by Veronica Forand
Quantity over quality. That is the debate. To write a million words or several brilliant words.
In this market, even the top authors who had been getting by with one book a year are feeling the cry of their readers for more. Some writers have mastered the art of writing fast. Their brains are wired to spew words onto the page with relative ease, or they have the discipline to sit their asses in their chairs for long stretches of time and meet their wordcount goals nearly every day. And the results are solid, and in some cases great.
Then there is me.
I can not spew. I obsess, cross-out, obsess some more, and then somewhere in the middle of the night gain inspiration and type three thousand words in one sitting. The next day, instead of forging forward, I obsess over the words I wrote and usually re-write them. My pace on a good week produces two thousand words per day. On bad weeks, about two hundred words. Overall, I need three months to create something I want my name on. For some, that schedule seems fast. For others, I’m driving in the slow lane. It doesn’t matter. That is my method. It may evolve over time, but for now. I’m content with that pace.
Last year, all writing stopped while I dealt with life issues. It left me with four weeks to draft an 80,000 word novel. I did it. I’m a total people pleaser and wouldn’t have missed the deadline for pretty much anything. The result? The worst book I ever wrote. As a thriller writer, logic needs to be immaculate in my books. This book, however, didn’t just defy logic, it mocked it. The result was confusing, and the language was basic, as there was no time to add complexity. Jane didn’t heave open the door, punching a perfect circle into the drywall from the doorknob. Jane opened the door.
The problem was not only that the story lost flavor and heart, but I had stopped enjoying the process when I rushed. I love spending an afternoon playing with words, placing the perfect verb in a sentence or rephrasing something that sounds ordinary and adding something special to it. A unique metaphor or one of those fancy literary devices I can never pronounce.
After a well-deserved rejection by my editor, I tried to fix the book with two rushed rewrites neither of which were much better than the original because again, I didn’t spend time on creativity and art. In fact, writing had become such a chore, that impatience was woven into my words. Readers, however, are adept at knowing when an author writes with heart, and when they aren’t.
My goal is to never create a story that lacks my passion for the story again, even if that means writing a few fewer books. I spent months fixing my story. The same characters are more fully developed and the plot is complex and intriguing. It’s a book I’m proud to send out into the world.
So the moral of the story? Try different methods, but when the story begins to suffer, go back to your own process, no matter how slow or crazy it may seem to others. Stories need heart and whatever your process, never lose that one key ingredient.