Quality vs Quantity

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I touched on this subject a while back but this time I want to take a different approach.

A former co-worker and avid reader once described a book she’d read this way: a whole lot of fluff. The author wrote a bunch of nothing to fill the pages with words that don’t say anything! Regardless of the genre you write, filling pages to meet a novel’s standard word count of about 60,000 to 80,000 is not quality.

Ever hear the expression “less is more?” I say that’s true for your writing too.

When I write, I want to take the time to produce good quality novels. No matter how fast I pen the first draft, I take my time to edit it. When that’s done, I work with my editor on rewrites. If, instead, I am too busy hurrying to write my next stories, to the point that I sacrifice and substitute quality for quantity, how can I expect my readers to enjoy it and give it me a good review?

In part, I could say I’ve been there and done that. It’s what I did with my first novel. Not knowing any better, I didn’t ask proofreaders to go over it after me. I was so excited and yes, too much in a rush to see it in print. In reality, it wasn’t ready to be published. I later pulled it because when I worked with my editor on the next novel and compared it with the first, I realized it wasn’t fit to publish. My readers had told me they loved the story, but it was so poorly written.

Show, don’t tell has become my favourite way to add good quality words without all the fluff that doesn’t say anything. Especially when I decided to use all five senses.

What else can you do to produce good quality writing? Ask people to proofread your work. Someone who’s not afraid to give you a good critique. A new “set of eyes” is key to pick up what you’ve missed.

Listen to your critique’s suggestions, correct the typos and errors, and rewrite whatever needs your attention. Easy peasy, right? But it doesn’t end there.

When you’re done, ask them to proofread it again. Want a better suggestion? Ask someone who’s not familiar with the story. I had four proofreaders. For the most part, they all caught the same mistakes. One of them, however (I’ve always said she should have been a biologist) loved to dissect my stories. She found things the others had missed.

Proofreaders don’t have to be professionals. They don’t even have to be writers. As long as they are honest, good readers. You have to be a good listener.

Lastly, hire an editor. Hey, think about it, if established writers have editors, who says we can do this on your own?

Good quality books will make a lasting impression on those who read them. Isn’t it why we write? To reach and touch the heart, soul, and mind of people?

Don’t substitute quality over quantity. It’s not worth it.

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Father Knows Best: Good Quality is Always Better!

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Dad used to say it’s cheaper to buy good quality items because even though the initial cost is more, they last longer. You may have to buy two or three of the cheaper ones, thus spending more than if you’d bought the more expensive item. I couldn’t argue this point with Dad. Here’s proof he’s right. And this truly happened to me.

When I turned sixteen in the late 1970’s, my [then] boyfriend bought me an unusual present. I was almost embarrassed to tell others, but when my cousin (also sixteen) asked me about it, I told her: an umbrella. Her initial reaction was to laugh. An umbrella? To many people, including myself, it sounded like the most ridiculous present for a girl my age. How many sixteen-year olds do you know who received an umbrella for their birthday? I mean, it was nice and everything. It was a light pink (my favourite colour), and it had brown and darker pink patterns. It even had a zippered case for storage. Quite fancy, I must say. But an umbrella?

Regardless how ridiculous, or even strange, it seemed at the time, I had no idea how much I’d appreciate that gift later on. It was of very good quality and lasted me thirty-two years. I’m not exaggerating nor making this up. Then one day, the wind flipped it beyond repair. And when it finally broke, part of me wanted to go back to my cousin and ask her how many umbrellas she’d bought since we were sixteen. And of course, Dad’s words echoed in my ears: Good Quality is Always Best.

Yesterday, while walking home from work, the strong wind flipped my umbrella several times in less than ten minutes. By the way, this is my 3rd or 4th umbrella since the quality one broke 5 years ago. Can you guess how much I paid for them? Not very much, obviously.

I couldn’t help but compare this with my writing. It may seem like a strange comparison, but think about it. Do we take the time to produce good quality books for others to read and enjoy? Do we even take the time to write, edit, and rewrite? Or are we too busy hurrying to finish the second, third and fourth novels, that we sacrifice and substitute quality for quantity? I’ve read books where the authors fill pages upon pages with unnecessary words; backstory that shouldn’t be there; descriptive scenes that gives more than the reader wants or even needs to know. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there and done that. I wanted to ‘show, don’t tell’ but went about it the wrong way, when I wrote my first novel. I thank God for my proofreaders, fellow writers, and most of all, Nancy, my editor, for pointing these out to me, and helping me learn the craft.

Does this mean my novel is perfect? No. After a working on a story for months on end, we get so used to reading the same paragraphs over and over, we finally know it by heart. We’re no longer reading the words on the pages, because we’ve memorized them and now recount them from memories. And doing that, we missed a few typos, which, when pointed out, I went back and corrected.

So what can we do to produce good quality writing? First, write your first draft. Then edit it. Personally, I strongly suggest you ask someone to proofread your work. Someone who won’t lie to you or be afraid to tell you it needs work. And right now, after this first draft, it probably does. It’s far from perfect, and nowhere near being fit to publish. But go ahead and ask them anyway. A new “set of eyes” is awesome to pick up some of things you missed. Then go over their suggestions, correct the typos and grammatical errors, and rewrite whatever needs your attention. Then ask them to proofread it again. Keep in mind that these new eyes may not have picked up everything first time around and they might still miss some the second time.

I had at least four different people read my work before I handed it over to Nancy, my editor. Two of them are writers, the other two are friends. Then Nancy worked at it for months with me.

Good quality books, like any good quality item, will make a lasting impression on those who read it. Probably longer than the thirty-two years I had the umbrella. But whatever you do, do not substitute quality over quantity. Because good quality is always better.