I’ve been reading more and more stories lately lauding prolific writers as though that is the sole measure of how good their books are. For example, a self-published writer just made headlines for publishing 25 books in the last 30 months. Another author, who is only 40 yet has nearly 30 books to her name, was just given a mind blowing sum for two books.
My concern is that is this kind of publicity for writers who used to be considered phenoms is that they are setting unrealistic expectations for the rest of us. Writing books is hard work. It takes time. And there are a million reasons why some writers are faster than others:
- Do they write full time? (Obviously full time writers would write faster.)
- What is the word count expectation for their genre? (YA can be as few as 50K, where as fantasy is usually over 100K)
- Do they have families or other responsibilities that cut into their writing time?
- What are the demands of their genre? (For example, historical fiction is very research intensive, which takes time. Also, romance tends to require that you write several books a year.)
- What is their natural speed? (Some people are naturally fast writers. I am not. I’m maybe average to slow.)
Are we all supposed to try to live up to these insane examples now if we want success? That almost seems to be what the media (and perhaps even the industry) is saying. And I hear it’s even worse among self-publishers than in the traditional publishing realm. Where does that leave young/debut writers who need day jobs to pay the bills? Are we to give up in the face of such expectations? Will these kinds of examples keep some exceptional writers from even trying to enter the business at all? For all of our sakes, I hope not.
I get that our world is speeding up. I get that readers want the next book yesterday (I’m as guilty of that as anyone else). I get that we all have developed ADD. But is writing faster necessarily the solution? I don’t think so. I’m not saying we should all adopt the snail’s pace of writers like George R. R. Martin or Margaret George, but we need to look at what kinds of books we’re getting with all this speed. It’s absolutely possible for a high-quality book to be written quickly, but it’s rare. Writing the story takes time. Then there is revision. Rounds and rounds of it. If you rush that, you end up with dreck.
If you want a good story, let writers take their time, whether that means they put out two books a year or a book every two years. (And if the writer is traditionally published, keep in mind that the publishing process is notoriously slow and is out of the author’s control.)
There is a forgotten virtue called patience that we all need to relearn, writers and readers alike. Readers, it won’t kill you to wait a bit for the next book. There are plenty of stories to keep you entertained in the meantime. Writers, we need to be patient with ourselves and support one another rather than competing for the highest number of books on our list. I know more books usually equals more sales, but is that really why we got into this business, or was it about the story?
I, for one, will always be a quality over quantity writer and reader. It’s just in my nature. As I was thinking about writing this, I heard these lines from the Katy Perry song, “This Moment,”
“Do you ever think that, we’re just chasing our tails?
Like life is one big fast treadmill
And we pop what is prescribed
If it gets us first prize
But you know who I, who I think will win…
Are the ones that take the time.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. So write on my friends, whatever your natural pace may be. And do your best to ignore the media. I’ll try if you will.
What are your thoughts on quality vs. quantity? Do you think the media pays too much attention to prolific writers? Why or why not? How would you suggest we, as writers and readers, deal with the growing trend toward speed?