Saturday, 26 May 2012

Quantity over Quality?

Are you one of those writers who can produce a copious amount of stories, rather like an unstoppable conveyor belt?  Or are you the type of writer whose output is a little less frenetic and rather more sedate?

We all fall into different types of writers, because we are all different.  Some of us work at a pace where we might only produce a story every few months or so, or perhaps a new novel every 12- 18 months.  Other writers seem to be able to upload a novel onto Amazon Kindle every couple of months, or be able to churn out a short story every other week.
But as writers, one question to ask yourself is this - are you a quality over quantity kind of writer?  Or is the quantity more important? 

Can you have both?
You might well be able to produce a high turnover of work, but is it to the highest standard?  Writers can push out as many stories as they want in the space of a month, but are they really good enough for conventional publication?  By conventional, I don’t mean Amazon Kindle (where editorial high standards are frequently ignored by writers who shouldn’t call themselves writers), but rather agents and publishers, the kind of people who will look through your story or MSS and rip it to shreds before they decide whether it’s good enough for publication.

Would your work pass their expectations?

Quality Counts

If there is one thing I actively teach any writer, it is to produce the best quality work that is possible.  Never be a mundane writer, be a marvellous one.  Aspire to be the best you possibly can be.  Why?  Because quality can be the difference between an acceptance and a rejection.
Quality speaks volumes to an editor.  They can spot whether the writer has taken the time and detail to read, proof and edit their work to a publishable standard, or whether the writer has rushed through it in an attempt to simply get the work ‘out there’.

There is an undeniable logical to more haste, less speed.  In other words, the faster you try to do something, the more likely you are to make silly errors.
Some writers assume they have to push out as much work as possible in order to be noticed – and to a certain degree that’s true, because we all need exposure – but not to the detriment of the quality of that work, which commonly happens.

I know a writer who is writing novel number seven, as well as several short stories.  But on reading the work produced, it is patently obvious that the writer has paid scant attention to the art of creative writing.  This writer has only self published on Amazon Kindle, and has never been conventionally published.  She has, therefore, never been scrupulously vetted by an editor of a publication house.
Anyone can write, but not everyone can be a creative writer.

But does it really matter?
If you are serious about writing, then yes, it should matter.

If you rush your writing in a bid to get your work out there or earn as much as possible from Kindle, several things are guaranteed to happen:
  • The story/MSS will contain silly mistakes.
  • The story/MSS will contain flaws and contradictions.
  • The story/MSS might be deficient in plot/characterisation/structure etc.
  • The story/MSS might not have the right balance of crucial elements.
  • It will show how ill prepared and unprofessional you are.

If you really want agents and editors to notice your work, you should observe the following:
  • Take the time to write – don’t rush your writing.
  • Take the time to thoroughly read through and edit your work in order to clear those mistakes, plot flaws and contradictions etc.
  • Take the time to balance your story/MSS.
  • Put in the effort – agents and editors will notice this.

Don’t ever doubt that writing is easy, because it’s not.  Writing is hard work.
Remember that quantity over quality tends to produce one substantial difference: substance, or lack of.   As a writer, I could produce a story every day, but I know the quality and the substance would suffer through such a high output.  That’s because I couldn’t possibly take the time to check, edit, redraft, balance it and be happy with it.

The stark reality of being a writer is hard – to crack agents and publishers is extremely difficult.  The standards are high, the competition is fierce and the likelihood of publication is minimal.  It’s like trying to run through treacle.
Amazon Kindle is proving quite a lure for would be authors; however, with the prospect of such wide blanket coverage, so many writers are sacrificing quality over quantity.

Of course, if there are genius writers who can produce quality stories every other week, or novels every couple of months, all without breaking a sweat, shedding a frustrating tear or tearing their hair out, then I’d like to meet them.  But in almost 25 years of writing, I’ve not met one yet.

 Next week: Tricks of the trade – handy writing hints

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