have the nice story you wrote about Gretchen playing Basketball with Dave ? I would love a copy if it is still in your files.

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