Quality vs. quantity: the very phrase annoys the crap out of me. It is often a choice, but what people have seem to forgotten is that it is that the two can co-exist.
It is possible to have quality and quantity. It's also possible to have neither quality nor quantity. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Bev Rosenbaum made a call for research on the CLWRWA list recently, asking for authors' feelings on the pressure to be prolific, the effect of writing prolifically, and the old quality vs. quantity argument.
For me, my answers to her questions were:
- I sold 200,000 words in five and half months last year, which, considering I had a full-time job besides was a lot. (And that's not counting the words I deleted.)
- At the end, I was stressed, emotionally exhausted, mentally exhausted, and burnt-out. (Big surprise for you guys, huh? *grins*)
- However, readers' responses increased dramatically. My writing improved dramatically. Sales improved. My stories improved. Everything improved.
- Not to mention, when I write a bunch in a focused amount of time, my story is tighter and truer, more cohesive.
- I told her I would do it again in a heartbeat, because it made me a better writer and improved my "relationship" with my readers.
If one is writing less than that, then fine. No big deal.
I'm just saying that it's not like writing 2,000 words a day is going to subtract from quality. On a bad day, 500 words an hour = 4 hours. Even if you take 2 hours for research, 2 hours for cleaning up yesterday's stuff, and 2 hours for business stuff, then you're still working, pretty much, a normal to easy day for a self-employed business person.
Maybe you write at a rate of 250 words per hour. Maybe you delete a lot of what you write. Maybe you spend more time with your family, and don't want to work that much in a day. Maybe you want to have a life besides working. Maybe you spend a whole lot more time carefully writing back your readers and blogging. Maybe you don't read during your evenings. Maybe you read during your writing time. Maybe your life just doesn't allow that much time for writing. Maybe you only write 4 days a week. Maybe you're like John Irving, and you have dyslexia and it takes a full day of painstaking work to write 250 words. Maybe you take a couple weeks to outline and plot. Or maybe you take a week to clean the house after each book.
All that is fine! Really, it's okay! It's not a race.
I'm just saying, don't knock the people who can put out an average of 2,000 words a day. They're not necessarily sacrificing quality. Heck, I've been known to put out 2,000 words a day while working a full-time job besides. I wouldn't know how to slow down. When I do slow down, my quality suffers.
I have to let my mind wander, snap out of my ultra-ADD-focus, and pull myself out of immersion in the story.
In other words, I'd have to sacrifice quality in order to produce less quantity.
I'm not saying others should be like this. I'm just saying, enough with the prolific cracks and put-downs. If I weren't working a full-time job besides, writing such research-heavy stuff, and if writing was my only job, I would probably write 2,000 - 5,000 words a day.
I hear all the exclamations. But they can't possibly be cutting enough words! They can't possibly be revising enough! They can't possibly be ___________!
Yes, we humans hate change, but we can also adapt when necessary to our survival.
It is possible to put out 5,000 words a day and write a novel that doesn't need much revision. It's sure not easy, and it's mentally exhausting (and invigorating). Sure, some people need to write 3,000 words and cut 2,000 words. That's fine! But some people, by necessity, learn to adapt and not write those words in the first place.
For their minds, and their process, the novel probably works better when they write 3,000 words and cut 2,000 words. I'm also sure there are writers out there who feel like when they rush, that their quality suffers.
I'm sure that there are prolific writers whose quality leaves a bit to be desired. I'm sure that there are slower writers whose quality leaves a bit to be desired.
And yeah, it's not fair that prolific writers have an advantage. We all have our weaknesses and strengths. You gotta play to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. And if that sometimes means working twice as hard as someone else, that's just what you do. What else can you do? Life isn't fair.
I'm just saying prolific does not equal lesser quality for every writer. Let's cut the prolific writers a break, okay?
Good questions to ask:
- At one point does an author over-saturate the market and lose readers?
- How detrimental is it to start a career with no backlist and no books coming out for another year?
- How hard it is for an author to be "a favorite" or an "instant buy" when you've only read one or two of his/her books?
- How prolific do you need to be to get where you want to be and what you want out of your career?
- What do you need to do to be that prolific? Or that un-prolific?