NaNoWriMo – quantity vs quality

I’m definitely a fan of NaNoWriMo but I do sometimes question the quantity/quality debate.

I know that a first draft is just that, a first go at things that you are going to re-write and re-write until it is well, just right. But there’s no denying that there can sometimes be a treadmill feel to NaNoWriMo where you can fall into the trap of throwing words down on a page to make up the word count and for me herein lies the problem.

I’m very concious of where I am as a writer, where I’ve come from and where I want to go. I’m talking here about craft and one of the things I’ve constantly worked on is trying to elevate my level to the point that even my first drafts have an inherent quality to them. I’m not talking about publishable quality at the first go, just an overall raising of my own standards.

NaNoWriMo has that community feel where you know so many others are also striving for that goal of reaching 50k words that you can end up flying out of the blocks to get that days minimum done without putting in the usual care and attention you normally would to word choice, plot developments etc.

Here’s the thing, and obviously I don’t know if this true for many people, a few people or has any relevance at all, but I think that playing the quantity game can actually lead you in the long run taking longer to finish something because, when you go back and re-read your work, what you’ve done is create a huge mess that needs not just a re-write but to be torn apart completely.

I know that over the last four or five days I’ve reined myself in speed wise and slowed down, taking my time to build my sentences, paragraphs and so on.

Again, I know it’s just a first draft but a little care and attention now – whilst still playing along to get a great amount done in one month – will probably save me a lot of time in the future.

I’m aware that I may be overthinking this slightly but one of my aims over the next few years is to become more prolific in my output and to that end, I do think a lot about getting the quantity/quality balance just right as I work on my aims.



One comment

  1. Well, yes, friend. Not just the writing month contest but even on web logs. I started out the first month not even titling my pieces, just tossing out stream of consciousness, and slowly, as readership and confidence grew I wanted my web logs to be substantial. I try to have a beginning middle and end. It is great practice for the real thing. For taking the time to care about my words. Maybe you can use the NaNoWriMo as practice. Honing your craft and learning to get it right on your terms. It is your story after all. If it doesn’t feel right to you it probably won’t matter if it’s 5,000 or 50, 000 words. I am a believer in write, write, write and each time the draft is better. The harder part is letting go. Keep listening to your heart.

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