Not so long ago, I was jotting down story ideas, writing character descriptions, writing scenes for possible books I someday would possibly write, while I dreamed of writing a book. In other spare moments I read author interviews, writing lessons from writers, and writer's blogs to gather what nuggets I could about this allusive goal I would someday go after. I focused on the authors who I enjoyed reading their work. Several of the authors I respected and considered established and successful wrote that until you write a million words or finish around 10 novels at approximately a hundred thousand words each you're not really a writer yet. Now at the time I honestly thought, "How high and mighty we think of ourselves. Really, a million words? If you finish five full length novels you're still not really a writer?"
In 2010, I finished writing my first novel (rough draft) and wrote my second one (rough draft) while waiting to hear from my editor about corrections on the first one. From what I have learned and experienced over the last year alone, I now believe they are whole heartedly right on target. If that alone discourages you, you will not make it as a writer. I heard a standup comedian, Lewis Black, say about a city that if you wanted to go there to take out a pencil and sharpen it and stab it in your eye! When I heard that I thought what wonderful advice for want to be writers, because if you did that and still want to write then you might have what it is going to take to make it as a writer.
The other day I got a piece of my work back from my editor and she didn't correct anything per say, she had just re-organized what I had wrote into a completely new order within the section of dialogue that was going on. Let me say again, she didn't correct anything but the order in which who said what! It was all still there, just in a different order. Yet the difference in how it read was incredible! It was brilliant!
It is the little things, like that, that when I learn how to tell a story in the correct order, the best order, revealing just what you need to at just the right time. Sprinkling the little pieces throughout the piece that all add up to making a great story out of a mediocre story. Eliminating all your little bad habits in your writing. Exposing all your laziness. To hammer down the simplest concept with writing, to show, don't tell. Editors are the blacksmiths of the metal that dream to be a beautiful sword someday. If the editor is good enough and the steel is strong enough there is a chance it may take its final form someday!
The most basic forms of my style are just starting to peak at me through my writing. I have learned and grown so much, and yet I am glad my editor is several states away because it would take quite a bit for her to come over and repeatedly bean me over the head with a frying pan for making the same mistake for the thousandth time. I actually pray for her patience and not to drop me as a client and a work in progress.
There are so many elements that have to come together in perfect harmony while your crafting your tale and sewing and weaving all these elements together within the constraints of language, grammar, vocabulary, style, and an awesome story with a plot, realistic characters in setting you can describe for your readers . . . Yes, it will take at least a million words.
Still here? Then pull the pencil out of your eye socket, stuff a dirty rag in the hole and get busy on that masterpiece! If you haven't found an editor, put the pencil back in your eye until you find one, seriously! Happy Writing said the Cyclops with a pencil sticking out of his face.