The aim of this section isn’t to tell you how to go about writing fiction. We’re still just brainstorming ideas! What I’ll try to do is lay out the different options for writing as a creative process. You know what? This is getting complicated. I’ll just dive straight in.
That famous saying
You can’t embark on any kind of productive endeavour without running into this one: “Quality over quantity.” There are other versions of the same saying: “More is less” or “The armies of King Quality have vanquished the horde of Quantity Khan”. I might have made up the last one, but as with any famous saying, it isn’t Gospel truth (unless it comes from the Gospel, I guess).
Quantity and quality
Don’t worry, I’m not about to say: “You should just write lots of words which are all brilliant!” and pretend it’s a literary breakthrough. What I mean by quantity and quality is that you should see writing fiction as a multi-stage process. A famous writer (don’t remember who and not looking it up) said that the first 100,000 words are just practice (an approximation, I also forgot the quote).
If we accept that writer’s viewpoint then the first one or more novels you write will be just practice. They’re still important, but they aren’t doing anything for you. Nobody will trawl the bookshelves (digital or otherwise) looking for an author with great practice.
So what do you do to serve your 100,000 word purgatory and still reap the rewards? One approach is to smash out as many words as possible. Sit down in front of your laptop, typewriter or stone tablet and chisel, and start creating a story. Fill out every chapter until it’s bursting with events, characters and places. Keep only the barest plan in mind and let the story lead you where it will.
Now stop yourself before the novel takes on a life of its own and turns into a monster. You’ve already got the quantity (let’s say five or so chapters, not too much more), it’s time to add some quality. Unless you’re a literary genius, what you’ve written in your frantic keyboard attack won’t be perfect. Create a thorough, well-considered plan, maybe add a prologue and go over everything you’ve written. Tighten it up, trim it down and put some polish on it. Rinse and repeat with the next block of chapters.
Next time you hear someone say “Quantity over quality” you can retort with an “I don’t play by your rules, square!”
Let me know in the comments if any of this was useful. Do you have any writing tips to share?