Good morning and a happy Monday to you all. It’s a brand new week and, hopefully, we’re another day closer to finding a way through this virus, and the strange, sad and scary times we’re living in.
I’ll be honest with you. I’ve had terrible trouble trying to think of Q words. In my notes, I’d written down Quit, because I was going to tell you about the time I almost gave up, due to guilt over expenditure and barely any income, but then I remembered I’d covered that in J for Justification. I’d also written down Questions, but realised I’d more-or-less gone over that with H for Help, and various other posts. So, really, I’m my own worst enemy and have completely messed this up. Then, luckily, I spotted a post on Twitter and it gave me a thought. So the first Q word for today is actually two words (plus another word in between but you know what I mean):
Quantity vs Quality
The tweet I saw was from a chap who’d stated, rather, er, firmly, that he was tired of people who rushed to get their books out and that art took time. He’d apparently been working on his book for ten years and was nowhere near finishing, because he cared about getting it just right, and had no time for people who banged out any old rubbish with record speed. (Those are my words, not his. I was going to quote from him but can’t find the tweet now and I can’t even remember who put it up.)
Anyway, this tweet, as you can imagine, caused quite a kerfuffle. Some people argued that, just because they didn’t take ten years to write a book, it didn’t mean they were writing rubbish. Other people agreed with him, stating that writing is an art that cannot be rushed. One person said they’d been working on a novel for seven years because they were agonising over every word, every sentence, wanting to make sure every single part of their writing was perfection.
Of course, there was a great deal of annoyance on both sides of the argument. Those that agreed with the tweet were telling everyone else that those writers who didn’t take that long to write a book were basically charlatans, who knocked out a book a fortnight, bunged it up on Amazon and waited for the cash to roll in. Those that disagreed pointed out that many, many successful and gifted writers publish at least one book a year, and aren’t in the slightest bit precious about it, and are those writers who take forever sure they’re not just putting off the evil day when they have to actually allow someone else to read their work?
Oh, it did go on, and it was a fascinating conversation. The thing is, it’s entirely up to you how long you take over writing your book. If you want to dedicate a decade or more to it then go ahead. If you see writing as a great and precious art, and you want to make sure every single word is perfection, then that’s your right. If it makes you happy, go for it.
Where I would caution you is if you find it’s not making you happy. If you’re constantly rewriting because your anxiety is through the roof and you’re too afraid to show your work to anyone because, in your eyes, it’s still not quite right, and you don’t have a clue what’s wrong, but if you can just tweak that second line in chapter four, or find just the right word in the third paragraph on page eighty-six … well, then you may have a problem.
As for mocking and disparaging all writers who are quite prolific – well, I don’t think that’s justified. Firstly, this notion that people have of writers who “knock out a book every fortnight” and put it up for sale without any hint of a proofread or edit … Look, there may be people who do this. There probably are people who do this. But the idea that they’ll have any sort of ongoing successful career is laughable.
If they’re writing what amounts to a first draft and putting it up on Amazon, the first person who reads it is going to be so appalled that they’ll leave a horrible review. Word will spread and that book will languish at the bottom of Amazon’s muddy pool, and any books that person writes afterwards will join them there. Plus, anyone who’s releasing a book a fortnight won’t have time to get professional covers done, so the homemade look will put many people off anyway.
Yes, there are people who can release a good book a month, but those people probably have heaps of experience. Often they’re writing a series. Their books may be shorter. There’s a trend at the moment for novels to be released in four parts over the course of a few months. There’s a good reason for that, and it’s not financial, contrary to what most people think. Amazon loves new material. It’s hungry for fresh meat. It rewards frequent releases. Keep feeding Amazon and it will be very happy with you indeed.
When someone releases a novel in four 99p parts, they actually make less money from it than if they released it as one book at £2.99, but they know that Amazon loves authors who consistently publish new stuff. It doesn’t like dated material. Even its review system is weighted, so older reviews are worth less than new ones. Strange but true.
Also, you have to understand that, for many writers, writing is their sole source of income. People often complain about having to pay for books, and I’ve read furious comments from readers who demand that we give our work away for free. Thing is, it’s our job. We wouldn’t hire a plumber to fix a tap and expect him to do it for free. We wouldn’t ask the supermarket to lower its prices and just not pay its staff to compensate. Supermarket workers wouldn’t go into work and sit for hours behind a checkout without getting paid for it. Yet, for some reason, people demand that writers sit behind a desk all day and then give away the work they’ve produced free of charge. Why? How are we supposed to pay our rent or mortgage? How do we pay our bills? How do we feed our children?
With books already costing less than you’d pay for a cup of coffee, or a greetings card that will be thrown in a bin or recycled after a couple of days, not to mention all those glossy magazines that retail at around £4 and are basically full of adverts, it’s harder and harder for writers to make a decent income. So they really haven’t got the luxury of taking ten years to write a book. Sorry, but that’s the truth of it. Of course, if you’re not interested in making money from your writing then that’s fine. Take all the time you want. But for many of us, if we don’t get those books finished and “out there”, we don’t get paid.
That’s not to say we don’t care about what we write. Books are a little piece of us, and we care deeply about them. That’s why, even when we can’t really afford it, most of us make sure we get professional covers, editing and proofreading. It’s why our schedules are delayed so that books can go to beta readers and professionals who will help us make the book the best quality it can be.
And yes, let’s face it, some of us are just quicker at writing than others. There’s no shame in that. Plus, experience can speed up the process. It took me around three years to write my first book. Now I write an average of four books a year. My friend took ten years – on and off – to write her debut novel. Now she’s completing two or three a year, and that’s working around a very demanding day job. So, all this judging is really unfair.
A book will take as long as it takes, but there are lots of other factors that come into play. It doesn’t have to be quantity vs quality. It should never be quantity vs quality!
So that’s it for today. Short but sweet. I know it’s only two words, but I think it’s quite an important point to make. Anyway, I’ll be back tomorrow when I’ll be discussing the R words. Ooh!
See you then. Stay safe!