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What is Important?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by BWFoster78, Sep 25, 2015.

  1. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    You absolutely have to maintain quality of writing in addition to a fast pace, so I agree with you there.

    Your implication that you cannot write quality fast, as Chesterama noted, is completely flawed.

    The Martian is a lotto pick example. There are so many more indie writers making a living because they churn out 4 to 12 books a year (yes, you read that correctly) than do because they wrote a single book that caught on.

    Again, maybe you can succeed by putting out one "good" book a year, but that's a crapshoot path. The people who are making a living writing are the ones who are putting out a lot of books.

    I agree that you absolutely have to achieve a certain level of quality. Once you figure out how to achieve that quality, though, you also absolutely must figure out how to make your process efficient enough to turn out that quality quickly.
     
  2. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

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    Concerning writing speed: I think it’s possible to create something well-written from a technical point of view quickly with enough practice. Doing believable world-building and proper research in this amount of time? Not so much. If I only think about the amount of research one is required to do when including POC characters or non-western settings...
    People who don’t write fantasy but stories set in the real world dealing with subject matters they’re familiar with have a distinct advantage where writing speed is concerned. I’m quite sure I’d be able to bring out a new horse story every two months if I wanted to do so because I’m sufficiently familiar with horses, riding schools and the behaviour of teenage girls thus realism wouldn’t be an issue. Doing the same thing with fantasy set in different alternate worlds is a different matter though.
    A possibility that appeals to me as a reader is having many books set in the same world only requiring a good portion of the work being done once. It also makes readers eager for new books set in this familiar place and actually by them which I wouldn’t necessarily do because they’ve been written by the same author alone. (I’ve read every Darkover novel by Marion Zimmer-Bradley for example but could never get into her Mists of Avalon books and didn’t finish even one of those.)

    Of course, fantasy can be written by throwing existing tropes together without actual research and little thought but the results can't be anything beyond mediocre. There might be people who are prepared to spend the 2 or 3 dollars on the e-book once but there’s little reason to come back to that specific author though because there’s more than enough of this available everywhere.
    Which brings me to the second point raised on this thread: I don’t think the secret to success is making cheap copies of best-selling works. (Though maybe that wasn’t what you suggested, Brian.) There’s no set of instructions guaranteeing a successful book but there surely are themes that appeals to broad audiences. Many of those turn up on the lists of “annoying clichés” found on writing forums. ;)
    Modern media bring information about all the horrible things happening in the world to every one of us while at the same time, we know there’s very little we can do about it. In this situation, the fantasy of being the one who can right this wrong is appealing and many successful fantasy stories have an ordinary person doing something which makes a difference for their entire society/world; Frodo, Harry Potter... Having this ordinary person be some sort of chosen one makes it easier to believe why he is regarded as the hero by everyone around him. This is only one example, there are many more.
    Best-selling novels often use such themes in a way that appeals to a broad audience (combined with other factors of course) and those who simply copy them normally aren’t anywhere nearly as successful. There are countless other vampire romance novels who sell to some extent but none of them successful enough to be remembered by me as a person not interested in this genre like Twilight was.
     
    Heliotrope likes this.
  3. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    ^^ Agree with this. I had a writing professor in University who told us that an author had to write at least 20 stories before they got any good. I had a friend over last night who had the same professor. He told me that he started writing short stories and bringing them to this prof, who would critique his work. Over time the prof pulled him aside and said "I've noticed the quality of your work is getting progressively worse. Are you just trying to reach the 20 story mark?" And my friend had to admit that yes, he was just writing mediocre story after story thinking the practice was going to make him better. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was failing to truly challenge himself to write really quality stuff, and so he just ended up practicing the same terrible technique and tropes over and over again and suffered for it. Yes, writing takes practice. Yes, you have to do a lot of it to get good, but it has to be quality practice, and it takes time.
     
  4. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    No one isn't saying that it doesn't take time. You can't use your friend's example as a generalism that writing lots and fast means crap work. That's a shallow perspective because there are many authors out there who work fast and don't suck. Ultimately, your perspective is your own, and if that's the way YOU work then, fine. But don't assume that you can judge the habits/skills of others from your limited experience. That's disrespectful of our writer peers.
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    When Michael Moorcock was starting out, he wrote books in three to ten days. And those works made him famous and created iconic fantasy characters that have been licensed for games etc.
     
  6. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Ok, obviously my perspective is ruffling some feathers and creating some tension. I'm not meaning to disrespect anyone, and I'm not generalizing. All I said was that the original quote was problematic to me for these reasons. Some people fall into the trap of doing mediocre work in the effort to do more work. Some people may feel pressured to produce more instead of focussing on quality. Some people may feel that when virtually everyone on this site is timing their word output and criticizing others for not working fast enough that there is something wrong with the way they write because they can't keep up. I'm simply advocating for the other side. There is another side of writers that write slowly but surely, taking their time. It takes them longer to get it right.

    Great! I'm happy for you if you can spin out tale after tale of quality work in a short amount of time. But if you can't, that's ok too. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you have too in order to be good.

    Just because someone advocates for a different strategy than yours doesn't mean they are personally attacking you.

    I take offense to being told I have a "shallow" perspective, when I simply offer an alternate perspective.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015
  7. acapes

    acapes Sage

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    Storytelling - trumps every other aspect of the craft for me
     
  8. Storm Wolf

    Storm Wolf Acolyte

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    For me, the ability to construct interesting characters. But that's what endears me to a story personally. It can have amazing story, technical writing and a beautiful world but if the characters are boring to me, I struggle. That's just me. And what I find intriguing about a character may not be what others do.

