Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Zette's Take: Being a Prolific Writer

Let's talk about being a prolific writer.
I think about being prolific quite often.  You know, in those times when I'm not writing.  A lot of people don't understand the term, to be honest.  They think this means nothing more than a word count, and that the words themselves are obviously not important because I don't take long to linger over them.  I've had people tell me that I'm prolific because I don't care enough to work harder.  (And yet, somehow, the idea that I spend hours every day working on my stories and they spend maybe half an hour after dinner and before their favorite show means they are working harder because they only wrote twenty words.  Does this make sense?) (This is not the same as those who truly don't have time or energy after work and before bed.  I worked in a factory for years; I know that feeling.  But these people aren't apt to make rude remarks about someone else's writing style.)
I usually write fast first drafts.  I happen to be in a position where I can both devote the time to the writing and allow myself to work in the flow and write for hours, living the story.  So yes, I get a lot of words when this happens.  It's a glorious feel, living the story as you write it.  Not every writer can do so.  For many those twenty words are a difficult feat; but that doesn't mean I'm not working as hard as they are.
This still isn't what makes a prolific writer.
Being prolific doesn't mean merely getting a large number of words written.  Anyone can sit and type a lot of words without much thought.  That doesn't even make them a story writer.
A writer writes stories.  Stories are not pieces of plots, one from here and one from there, and nothing ever finished.  In order to be a prolific writer, you have to write stories from start to finish.
But the work doesn't end there because writing isn't such a simple process.  Editing, polishing, and reworking the story until the manuscript is the best it can be is another part of the process.
And yes, I do count all three of these points as an important part of being prolific writer.  You start with the words, but words alone aren't enough.  What about publication?  That might make you a prolific author if you get enough works published.  However, the truth is you can't become a prolific author without first being a prolific writer.
Not everyone needs to be a prolific writer; they do need to find what works for them.  For me, writing a fast first draft is the best way for me to keep focus on the novel.  For others, a paragraph or two a week is better.  (I, of course, think they're crazy.)
Prolific writers are not more imaginative than other writers.  They may have a better access to their imagination, though.  I found once I started writing more, I got more ideas to write more . . . the writing fed the muse.
You cannot pick up a book and tell how fast or slow the material was written, nor can you tell if the author is prolific or not from any single book.  You can tell if the work is badly edited, of course.  However, you cannot tell if the author took ten years or two months to write the story.  The speed of writing (slow or fast) has nothing to do with the ability to tell a good story. 
Editing requires practice, too.  The more you edit, the better you will get at spotting problems.  In fact, the more you edit, the fewer problems you will create to begin with because you will start catching them as you write.
Don't be afraid to write.  Don't be afraid to write and make mistakes, because you can always correct them.  Don't be afraid to write, edit and publish, even if you fear the work isn't perfect.  Nothing ever is.  Write as suits you.  But don't tell me to write the way that suits you.
And never make the mistake of judging someone's work by anything other than the stories themselves.  You may not like them, but be honest about why.  No book is for every reader.
Have fun.  Enjoy yourself and enjoy the act of creation.  If you happen to be one of the people who are truly prolific, don't be afraid to say so!

1 comment:

J.A. Marlow said...

A prolific writer is not necessarily a fast writer. A prolific writer=butt in chair, hands on keyboards, for hours. Put in the time. Stop talking about writing, and just do it already!

Write, finish, polish, get it out there, Rinse and repeat. And repeat, and repeat.