How many words MUST you write EVERY day? 100? 200? 500? 1000? 2000? 5000?
Are you writing (fast) enough to get your work out there?
There are two things wrong with the opening question: “must” and “every.”
It is used as a whip-like carrot to push writers to produce work as quickly as possible. There is a sense of urgency, almost panic, to make writers seat themselves down and write furiously. Think National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and you’re on the right track.
It’s a complete load of bollocks.
But where’s it all coming from?
In the current changing literary climate of uncertainty between the forms of traditional publishing and self-publishing, there is a push to produce work as fast as possible, lest the opportunity for publication disappears.
As a new and emerging author, I do feel the pressure to “get work out there” in some form or another, as soon as possible. The sense I gain from reading bloggers, authors and industry experts, if I don’t, I am supposedly missing out on future income, building a platform for the market and the audience.
The danger I see for writers, myself included in all this, is a risk of producing microwave literature: it’s hot on the outside, cold in the middle and not entirely satisfying. It’s bland, tastes like cardboard and the packaging is more interesting than the product.
It’s a measure of quantity over quality. Prolific out put does not necessarily equal quality work (and the two concepts are not mutually exclusive).
In an article I read some time ago (and for the life of me, can’t find the link again) an advertising creator was discussing the changes he had seen in his industry. The push to create a campaign changed the way they had to work. No longer did they have the luxury of days or weeks to brainstorm an idea or concept, refine it and develop it. Their creative time had been whittled down to almost a matter of hours.
Literature is experiencing a similar time constraint.
The Technology Factor
Technology makes the act of creating easier, convenient and accessible, but it should only ever be a tool to assist in the creation of beautiful, crafted prose. I worry about the next generation of writers, those born into the digital world, and have known nothing else.
As an English teacher (my full time job) I teach students born into a digital, hyper-connected world where the digital is too easily considered disposable.
They are enamoured with the process of creating, especially using technology, more than the quality of the product they are creating. These are students need to understand the difference between disposable and longevity (and there is a place for both), between process and product.
I would rather spend time crafting a solid piece of work and make it the best it can be than sending it out into the world half baked. I enjoy books where I dive into the story, not caring about the writing, but sometimes I want to linger over a sentence or paragraph and marvel at its construction. It may be a simple sentence, breathtaking in its simplicity, or a languorous sentence to be slowly dissolved in the mouth, savouring the lexicon and construction.
What I fear is a generation of writers and readers who will only know the quality of microwave literature. As Cookie Monster says, “Cookies are a sometimes food.”
The same rule applies to literature.
As writers there is a need for serious dedication to craft and art of writing. There will always be works published where the writing is considered below par, but it reflects on the power of the story to engage (not the quality of the writing). I want the literary heroes of my generation to be on par with the literary giants of other eras because they spent time perfecting the craft.
It is what I aspire to.
What I Intend To Do
Take my time
Even if it takes me five years to write my first novel, so be it.
I don’t need to rush just because I feel opportunities are rushing past. There will always be opportunities for publication. Sometimes I will see an opportunity I want to submit and will work within the time restraints.
Focus on producing excellent, quality work.
This means having it drafted, edited, beta read, corrected *rinse and repeat cycle for as many times necessary*
I will put in the required hours.
All this talk of writing has made me hungry. Where’s a bag of popcorn I can put in the microwave?