Friday, July 04, 2008
I know it's a holiday weekend for a lot of y'all (I myself have big plans of watching 1776 and playing Guitar Hero), and so I should probably wait if I want a response, but this is on my mind right now, so here we are.
Every once in awhile, a debate about quality vs quantity flares up on the blogs, with the implication being that people who are very prolific are not very good. This is both true and false, as is any generality you can ever apply to the human race (excepting this one. This generality is completely accurate). People who write too many books per year at the behest of a publisher, or because they're frightened of not making enough money (especially ebook writers) might see a decline in their quality. Alternately, people who write that much because they're inspired by ideas or because it's a comfortable pace might keep the same high quality from book to book. Or there could be about a dozen other possibilities. I don't know.
I do know that I am very prolific with my partner, Vivien, and less prolific on my own (though there are various reasons for that). I know how it might look to have several releases in a single month, let alone a single year. But then I got to thinking about something crucial that I don't see get mentioned often. Writers who want to write as career treat their writing as a career. Being professional doesn't just mean behaving on blogs, being classy at conventions, and not getting into big, public fights with your publishers. There are a hundred little things that go into the definition of professional.
For example, I believe that professionals should work full-time. That's 35-40 hours per week. While I was in grad school, I kept up that schedule, though it wasn't easy. Now that I'm out of school, it's much easier to write eight hours a day and not feel like it's taking up my whole life, and I do other jobs here and there to keep a steady paycheck. My point is though, if somebody works on their craft a minimum of 40 hours per week, should people expect an author to be prolific? Is it a sin or a crime to get a great deal of work done at your "day job"? I honestly don't believe people who warn against sacrificing quality for quantity take that opinion to their day job. Can you imagine conversations with their boss if that were the case? Yes, ma'am, I know this had a deadline, but I felt it was more important focus on quality instead of working hard and meeting your standards of high quality and timeliness.
Stephen King writes at least six hours a day, every day. Every day. He takes his birthday off, and as he said Writers write. That's all it is. It is as simple, and as complex, as that. I was reading a book about freelance writing, and the author indicated he wrote every day except he took one day off per quarter. Ray Bradbury said Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you're doomed. I've seen James D. MacDonald say on Absolute Write over and over as soon as you finish your novel, start writing a new, better novel.
Now I'm not saying one must be prolific to be a professional writer. I'm not saying one must write full time to be a professional writer. But I am saying it shouldn't come as a surprise when professional writers write and publish a lot of material from short stories to novels. Some are lucky enough (or stupid enough like me) to write (and do writing related duties) 160-200 hours every month. One way or another, that's going to have a profound effect on the amount of material and the quality of the material.