Quality over quantity…

NaNoWriMoNovember is Nanowrimo month.  Most readers won’t know what that is, but to writers, it’s a month of excitement and stress.  Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a special event that challenges writers to write 50,000 words in one month.  Now, again, to a reader that may not seem like such a horrible plight but to writers it can cause anxiety and so much distress that they can’t write at all.

Consider that an average novel runs about 70,000 words.  And consider that greats like Stephen King write 1,500 words per day. And…. consider that most writers have full time day jobs, families, commutes, and chores like eating and showering that detrimentally eat up hours of their days.  This usually leaves very little time to write, let alone spit out 1,500 words in one sitting.

For me, that’s 6 pages of words, nearly a full chapter since my chapters range in the 8-9 page area. It may not seem like a lot, but again, to readers, I’m sure you think stories magically pour out of us, hence the demand for more and more books, which brings me to my real topic here.

I spent this past weekend with two author friends of mine.  One has just released her first book, the other, who has published non-fiction in the past, is finishing her first fiction novel, but both mentioned something that has also plagued me:  With the advent of e-publishing, pressure to release books more actively is becoming something of a necessity.

Readers demanding books immediately are pushing writers to pump out books on a quicker schedule.  It used to be that a writer would get a book deal, have up to a year to complete it and then it would get sent out for edits and production.  Now, as statistics go, readers won’t actively read an author unless they have a backlist of titles.  So that leaves many of us on a hook.

I’m a slow writer in comparison.  More on that year track.  I can get out a couple of chapters a month if I cut off my family and friends and really buckle down, but that is only done in extreme circumstances – like now where I have a deadline to get my currently incomplete book to the editor in a month.  That means writing every spare moment I get, which means I don’t eat much or speak to many people.  Which means by the end of the process, I’m pretty burnt out and fragile.

Without the demands, that would be fine.  A writer would take a few weeks to rest and recharge their creative juices before starting another project.  Except now a writer is expected to blog, Facebook, tweet and PR the heck out of everything they are producing in order to make any kind of living.  That means that before, during and after writing, you have to also be active on social media, which in turn shortens the amount of time you have for stuff like, I don’t know, a life.

And it gets better.  With eBooks flooding the market and readers demanding a backlist, most A list and B list writers are expected to crank out some 3 books per year, or more.  3 books.  That 210,000 words ( or more) per year.   And what do readers get?  Well, in my opinion, they get crap.  And I have heard this from so many friend, writers and readers alike, that it can’t be coincidence.

One friend who gushes about her favorite author and reads all of her books recently told me she hurriedly picked up her new book and could only get through half of it.  She said it just fell flat and seemed canned.  And I have heard this about other books whose authors are forced to crank out book after book.

How are writers expected to research or even think about writing and put any amount of emotion into it if it’s becoming a chore? I mean, I refuse.  I’d rather have a handful of fans who are willing to wait for a new book every year and get something with depth and substance than something they’re going to quit reading because it comes off as rushed drivel.  I put too much effort into my craft to shortchange my readers and have them walk away unsatisfied.

We’re here to tell stories and to give our readers some entertainment.  We aren’t writing robots, but like everything, we’ve become a commodity.  To be traded and pushed for higher earnings.

Well, I refuse.  Quality over quantity.  And I’m standing firm.