Quality v. Quantity

That’s a pretty standard debate when it comes to writing. On one side, there are strong arguments in favor of writing lots and lots of words with minimal concern for quality. National Novel Writing Month–a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days–is an extreme example of this school of thought. In 2008 official NaNo website recorded 120,000 participants, me included. 

On the other side, there are those who edit extensively while they write, considering each and every word and how it will help the story reach its goal. After all, how much is 50,000 words really worth if no one else would ever want to read it? (But that’s a whole ‘nuther debate–Do you write for yourself or the reader?)

In her blog on Friday, Andi made a good case in favor of simply getting the words onto the paper (or into the computer). And I can definitely see the benefits of that. It can be extremely cathartic to just let the words flow out of you in a sort of stream of consciousness kind of way.  However, that’s not my natural style.


Perhaps y’all aren’t aware of this, but I’m a wee tiny bit on the controlling side. When on vacation, I’m willing to deviate from a set itinerary if something better comes up, but without the plan in place, how could I weigh the options? I take the same approach with writing.

I outline extensively and spend an inordinate amount of time getting to know the characters up front before ever writing a word. Then I edit and rewrite as I go (this words much better if you have a beta reader who can critically assess a work in progress and who has quick turn around). Using this method, it’ll take me 60 days (instead of 30) to write a 50,000+ word manuscript. Worthwhile trade? I think so.

Here are some further thoughts in favor of NaNo, along with some cool worksheets if that kinda thing floats ya: Spacejock

And here’s another opposing viewpoint: Word Wranglers

The important part here is simply knowing which works best for your personality type. Happy writing, y’all.


  1. So true! I’m also one of those who edits and re-writes as she writes, but I also know that if you get too bogged down in the details, it’s possible you won’t be able to get that first draft onto paper, especially if you have all kinds of other commitments in your life that you have to deal with. So pouring your words onto the paper (screen) to get the 50K-word draft can be useful, I think, because it forces you to get past the perfectionist streak that most writers have and to have fun with the process and watch it unfold as you go. I spend far more time re-writing than writing, so doing what I call a “word spew” is pretty cathartic and liberating for a little control freak like me. I think ultimately, it’s about finding a balance that works, and keeps you moving through the narrative rather than getting stuck and not finishing the process.

    Thanks, Jove!


    • Liberating! That’s the perfect word for NaNo. I did it (didn’t complete it) in 2008 and just wrote. No plan, just the opening scene and one character.

      Now I’m thinking seriously that I need to go back and clean it up. It may never turn into anything more, but I really enjoyed that experience.

      For the normal course of business, however, I need structure. Lots and lots of structure. And feedback.


  2. My new technique for getting my inner perfectionist out of the way for that first draft is going back to pen and paper. Seems archaic, I know. But it’s been working. But I’ll never write NANO speed. I just don’t have it in me. It’s so fun to read about other people’s processes.


    • I know several people who employ this method. I just can’t do it. It’s so…laborious. For you, I say do whatever it is that you do that produces such fabulous results. Can’t wait for February and Spanking New.


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