Quantity VS Quality: Is It Really One or the Other?

This is a post that might be better right before one of the big writing events, but it seems appropriate to place after the blog post about the finished first drafts of the novellas. After all, didn’t I finish 3 first drafts in only one month? Wasn’t that fast? Doesn’t that mean they are pure garbage?


The debate of Quantity VS Quality has raged for years, even before the event known as “National Novel Writing Month” began (or any of the inspired spin-offs). It’s a debate that will continue forever.


Because each writer is different. There is no one true ‘truism’ when it comes to rules for writing. That’s a hard thing for newbie writers to realize. So much of life has ‘rules’ by which we must abide by if we want a glimmer of hope for success. Why not writing?

Here is a simple truth about rules when it comes to writing. What works for one writer may not work for the next. Anyone who tells you different is probably trying to sell you something.

Because of this, each writer has to spend time and personal education to find what works for them and what does not. Develop what I call “a personal writer’s toolkit”. Every single writer’s toolkit will be different from the next. Because we all think differently, organize differently, develop differently, and write differently.

Okay, I lied. There is one rule for writing (unless one is a hobbyist).

One very important simple rule:

Finish the project.

If a method of writing does not result in ‘finishing a project’ then a writer should seriously review it. And one place where a lot of writers get stopped is when their logical left side of the brain starts trying to edit the words just after, or even as, the creative right side of the brain is putting them down.

This is where the ‘quantity’ part of the equation can help. By drowning out the left side of the brain with shear number of words.

Writing events that push for a finished novel in a limited amount of time can help with the process even more. It gives the creative side of the mind, also sometimes called the Muse, the excuse to go hog-wild and tell the logical and nit-picky left side of the brain, sometimes called the Internal Editor, to shut up. There is a deadline that must be met. There is no time for editing.

That means the Muse has all the power while the Internal Editor has none.

For a lot of authors this is needed. They need to separate the two sides, allow one to work while the other sleeps. Otherwise they end up writing, then rewriting the same part, and then rewriting again, all because the left side of the brain won’t shut up and allow the story to be finished.

And the story remains unfinished because the internal editor is just sure that what has been written is utter garbage and there is no point in continuing the story until it’s fixed. The problem is that very few authors can write a good, much less perfect, first draft.

The thing is, the first draft isn’t about being perfect. It’s about finding the story in the first place. Even if you are someone like me who plots out the story in advance, you can’t truly know what the story is all about until that first draft is written and finished. Only then can you know what the story is really about. What direction it flows.

Much less how to revise it to make it a cohesive whole.

The first draft has to be written first.

As the old saying goes, “you can’t edit a blank page”.

So allow the quantity to come out. Find those words and get it down. Find the story. Find the characters. What comes out may surprise you. You may find yourself on roads you didn’t expect, but that is perfectly right. New plot developments might appear. Subplots involving the main characters. A nuance of the main plot or characters.

I love the surprises along the way. The nuggets and treasure that the creative side drops into the story. It is a road of discovery that can be exhilarating even while at the same time stressful.

And despite what the internal editor says at first, some of that first draft might be golden. You might find more right with it than wrong.

But those treasures can’t be found while the internal editor is blocking the words. For most writers, it is a good idea to put it to sleep until a writer gets to “The End” of the first draft.

Give your Muse the power.

Concerning “Night of the Aurora” and the two other sequels that I wrote during July, this is a perfect example of what I mean.

Book 1 came out almost right, right from the start. The main changes once revision started was a slight shift in the starting point of the book as well as adding the first part of book 2 to the end of book 1 to create a more satisfying ending. Other than that it was the regular revision work of adding or tweaking descriptions, action scenes, grammar, playing up the “Muse Bombs” (as Holly Lisle calls them) that the Muse dropped while writing the first draft, and polishing up the prose. No main elements of the book needed changing.

Book 2 has a good plot. The first part will need to be worked on to make up for the original start getting snitched to end book 1. That’s okay. I want the first part of the book to better echo the ending, to create more foreshadowing. Nuggets and treasures appeared during the writing which means 5-8 (or more) new scenes will need to be added to expand on them. But the main plot, characters, and ending are all good. It will not take that long to revise and polish up.

Book 3 has a good main plot, but there is a sequence towards the end that is too passive that will need to be worked out. The other big issue is that this book features an alien that speaks differently. The biggest challenge will be creating a syntax and symbology for that speech that is consistent through the story. I haven’t worked out that syntax yet, but I went ahead and wrote the book so I would know what would be needed when the time comes to clarify the method of speech. This book will take the most work in revision of all three, but most of what is there (other than the passive sequence) is good.

At their core are good stories. Writing them fast did not mean they are a mess. Far from it. Writing them fast and one after the other without stopping meant I could keep the voice and style of all of them consistent. The themes from one book wove into the next. The characters were consistent.  The dialogue in places sparkled, coming out spontaneous and in the character voices.

All good things. And they all came out of writing them fast and ‘finishing the project’.

Quantity VS Quality: a writer really can have both.


“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will it fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!

I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.

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Quantity VS Quality: Is It Really One or the Other?

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