Quantity vs Quality: FIGHT!

18 Oct

“What’s more important to you? High daily word count, or producing a great book?”

I’ve seen this question, or variants, far too often lately. It’s usually followed with something like “My word count isn’t high, but I spend time carefully reviewing and rewriting until everything’s perfect”. Actually, more often it’s “I don’t care about word count, I just care about quality”.

At the risk of sounding contentious, this irritates the spit out of me. Why? For one, because there’s the implication that anyone who has a high daily word count must be producing rubbish. It’s the old ‘quality versus quantity’ argument rearing its ugly head once more, and as I get older and crankier and a good deal more eristic I can’t shake the feeling that this is an amateur’s dilemma, a neophyte’s question. Quantity or quality. As if it’s even a choice. But I’ll answer the question, and my answer is this:


And I’ll tell you for why:

Nobody ever became a master without putting in the work.

There’s no such thing as an instant expert. Oh, some people have a natural talent in certain areas, but unless you commit yourself to putting in the hours you’re never going to be anything more than a gifted amateur. Not even that, in most cases. Writing is like any other skill, in the end improvement comes down to repetition and refinement. Guidance can be useful, advice may help or hinder, inspiration can come from many places, but without actual, practical writing you’re never going to get any better.

Quantity becomes quality. That’s the truth of it. If you want to be a good writer, write. Don’t fuss. Don’t fiddle. Write.


Posted by on October 18, 2011 in Of Writing


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2 responses to “Quantity vs Quality: FIGHT!

  1. Aniko Carmean

    October 24, 2011 at 01:55

    In my case, quantity becomes quality because I cut out all the rubbish! I would love to write fewer words at higher quality, but I don’t have a sense of what is rubbish and what is not when I am in the flow of writing. I need to get everything down, then decide later what is fit to keep and what is not, or what is fit to keep, but only if it happens earlier/later in the plot or is instigated by a different character. There have been plenty of surprises that come out of just letting the words flow and editing them later. I also agree that you can’t get better without practice, but would add that not only do you have to practice the writing bit (quantity), you must also practice the editing bit (quality) to reach your full potential.

    • Ben White

      October 24, 2011 at 09:30

      Yes, absolutely editing is vital. For me outlining is also part of it–the more I outline, the better my first drafts become. Outline for structure, then edit for polish.


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