Alice McElwee

It’s Not About Quality OR Quantity

Writers are often a bit neurotic, especially newbie writers who are still building their writing habits and developing their writing style.

We start by following the golden rule of writing: write. Write every day.

It’s not long before “writing every day” turns into “writing x amount of words every day”. That’s where sh** hits the fan. We stress ourselves out because we’re not writing as prolifically as other writers. I have a friend (great, great friend – love her lots) who can write thousands of words a day without breaking a sweat. There are some days where she will write almost 10K in a day.

Then there’s me.

I struggle to write 10K in a month, let alone in a day.

Surrounding ourselves with such amazing writers who can write a lot every day is a good thing. We strive to be at their level, to write thousands of words a day. However, there is a downside too. Sometimes, surrounding ourselves with these uber-writers makes us feel pretty bad about the pittance of words we struggled to get out.

Here’s the thing (and it’s easier said than done) – it is not about quantity.

STOP worrying about your word count. Don’t even look at it. If you can’t help but look at it, write in a program that doesn’t show you a word count or write in a notebook.

I promise you, you’ll write more than you’re used to when you learn to stop looking at the word count.

Your word count doesn’t matter – finishing the story is all that matters. You can add/delete words when you revise.

Speaking of revision…

Stop revising as you go.

Whether we like to admit it or not, a lot of writers (myself included) struggle with this. Those damn little red/green wiggles taunt us. We get ideas to change scenes we wrote 50 pages ago. We hit a wall in writing new stuff, so we go back to revise, hoping that in revising we will be inspired to write something new.

Sorry, but that’s rarely how it works.

Whatever program you use to write, there is probably a setting to turn off edits. Those squiggles will haunt you and taunt you until you gave and add dozens of new words/names to your dictionary fix all the spelling and change sentence structures.

Ignore the word count. Ignore the grammar. JUST WRITE.

It doesn’t matter if you write 50 words and they are all misspelled, as long as you write. And while you’re writing, write every day. Five minutes, twenty minutes or an hour – doesn’t matter how long, how much or how bad – just write.

Writing is the only way our stories will get finished. Worrying about our word counts and grammatical problems isn’t going to finish our story. Click-clacking at our keyboards, however…

~*~

Alice McElwee