Content: Quality vs Quantity

Content: Quality vs QuantityI’ve talked about setting writing goals a number of times on this blog, and if you’ve read any of those posts, you’ll know that I don’t set any for myself. Some people need that push to get going, or to create anything at all, but I find that this type of writing is detrimental, at least to me.

Since I have skills and training in both editing and writing, my process is very different from many other writers that I know, both online and offline. I used to feel a bit discouraged by how quickly others would produce content, especially those that were able to write a story a week, or a manuscript or two every year. I couldn’t fathom how that was even possible, but that was before I understood how their processes went.

For many writers, their process is to come up with an idea, write a story, and then work through the drafts. After this, they might send it to an editor, and then try to publish from there. By focusing on the story, and then worrying about the content alone, this scrapes mounds of time off of their process.

Mine goes very differently. First, once I have an idea, I follow it to its conclusion in my head prior to writing anything down. This can take months. But to me, to actually be worth sitting down and typing, an idea must meet my standards. If it doesn’t, I keep it in my brain until its aged to my satisfaction.

From there, I start to write. I write until I come to a question, such as something I hadn’t thought of, or how to end a scene. Then again, I take a step back for awhile and let it stew. When I do have a solution, before I even begin to fix it, I read the story from the beginning again and edit as I go. I do this every time I re-open the document, so that during every pass, I take care of another error or I smooth out a few bumps.

Writing fiction takes me a long time (non-fiction not so much). When writing even the first draft, I spend time choosing the perfect adjectives, the right speech tags, and removing anything that isn’t exactly how I want it to be.

By the time I am ready to type “The End”, the content is quite ready for submissions, though I like to have it reviewed by at least one or two others prior to sending it anywhere.

It can take a year for me to write a piece of flash fiction (without a prompt or a competition). If I am writing something completely from my own inspiration, I like to take my time so that I can produce quality work. I’m not overly concerned about quantity, since if I were to write too much more, I doubt that I would be satisfied with what I was creating.

So, when perusing through the countless writing websites and blogs and articles out there, don’t let any of them get you don’t. If your strengths can be found in generating idea after idea, excellent! And if your skills are more geared towards focusing on one piece at a time, well that’s just jolly!

Writing isn’t really a “one size fits all” kind of thing. What works for one person won’t work for another. Some writers are just not great at spelling, others prefer collaboration or to be steered from outside sources. Some of us like to plan everything before we take pen to paper, while others feel their fingers aching for the keys as soon as they think of a new plot or character.

If you are one of those who leans more towards quantity than quality, I would recommend giving it a few passes yourself before handing it off to an editor (which you really should do) so that your work doesn’t suffer from being popped out too quickly.

And if you prefer quality, don’t let it keep you from working on more than one story at once, and try to participate in a few writing prompts now and then to exercise your creativity and spontaneity.

Are you more focused on quantity or quality? What is your writing process like? Where are your weaknesses and strengths when writing new pieces?

Iโ€™ll be onย Facebookย until next time.

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14 thoughts on “Content: Quality vs Quantity

  1. I love reading about other people’s writing processes, because mine is constantly in flux and I’m always looking for new methods to try. I’ve never settled on a specific writing route that works for me, but I sure have fun trying lots of different things!

  2. This was great to read. I give various tips in class and on my website about the writing process, but what you’ve said here is so very important to remember. I suppose I write advice on very specific issues in the hopes someone finds it useful. What I fail to mention often enough, and what you’ve covered perfectly here, is that writing is an individual process even when a team of people may eventually see the text. Essentially, not all advice is going to help all writers, and it’s fine if the tip I give doesn’t apply to an individual’s process. Thanks for the perspective!

    • Thank you for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚ Specific advice is great because it can help to give people a new way to fix an issue that they hadn’t yet explored, so I am sure that they find your thoughts helpful.

  3. So many questions! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I think I’m more focused on quality than quantity, though I like to be prolific when I have time for it. I usually write a first draft, then edit it every couple of months until I’m satisfied, after which I try to get it published. My biggest problems with writing first drafts is getting started (those blank pages can be intimidating), keeping focused, and actually feeling satisfied with where I’m going with this story (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve gone back to the beginning of a story and started rewriting because I wasn’t satisfied with the direction it was going).

    • It’s cleansing and healthy to go back and rewrite when you aren’t satisfied. I find that it helps to make a better end product, and it’s something that you can get behind instead of always wondering what would have happened if you had chosen differently.

  4. My writing process has changed so many times, and I still don’t think I have a formalized process. At present, I’m trying to find the middle ground between quantity and quality.

    When I started out, I let my ideas stew. I wanted them to be fully developed before I put pen to paper (metaphorically). But then I started to realize that it was holding me back. By waiting for the idea to form fully, I was putting off the actual writing. It was turning into a form of procrastination.

    So I decided to just start writing stories down as they came to me, developing them on the fly. They required multiple revisions, and on rare occasions I’ve had to scrap the whole thing and start over, but I was finally producing content, and the very act of writing was helpful in getting the ideas to flow. At some point, I got a little too focused on quantity and the quality of my stories began to suffer, so I’m scaling that back and re-evaluating my process now.

    • There is definitely a balance to be found. For me, it depends on the content I am writing. Non-fiction is easy for me, it takes virtually no time, and I don’t need to think about it beforehand. That goes for my own content, such as my blog, and website content for work, which goes to a fairly large audience.

      Fiction, however, takes more time because I need to plan it first. I need to have answers before I start writing. But I also know of many authors who can write a book in a matter of days. Take Joe Abercrombie or Pierce Brown for example, they are both quick writers who writer first and improve later.

      Try whatever interests you until you find your groove. It’ll likely be as unique as your fingerprint, which is fine, because writing shouldn’t be the same for everyone.

  5. I’m not great, good, or okay with grammar, so I know I require many rewrites for one story. Still I work on multiple stories at a time because so much time passes from beginning to publish that if I didn’t, I’d only have one publication out. I’m an outliner, but I know many who aren’t. Like you say, writing isn’t one size fits all. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • We all have weaknesses. Mine is probably taking too much time to write, because I edit it so much while I do it. But I’m ok with it because my process is part of what makes my content different.

  6. Quality is my aim, although there are instances where that goes out the door! I’m working on my first draft; this is late 2012! It’s something I enjoy writing. That is what all writers should strive for: write what you enjoy writing!

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