“Q” is for Quality Versus Quantity

When I first started writing, I could slap out a rough draft in 2-3 weeks, a month tops. Hitting a daily word count of 4-5000 words was no problem. (Remember that obsession post from the other day? Yeah, I spent every waking hour writing–aside from work, of course.)

BUT, as I learned the craft, I realized the number of words didn’t really matter if none of them had quality.

So, how did I maximize quality?

  • I started outlining.
  • I thought carefully about what elements I put in each scene.
  • I streamlined dialogue (still working on that one, LOL!).
  • I used description carefully (as a means to highlight unique things and also to display my character’s personality by drawing out what they notice).
  • I focused less on word count.
  • I took more satisfaction in nailing a scene rather than banging out 10 chapters in 1 day.

How do you approach the whole quality versus quantity equation?


Be sure to check out Sarah’s response to her question for the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog!

23 comments on ““Q” is for Quality Versus Quantity

  1. Cheree Smith says:

    I was exactly the opposite. It took me forever to get that first draft done because I wanted everything to be perfect… now, I make sure I set goals and always have another project to start while I’m letting my first draft sit.

  2. kendallgrey says:

    I do the exact same things you do. Great minds think alike! 🙂 I know people who write butt-loads every day. I can’t do that. And if I could, it would be crap if I focused on word count. Like you, I work on getting the feelings, the showing (vs. telling), goal, motivation, conflict, tension, and all that other good stuff in there. I’m not very bright, so it takes me twice as long to write a decent scene as it does for most people. But I’m okay with it. As long as it gets done, I’m usually pretty happy with the results.

  3. Carradee says:

    …Honestly, when I’ve done NaNoWriMo, my overall story quality’s been the same, just with plot holes (which are normal for me on a first draft). Granted, there are more typos.

    But man, my NaNoWriMo entries have killer scenes and characters. (Yes, I’ve let others look at pieces of them so I know it’s not just my author ego talking.)

    So I’m trying to train myself to write a minimum x words per work day. I’m starting low, and hoping to train myself up. I do have 2 novelettes and a novel I want to finish this year, after all. *wince*

  4. Natasha Hanova says:

    This is one of my favorite sayings. And I couldn’t agree more. My word counts are lower now than they used to be for a variety of reasons, but I have to admit those few words are good ones.

    A writer who continues to study the craft constantly improves her work.

  5. Ciara Knight says:

    4000-5000 words, wow! 🙂 I outline now, too. After doing major rewrites on books I won’t start until I’ve jotted down an outline. Sometimes all even do GMCD per scene. 🙂

  6. Karen Walker says:

    Thank you for the visit and comment on my blog yesterday. I am writing fiction for the first time after 30+ years of nonfiction writing. It is a whole different ballgame and I, too, let go of word count am learning to just allow this story that seems to want to be told to emerge. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

  7. vixter2010 says:

    It’s a good move to make – I’d like to combine quality and quantity 🙂 For me, carving out time to write full stop is something I need to work on. I need to make myself check over what I’ve written before moving on and having loads of edits to make at once. Must revise as I go!

  8. Usually my first drafts are pretty much crud, but I ALWAYS have a lot to work with. That said, I get what you mean about the quality. It’s all a waste of time if you end up deleting everything you wrote.

    I don’t do outlines. *shakes head*

    But I do write my synopsis which I use as an outline. Does that count?

  9. I learned tons from my first novel. Like you I banged out chapter after chapter. In three months I had 125,500 words… tons of quantity, BUT not enough quality.

    The story was wonderful so it took me 18 months to cut through it. Now it is a slim and quality 61000 words.

    My second novel I wrote in six weeks but this was only 57000 words and since it is a y/a contemporary the quality words flowed easily. I didn’t have to create worlds with fairies and evil spirits. This novel is off the cuff. Emotional and edgy. I learned the hard way to ECONOMIZE my worlds.

  10. I basically take the same steps you do! Outlining has really helped a lot and it so much fun to know what’s coming and look forward to writing it!

  11. I agree that word count is meaningless without setting a standard for quality. In fact, it would represent time wasted. I haven’t been working on my MS. I don’t know why exactly. There are not enough hours in a day to include both blogging and revising my MS. I’ve been obviously choosing to blog. Tsk. Blessings to you, Laura…

  12. Lydia K says:

    I obsess about word count too but much less so than I used to. Somewhere between getting the words down and keeping my inner critic from going ballistic is the balance I try to achieve.

  13. roguemutt says:

    I think most of the time I do quantity over quality. Though some people do both. I saw a trivia fact on the classical music station on my cable the other day that Schubert wrote 200-300 songs over the span of a few years. And no one would deride his quality, at least not so much now.

  14. deniz says:

    I only ever started paying attention to word count when I realised I might be able to actually edit my work and submit it somewhere (I used to finish stories and novels and leave them at that, without ever going back over them). But now I definitely pay more attention to fixing my dialogue and descriptions from the start, even in the throes of creation for a shiny new idea [g] It helps later, so I don’t come back to those scenes and whine about how awful they are!

  15. Kari Marie says:

    My first book I was all about the quantity and ripping the story out of my head. I’m taking my time with the second one and not torturing myself about a daily word count. Maybe it will save time in revision.

  16. Trisha says:

    I don’t really focus on word count – unless I’m doing NaNo – but I do focus on getting to the end of the story. I do like your tips though!

  17. Nice post.

    I’m still working on the quality aspect of my writing. I do like to write fast and get a scene down while it is still fresh. I have ben working on outlining and also more pre planning to know my characters better before I start the first draft.

  18. LOL Cheree blogged about this same thing this morning.

    I’m more about quality than quantity. I don’t bother with daily word counts. I’ve spent more time in revisons building things up (which is a good thing) than wasting time deleting a large about of verbal diarrhea. 😉

  19. Anita Miller says:

    I do quality most of the time…sometimes quantity when I just have to get something out of my head. Nice, honest post!

  20. Arlee Bird says:

    I must admit that I do like the frantic writing nature of NaNoWriMo. I don’t think my quality was too bad considering, but I usually haven’t ever taken the meticulous care of writing as you’ve described. I used to write my papers in college much the same way. I guess I like the excitement of pressure.

    Tossing It Out

  21. ketmakkura says:

    For me, the first draft is about quantity. I can put whatever insane rambling crap I like in there, just as long as I keep moving towards the end.

    Each following draft is moving towards quality. If I tried to start out like this, I’d get even more of nothing ever done. With each rewrite, I try to cut more and more until the words are exactly as they should be.

  22. Vicki Tremper says:

    I have the opposite problem. I get to the point too quickly and don’t take my time while drafting to flesh out the characters and setting. But I do fix all that in revisions!

  23. Wow, 5000 words a day. Thanks for the advice, your ideas and suggestions for generating quality over quantity are very good. I never used to outline. I just could not bring myself to do it. It seemed to remove the creative spark in me that made me want to write, write and write. I have started outlining and have found that it saves me from writing countless words and scenes that just do not fit and that I will never use. I finally have some cohesiveness to my novel.

    Thanks for the tips.

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