Quality Over Quantity

... and that's only half of it.

The idea of “quality over quantity” has been plaguing me recently. Staring piles of books into submission and contemplating what I’ll need to buy once I arrive in Singapore versus what I should take with me has led to a pretty stern evaluation of my possessions. I have a lot of books. I also have souvenirs from travelling (now boxed and carefully marked for the “one day when” I have space for cuckoo clocks and venetian masks on my walls), childhood toys (I absolutely cannot part with Fluffy Wuffy, even if he does currently live in a box and has for several years), and a very content cat (who will stay behind and knows it, judging by the increased demand for chin-and-ear-scratching). I’ve been pretty disciplined and currently have 8 boxes packed neatly in storage. I’m thinking there’ll be 10 in total – more than my initial estimate but I did find 5 additional boxes hidden in my wardrobe. Woops.

This morning, as I sifted through books (again) and wondered what possessed me to buy yet another cookbook, my thoughts drifted to my novel. In evaluating my life, I’ve been evaluating my writing – a natural consequence. I started thinking about the quality versus the quantity of my writing, well aware of the fact that the end of NaNoWriMo draws nigh.

I’m eager to get to 50,000 words and also terribly excited about getting to the end of my novel – so excited that my writing has almost become a summary of what the novel is going to be. Instead of working through dialogue and description that could take pages, I’m writing a quick paragraph and moving on. My issue is not the words – my issue is never the words! – but the actual plot. I just want to get out, finish it, then go back and rewrite and edit. I already know what I’m going to change and remove and add … I’m so excited about actually finishing my novel this November that it’s overwhelming the way I actually write.

Last night I read Crossed by Ally Condie and there is an interview at the back of the book where she says she writes about 1,000 words in a day. This amazed me! Here is a “professional” writer who only writes 1,000 words in a day. When I sit down and get into it, I churn out between 5,000-8,000 words and thus far my record is 10,000 words in a day. Am I bragging? Well … yes, yes I am!

Outside of the month of November, however, I’ll be lucky if – aside from this blog – I write at all. Sometimes I’ll have a rush of inspiration and words will simply flow, but mostly I sit and stare at Facebook. Or wait for Sunday to roll around and catch up on PostSecret. Or … well, NOT writing. I like to think of it as “preparing” but in reality I am staring into space waiting for inspiration to whack me over the head and tell me to get back to work.

At the end of November I hope to have written the first draft of a novel. The whole idea of NaNoWriMo is to put your editor in a cage and let rip with words and ideas. Well, I caged my editor, let rip, and now …

Now there’s the whole “quality over quantity” issue. And yes, it’s an issue.

My wardrobe is at bursting point and it’s full of stuff I don’t wear. It’s next on my “to do” list. The regular items I reach for are the good quality dresses and shirts that I wear day in and day out – the other stuff is just there to fill it up. Or use for dusting. Or wear when I’ve run out of PJs. Or just to look at when I want to contemplate what life would be like if I wore shoulder pads (oh yes, I have a jacket with shoulder pads). I could have sworn I cleaned out my wardrobe, yet my clothes seem to breed almost as quickly as my books. The point?

I’m going to have (more than) 50,000 words at the end of this month and I’m concerned about how many of those words I’ll actually use. Over the 12 months I spent researching and writing up notes and drafts for my dissertation, I can easily estimate the drafted paragraphs and chapters (and excessive note-taking) to be over 100,000 words. Of those words, a fifth were selected for use.

Statistics are not looking good for my NaNo novel.

1,000 words in a day, Ally? You know what? I can believe it. When I read Matched and Crossed I found the writing to be beautiful. While I often compliment novels for being well-written or having strong characters, I find Ally Condie’s writing to be literature – there’s a difference between a good story and a good book, and I imagine that 1,000 words a day of quality drafting compared to 8,000 words of drivel pays off.

My goal is to finish NaNoWriMo AND my novel (draft) by the end of November, and to keep my editor in her cage – well fed with grammar but on a red-pen diet. After that, my goal is to keep writing. But writing quality every day, rather than quantity in one month of the year.

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4 comments on “Quality Over Quantity

  1. Pingback: M is for Money « dodging commas

  2. Pingback: Book Review: ‘Eve’ by Anna Carey « dodging commas

  3. ‘well fed with grammar but on a red-pen diet’ made me go ‘huh’. You do have a way with words, Stef.
    Your Mom will take care of the cat, right? I feel a bit sorry for him.

    • Haha thanks =)

      Sweet Pea will be fine. She had a serious make-out grooming session with one of the dogs last night and Mum will take excellent care of her. She definitely knows I’m going, which amazes me – shes’s especially affectionate and demanding of my time lately, and won’t leave me alone (not a bad thing, I love her)!

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