Before I get into it, let’s state some obvious; getting any words down is, and always will be, the quickest way to a full-sized body of work. However, is a focus on quantity over quality having a negative effect on your writing?
Here’s a question for you: would you rather write 2000 okay words a day or 200 words that you’re really happy with?
There isn’t a right or wrong answer. Writers are not one homogeneous beast with a single beating, inky heart that always works the same way. But it does well to remember that On the Road didn’t actually take Kerouac three weeks to write. It took him three weeks to type it up on to the famous scroll. The actual story, well that was lived, planned, plotted, drafted and rejected over several years.
First drafts are never perfect…
It gets said time and time again that it is better to finish the first draft and fix it afterwards. This is true -to an extent. A first draft is by its very name not supposed to be akin to perfection.
…but that’s not an excuse for hurried or lazy writing.
Do you write because you love it? Because you’re naturally gifted? Because it’s part of your identity? Whatever your reason for putting pen to paper, are you honestly enjoying the process if you’re only thinking about getting to 10000 words a day and then having to spend just as much time, if not longer, fixing them?
Much of the quantity/quality debate comes down to one thing; how much time you have to write each day. But don’t forget that writing is about words not numbers, sentences not sums.
With a solid, well-structured plan, comprehensive research notes, and a strong understanding of your characters, the words shouldn’t be a struggle (usually!). You should absolutely write with goals in mind, whether that’s 500 words a day, two hours of uninterrupted writing time, or 3000 words on a Wednesday afternoon. But don’t do yourself the disservice of focussing on the quantity and certainly don’t mistake being able to write extensively and quickly as a one-size-fits-all sign of being a good writer.
Because you absolutely should always write to the best of your abilities. Don’t ignore good ideas or play with them briefly in favour of getting an extra zero at the end of your word count each day. Likewise, don’t force a scene if the words are not forthcoming or the idea is stilted. Switch to red ink, write yourself some notes, and come back to it later.
By all means, if you write fast, furious and fabulously at a rate of 10000 a day you keep going. But if you’ve been writing manically and feel deflated when you read back your work, it’s time to make a change to the process.
That negativity is never going to improve if you don’t focus on cultivating your creative writing.
Great books, the rereadable ones, the ones we tell others about, we never stop to think about how quickly it’s gone from the author’s brain into our hands. What we do know, is that our favourite author has taken two, maybe three years to release a new book.
Good storytelling needs more than a hefty word count.
What do you think? Do you write for quantity or quality? We’d love to discuss the pros and cons of both further, so say, ‘hello’ in the comments below…