Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Quality vs Quantity

Yes, there is no way a writer can do well if they do not monitor the quality of their work, know their grammar and spelling inside out, edit ruthlessly and offer their writing to others for comment and criticism. Writers can turn to writers' groups or creative writing classes for support on these matters.

But last year when I joined these groups and classes, I wasn't necessarily looking for creative writing tips even though they were helpful. Neither was I looking for criticism, because I hadn't actually written anything yet. It was motivation I was seeking - something to spur me on to write regularly after work and to keep up the momentum. And unfortunately I didn't find it in these places.

When I did eventually start writing, it wasn't only by leaving my job and writing full-time, but also by lurking on other writer blogs who regularly posted their daily word count. Perhaps it exposed a competitive edge that served as a tangible deadline. And on days I wobbled or felt lazy, I knew that I wouldn't have a word count to post - and that had me in front of the laptop.

There are two sites that exist to 'kick writing arse' which is the technical term. One is Novel Racers, which I've written about before. The other is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is coming up next month. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

Neither site monitors quality or provides criticism. But that might not be what you want or need at this stage. You may be where I was last year, when I wanted to write but I lacked the continual motivation to do so. Or maybe you just need a little nudge to get started. And then when you've got over the hump of staring at a blank screen, have got into the habit of writing every day and you've found your style - then you can start rewriting and seek out a great writers' group that can give you some feedback and some quality control.

Or like the NaNoWriMo site says:

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

(By the way, I'm sure that other writers will have examples of when a group did spur them on to write. I'm just saying that, in my experience, there is another way to motivate writers.)


Beccy said...

I don't think I'd be strong enough to have any of my writing critisized, prehaps that's why I'll never be a writer.

Alix said...

First time reader and commenter - I came to you through Beccy's blog.
I think the motivation and the style are the hardest things to find. How is your novel going?

hellojed said...

Beccy, I'm still working on that myself!

Alix, welcome! I've finished the first draft of my novel and I'm going to start editing it once I've finished my training - which should be next week, fingers crossed.

Helen said...

As a novel racer myself I cannot stress hard enough how being part of that group helped me finish my first draft. There were no judgements, criticisms, and as I found recently, when you have a wobble they help you get up and dust yourself off in order to get back on with it.

My first draft is full of crap like the NaNoWriMo site says. But it is crap I can polish, chop, change and rewrite. Hopefully I'll find a jewel in there somewhere.

Anyway, that's where I find my motivation from...

hellojed said...

Helen, the Novel Racers group is a great idea for people like you and me who just need a push!

I know there are writers out there who don't need motivation, or are happy to edit from the beginning, and that's great - but that's just not the way I write, so these groups are handy.

Jen said...

I quite agree that motivation is key - I did the OU Creative Writing course last year and the thing I took away most was the realisation that I could force myself to write, even when I thought I had no ideas or inspiration.

hellojed said...

Jen, that is a great thing to take away with you. I was a training writer for three years and I learned the same there - that sometimes the best ideas come from just sitting down and writing, and that inspiration can come from the same. I feel really lucky that my previous job trained me that way.

Julia Buckley said...

I've signed up for NaNoWriMo - it'll be my second. Got loads out of it last time, so can't wait!

hellojed said...

Oh good luck Julia, make sure to post updates on your blog so I can steal all your learning! ;)