I’m a member of ALLi – the Alliance of Independent Authors, a non-profit association for self-publishing authors and advisors, that provides advice and help to independent writers and a writing community to share thoughts and problems with. As part of that sharing, I wrote a post for them on how I reconcile the commitment to quality with the need to write more, and they’ve kindly allowed me to share that post with you here.
Opinion: Quantity Plus Quality – Why Sometimes More is More
‘I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.’ William Faulkner
Debbie Young’s opinion post on quality last week had me nodding my head in agreement. Writing my first book, The Cherry Blossom Murder, quality was what mattered to me – I wanted a book that was just as good as traditionally published books. So I spent a long time (years!) writing it and only published after nine drafts and a lot of agonising. It paid off : I got five-star reviews, and I’m currently at the quarter-final stage of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, beating 95% of the 10,000 entries from indie authors worldwide.
I planned to give myself a year or so to write the next book, but I found readers had other ideas. The Cherry Blossom Murder is the first book in the “Josie Clark in Japan” mystery series, and everybody said they couldn’t wait for the next one to come out. I didn’t want to keep them waiting, so I had to up my game. I’ve never been a fan of NaNoWriMo – I didn’t think you could produce good writing to such a tight timetable. But I came across a quote that Orna Ross had pinned on Pinterest: “Did you write 1,000 words today?” and decided to take up the challenge.
Writing 1,000 Words A Day
At 1,000 words a day, you can produce a first draft in a couple of months. I stuck to moving forward – no going back and rereading, no rewrites. And I found that writing fast has a pleasure all its own: you get in the zone and it flows in a way it never does when you allow yourself to stop and look back.
1,000 words a day isn’t even that ambitious. Many writers set themselves a higher target than this.
To keep up the speed, I made sure I never sat down to write without knowing what I was going to say. All the planning and plotting took place away from the screen, mostly at the barre in ballet class, a great place to let your mind run free while your feet are hard at work.
There were a few glitches along the way, especially at the midway point where I had to turn from creating a mystery to solving it, and I realised I didn’t know how to pull all the threads together. That was the one time I stopped and spent a couple of days going for long walks and just thinking until I saw the way forward and could start again.
Quantity Before Quality
Of course, the quality test comes at the second draft stage, and I have to admit, I’ve had to do some serious rewriting in places. But it’s easier to fix your mistakes when you’ve put some distance between you and the text, and having the whole book in my head by the time I started the rewrites helped a lot. Next stage is input from beta readers, then comes a third rewrite. Hopefully, that will give me the quality I’m aiming for, and a new book written in under six months as well. Editing and proofing will take a bit more time, but I’m looking at an autumn publication date, well ahead of my original plan.
The Professional Attitude
I’ve learned to think of myself as a professional writer, and professional writers write every day. Probably many ALLi members already know this, but it’s been an important lesson for me. I’ll be keeping up my 1,000 words from now on. How about you?