Lately, I’ve seen a lot of “quality vs. quantity” stuff regarding writing, especially a few months ago with Nanowrimo. A lot of writers saying you shouldn’t sacrifice quality for quantity. I agree. Don’t mass produce stories just for the sake of it without taking to the time to make sure they’re good but…
Personally I only get quality by quantity. Let me explain.
To take an exaggerated example (I don’t think people actually believe you should do this) if I focused on quality and spent years perfecting this one story idea, just laboring over it…I wouldn’t really get better, because I wasn’t getting any practice. I was only writing one thing. One style of writing. One story.
So I’m going to talk about the benefit of the two quantities:
Quantity of projects:
FIRST OFF, projects have to be finished. At least get a draft finished. Bouncing around from one unfinished project to the next unfinished project and to the next does no one any good. I’m talking about having multiple projects that you actually finish.
I’ve gotten better because I’ve worked on a lot of different projects that I have finished.
Every story is different. Every story has its unique voice, style challenges. My writing has grown stronger and better because I’ve stretched it, tried different things, tried things that worked and didn’t work. Experimented with styles so I could find my own and find what styles worked best for what story.
Quantity of words:
Word count. Here we go. The great debate of our time. Disclaimer: There is no one word count that every writer should have. There is no one way to reach your word count goals. There is no way you are going to hit the word count every day of your life.
What is the benefit of pounding out words?
Well, one benefit is very simple: the more words you write, the faster you’ll finish things and the more projects you’ll get done. It’s efficient to write a lot of words. You want to finish a novel? 70-90,000 words is a lot of words. If you let yourself write just how much you feel like that day, it may take a looooong time to finish.
I also got better because I learned how to write fast. I learned that just because I mused on a sentence for ages didn’t mean that the sentence was going to be better than if I wrote it during a writing sprint at 8 in the morning. By writing SO much, my writing got more practice and it got better. I got quality from quantity.
Now, with all that, it’s not to say you should never take your time. I firmly believe in taking your time while editing and not rushing the submitting/publishing process. But as far as drafting goes? I just believe writing as much as you can.
(BUT don’t push yourself to the point where your brain will explode. Some people can only write 20k in a month and some can write 100k. Know what you can do, then push it just a little.)
I guess it’s a little like working out. You work you muscles differently then when you do things really fast or really slowly. Slow crunches and fast crunches feel completely different, but they both accomplish something. Jogging and running are still both good work outs. You need both.
MODERATION IN ALL THINGS.
Basically that’s my motto regarding everything (except consumption of tea).
I took me a while to get to the point where I was finishing more than one draft of a story a year, or to the point where I could easily knock out 2k words in 2 hours.
Throughout high school, my word count was 1k a day. Sometimes that took a few hours, but it did slowly and slowly get easier as I kept pushing myself. I also worked on the same project those four years (though with different projects in between. Short stories, flash fiction, etc). Now, it was a trilogy that was equal the length of like 4 novels so there is that.
Basically, know what stage you are at, and also what your limitations are. If you’re still in high school/college/even grad school, you may have limited time, or maybe your day job is that busy or you got kids to wrestle and what not. Know where you are right now, and see from there where you can grow.