Quality or Quantity?
In every writing class I’ve taken, the question of quality or quantity comes up. Each of us has to grapple with it. I tend to go over and over the same first couple chapters, thinking I can’t move forward in the story until the first few on chapters are perfectly polished. Do I do this because I don’t believe I know where the story is “supposed” to go? That I can’t move on there’s a perfect beginning? Do I not trust myself?
I get in my own way and don’t make enough progress toward finishing the dang draft, and in truth, spinning my wheels on those same pages doesn’t help me become a better writer.
I came across a writing tip that was linked to a study about a high school pottery teacher’s teaching technique. How could he help his students produce better pottery?
He required half the class to produce one perfect pot. The other half was required to produce fifty pounds of pottery by the end of semester. The pots didn’t have to be perfect, there just needed to be fifty pounds of work.
What this teacher found is that those who had to do just one perfect pot got hung up. They threw the same pot over and over. Those who had to produce the quantity, learned what worked and what didn’t. By the end of the semester, they could throw a perfect pot.
So, the more chapters you write, the better your writing will become. I’m too close to it right now, but I know that I’ve just got to show up every day and write something new. Soon, I hope, I’ll be able to ‘throw’ a better chapter.
One of my biggest weaknesses is description. I don’t like reading descriptions, and I definitely don’t like writing them. But if you can’t describe your world, your reader can’t see it. You are their eyes and ears.
I’ve been trying to practice. For instance, this week I had to report for jury duty. If you’ve ever had to do that, you’ll know it’s a fast-paced, exciting event filled with dramatic monologues from precocious lawyers.
Okay, not really.
There’s a lot of time spent sitting around and waiting to be dismissed. So I used the time to try figuring out how I would describe everything.
Of course, I kept slipping into my old ways and creating backstories for everyone (the judge and the court reporter never looked at each other. Was this deliberate? Could they be having a secret affair? Scandalous, he’s at least twice her age…) But I did try. And it helped, both for my boredom and for sharpening my skills.
What are the weak points in your storytelling? How do you strengthen them?
Ann Dee has decided to try things that scare her. She is brave. I bet she did a great handstand.
I love this challenge when it comes to writing.
This past year I started a murder mystery. I’ve never done this kind of book before, so that has been scary.
But there’s more about this project that scares me. This is a YA. How much of this raw story should I put on the page? How do I make the murdered character likable (for a while there, she deserved to be killed because she was acting so nasty)? What happens if my editor doesn’t like this book?
What are you working on that scares you?