What To Write on Your Way to A Million Bad Words

Do I get to count blog posts?

An interesting question from a reader over at Barry Lyga’s blog (via Jo Treggiari):

I used to think keeping a journal was pretty good writing practice, and it is in a way, but I don’t think it’s all that helpful for my fiction. To get better at fiction, I have to write, well, fiction.

Okay, so not really a question. My apologies. And even more sorrowful, Barry says:

Your blog doesn’t help you all that much towards your million bad words!

I will give you that writing a blog is not writing fiction. (Unless you’re blogging about a fake life, perhaps, and making up stories – something which I’ve considered, but discarded because it seems like you’d either have to write a whole bunch of blog posts ahead of time, or be really good at making stuff up on a daily basis; anyway…) I would argue that my blog (at least, the one that I post to on a consistent basis; not so much this one) has helped me tremendously in getting through my million bad words. Or, perhaps, if you don’t buy that, then I’d contend that by practicing on my blog and developing a strong voice over there, I’ve cut down on the number of bad words I’ll have to pump into crappy drafts of fiction pieces before I write The Great American Novel. (And by TGAN, I mean Awesome Space Opera Pulp Adventure)

The funny thing is, though, that I agree with the reader in saying that a journal isn’t that helpful for fiction. My argument in that case is that a journal is personal and not intended for public consumption. A blog, on the other hand, is specifically intended to be read by other people – just like a novel or short story. A blog post has to be (or should be if it’s not) written and edited carefully before it’s posted on the World Wide Web where the entire web of the wide world can see it.

Also, since blog posts are shorter in length than novels or short stories, and authors usually try to write them in a correspondingly shorter time span (or perhaps with shorter deadlines), they force the writer to create a higher quality first draft so that further revisions are limited. Otherwise, the blog post may never get published (trust me on that one), and when it does, it might be woefully out of date. (Clearly this is more true of certain kinds of blogs, but I am certain it applies to all blogs as a meta rule) While the subject matter may not be directly transferable to the world of fiction writing, this ability to quickly turn out words and create higher quality rough drafts is as useful in both cases as, say, being able to run fast is to both bobsledding and football.

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