Posted by: Kathleen Mix | November 30, 2015

Quantity over Quality?

In the writing community, November is known as the time for NaNoWriMo, an event that celebrates National Novel Writing Month. Writers sign up to take part in a community event with the goal of finishing a novel of at least fifty thousand words in a month. Some writers participate because stating their goal and sharing their progress gives them the incentive to sit down and produce pages, some take part for the camaraderie.

I wish every one of them the best of luck. I also hope they face reality. Most are working more quickly than they are accustomed to and focusing on quantity rather than quality. As a result, the pages they produce will not be a finished product.

Very few writers can sit at their computer and produce a perfect manuscript. The overwhelming majority write a first draft that will require substantial editing before it can shine. When a writer is trying to sprint toward a word goal in a limited timespan, editing isn’t an option.

For everyone trying to get that story out of his or her head and finally written, I hope you reach your goal. But keep the manuscript you produce in the proper perspective. It is a first draft.

A couple of years ago, one agent blogged about the flood of poorly written, unedited manuscripts that arrived at her in-box in early December. Writers had typed fifty thousand words and submitted the product, wrongly believing it was publishable. With self-publishing getting easier all the time, many NaNoWriMo manuscripts don’t get sent to agents or editors but go directly up for sale in December. These books are often substandard and destined to fail.

The freedom to write quickly and accumulate words without judgment of quality is a valuable tool. But writing fifty thousand words in November doesn’t mean the author has a finished, publishable book. So, NaNoWriMo participants, do what works for you and write your draft in a month, but remember it is only a draft. You are now closer to your ultimate goal of a good book: you have a file in your computer to fix.

 

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