Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 35 - Quantity and Quality

I just rediscovered 'Write or Die' - a wonderful free web-based program that forces you to focus on writing. You can set whether you want to work towards a word total or a time limit and then there are varying levels of punishment if you don't keep typing. At the gentle level, you get a pop-up reminder you should be writing. On normal, your screen flashes a deeper and deeper shade of red till you start typing again. The worst is Kamikaze mode. If you stop working on your writing for long enough, you words begin to unwrite.

I find this an incredibly useful tool. I work for 15 minutes, write a scene and then go away, look at Facebook, come back and write another scene or so. But is there a point where it makes you focus so completely on quantity (the only thing it can measure) that you forget about quality?

A lot of the criticism I've seen for NaNoWriMo is that it produces nothing but crap. "Why bother?" they say. "Just take the time later to write a real novel. You know, one that doesn't suck."
My problem is that I just can't work that way. If I start thinking "Oh, this sentence isn't as wonderful as it could be" I freeze up and don't write anything.

It's a case of different methods suiting different writers. Shakespeare took something like two years to write Romeo & Juliet, while Ray Bradbury apparently wrote Fahrenheit 451 in 9 days. Shakespeare's work was performance-ready, and Bradbury had only a first draft - but in the end it didn't matter whether they crafted each sentence to perfection or bashed out a draft and polished, they still produced excellent work.

Now, if only my polishing were as good as my bashing out...

Word count - 1,266

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