The Million Word Challenge and My First Western Novel


I just finished 20K words of a planned 30K Western novella/short novel. My FIRST Western novel! I started a new writing workflow 4 days ago, I only had 3K written, so that’s 17K in 4 days, which is an average of 4,250 per day. I was able to do this by dictating each scene into my iPhone, then using Dragon’s transcription feature. 


Some background here: encouraged by Sean M. Platt’s book “15-Minute Dictation: More Books, Less Frustration,” I decided to not only figure out, exactly how, after 7 years of trying and failing, to dictate my writing to gain much-needed speed. I also decided that dictating my writing would help me, scratch that… ENABLE ME… to take the Million Words Per Year (AKA MillWordY) challenge. That’s the “new writing workflow” I mentioned above. Okay, so it’s only been 4 days, But here’s the deal… in order to reach the required 2,739 words per day for 365 days, all I’ve had to do, dictation wise, is two 15 minute sessions, usually back-to-back. That’s it… I’m drafting/dictating for 1/2 hour a day. That’s about 2800 words in that 1/2 hour.


Sure, it takes another hour or so to clean up the transcriptions and paste them into Scrivener. But that’s okay, it’s my FIRST DRAFT AKA the Vomit Draft AKA the Garbage Draft . It doesn’t have to be that good, as long as I recognize the words I said into my iPhone. If I get too perplexed, I have the recordings for reference. Plus, even if it were 1/2 hour of writing and 3 hours of editing, I’m happy. I love editing. Editing is where the fun begins for me. I hate writing. I love editing. Win-win.


Once I finish this 30K first draft, I’ll flesh it out to 40K. The publisher is fine with the 30K length, but 30K would probably be 10K too short to tell the story properly. 50, 60, or 70K would probably be too long. This is a Traditional Western: it’s all about the big gunfight at the end where the good guy kills all the bad guys with his blazing Colts and wins the heart of the purtiest girl in the mining camp. Plus, the publisher wants it done with NO CUSSING. Luckily, drinking, smoking, gambling, stabbing, and shooting are not only allowed, but they’re also required. 


I read my first few Louis L’amour Western novels at age 18. I love L’amour’s books, especially the Sacketts Saga. But L’amour’s style seemed so casual and conversational, I thought, “I can do this.” So, my first real dream as a writer was to be a Western Writer. Then Westerns tanked for a couple of decades, and I shifted my goals to writing Mystery/Crime stories. I sold my first couple of Western short stories last year. Now I’m finally close to finishing that first Western novel I wanted to write in 1977. I’m going on 61, and with my gray “Ol’ Prospector” beard, I finally look the part of a Western Writer.

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