    As a writer I try to talk to a lot of people, read about people and understand people so I can hope to create good characters. I have a background dabbling in journalism which I feel helps but for many other writers it could be just seeking interesting people out and talking to them. If possible, allowing myself to step into their shoes for a few minutes. Other writers have different approaches; that's just one of mine.
     
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Apologies to BW. I did miss the point of the OP. It was about how to be a commercial success. The jury is instructed to disregard the previous testimony.
     
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  10. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    I may be in the minority here, but my advice is to never start out a book with the reader in mind, ever. If you do you are going to fall into the trap of focusing on what they want and not what you want.

    You have to create for yourself, first and foremost. Otherwise what's the point? Trying to appease a group of people based on hunches and trends? I can't imagine that being fulfilling in the slightest.

    Create what you want to read. Once you've done that you can turn towards constructive criticism from outside sources. Adjustments can come with revising the story after you've been given some critique.

    Ridley Scott doesn't start writing a screenplay thinking "I wonder what the viewers want to see this time?" The Beatles didn't go into the studio thinking "I wonder what kind of songs the listeners want to listen to this time?"

    They started creating based on what they wanted to express, which comes from inside them. They have to be satisfied with the final product and that is based on what they wanted it to be.

    Why should you be any different as an author? Fans are drawn to music, literature and cinema based on the style that they like. When a creative individual finds his or her own style, they will find an audience that gravitates to what makes them unique.

    We are fans of these people because of what they express from within themselves, not what we demand they create.

    Create to make yourself happy first and foremost. Becoming popular is the icing on the cake.
     
  11. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    The point is to write stuff that sells.

    If you want to write for yourself, there's nothing wrong with that. But if you want to be commercially successful, the people who are actively making a living writing are saying to write based on what readers want.

    What will make me happy is if people are reading my books. They're much more likely to read my books if I write what they want to read.
     
  12. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Heliotrope,

    Two separate issues here:

    Issue 1 -

    A lot of authors take issue with anyone saying that it isn't possible to produce quality quickly. For future reference, you may want to make sure your statements can't be inferred to be saying that if that's not what you meant.

    Issue 2 -

    I am really confused at this point about how much quality plays into commercial success.

    Almost every author who is selling will tell you that editing is crucial and that quality is incredibly important.

    On the other hand, it's hard to get a handle on exactly what "quality" means, nor any empirical data on the impact of editing. I see tons of books that appear to be selling that there's no way I'd consider up to the standards of traditional publishing.

    Bottom line - I'd love to say that the higher the quality of your book, the better your chances for succeeding as an author. Based on what I'm taking away from the admittedly unscientific process of gleaning scraps of information from advice posts, however, I simply cannot draw that conclusion.

    From a logical perspective, it seems that a book's writing needs to be good enough that the reader doesn't throw it across the room before finishing it. And it seems to make sense that a story that speaks to a reader is more likely to cause that reader to search out your other works, increasing your chances for longterm success.

    Even if we accept those two premises as fact, however, we still can't put any kind of accurate measure on exactly how "good" your writing or story needs to be.

    Trying not to be offensive here ... but your perspective came across to me as ill-informed. The topic is really focused on what does it take to make it in the indie publishing world. The voices of those who are making it in the indie world seem to consistently advise that your best shot is to put out a lot of books.

    When someone who appears not to have personal experience speaks in contrast to that advice, the natural inclination is to think, "Uh, what the crap?"
     
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Putting out more books isn't just an important factor in indie/self-publishing. Traditional publishers have, over the last decade at least, recognized how important it is and are pushing authors to faster release schedules than was the case a couple decades ago. Seems like a lot of traditional authors are putting out a work at least once a year, and from what I've heard from some editors, the publishers would like to see a couple a year if they can get authors there.
     
  14. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    I guess if you want to make the big bucks then put out a book a year. Quality is going to suffer as a consequence. Fluff sells.
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I don't think that's necessarily true. There are writers who can put out a book a year with consistently good quality. If writing fiction is your only job, I don't think that would be a hard goal to hit at all.
     
  16. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Or ... Work harder and explore ways to improve the efficiency of your process.
     
  17. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    If you write only 250 words per day, and poured everything you have towards the quality of those 250 words, you'd still complete over 90,000 words in a year.

    So, even in one or two hour long sessions per day, painstakingly and carefully writing for quality, you should be able to put out a book per year. This is assuming, of course, that you aren't geared toward learning craft anymore, but actually producing for publication. How many professional level authors are incapable of 250 words a day?

    That daily quota is quite low. If you consider a likely higher word per day output, you should have plenty of time to also figure in editing time and publication efforts while still producing one book per year. That's my current plan... one per year.
     
  18. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    Or limit your ideas to what has worked before. That should improve efficiency if you already have a reliable template.
     
  19. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    What you originally wrote is what drew them to your works in the first place. How would you go about knowing what readers want other than copying what a bunch of other writers have already done?
     
  20. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I don't know how your process works, but the structure of my novel and the content of the story doesn't have a whole heck of a lot to do with my process of writing it.

    My inference here, though, is that you're turning your nose up at the thought of writing formulas. I just don't share your disdain for formulas. There's a reason they exist - because they work and readers like them.

    Regardless, the fact that you want to be original doesn't impact whether or not you're willing to put in the work necessary to produce quantity.

    Look, writing for commercial gain is work, not fun. You have to put your butt in a chair when you'd rather be doing other things. If that's not what you want to do, fine, but as far as I can tell, it's an important contributing factor to becoming successful.
     
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