We Can’t All Be Prolific Writers

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Not all authors can be prolific, turning out one, two, or even three books a year. To be sure, there are prolific authors out there. If you’d like examples, think Stephen King, Dean Koontz, J.K. Rowling, or take a look at my interview with the most prolific writer I personally know, Kevin J. Anderson. The words just seem to flow onto their manuscript pages with the right words, settling in just the right order, to say exactly what the author intended to say, requiring minimal editing and revision, churning out quality stories in mind boggling volume.

I am not a prolific writer. This is an epiphiny which came to me only recently. I know it can be done, but it’s just not me. Realizing this actually explains a lot about me. Now I know why I never could complete a NaNoWriMo. While it is true that I did once write a 35,000 word novel in nine days, it wasn’t the quality writing that I am capable of. It was a draft that was nowhere close to publication. I have to struggle through the plotting, and work things out in my head with my characters until I get it just right.

With Delilah, the first book in my western frontier saga, I completed the first draft and put it through a first read and revised, and ended up rewriting at least a third of the book because I changed one scene that impacted and changed everything that had come after, but the book came out better for it after two years.

The problem is that I’m a perfectionist, so anything that is less than as perfect as I can make it be isn’t good enough to go out there with my name on it. I don’t want to pump out a huge volume of sub-par writing just to bring in the green. My readers deserve more than that, and I won’t settle for less than the quality writing and well crafted stories that I long to create.

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With the second book in the saga, Delilah: The Homecoming, I didn’t even get the first draft completed before the first rewrite. Around 40,000 words into the first draft, Delilah told me that the story was all wrong. Somewhere along the line, my plot had taken a wrong turn, and the story wasn’t going in the intended direction. (Yes, I talk with my characters with the stories in this saga.) When I reread what I had, I realized the truth of it. I had no idea where to take the story from the point it was at.

I tend to be a seat-of-the-pants writer. I get an idea and I have to get it down, so I just start writing. With short fiction, that’s not a bad thing, but when it comes to novels it can be. I could see a couple of places where I thought the story should go in a different direction, but the enormity of the task weighed on me and there were spots where I couldn’t see around what was already written. I set it aside for a month while I pondered the possibilities until I realized what needed to be done.

I may not be prolific, but I am obsessive/compulsive about writing, always having two or more WIPs in different stages of completion. While writing Delilah,Ā I was also working on my thesis novel, which has now become book one of my Playground of the Gods science fantasy series, The Great Primordial Battle, along with completing several short stories during that time. Currently, along with crafting the first draft of The Homecoming, I’m working on two anthologies, preparing The Great Primordial Battle for publication, and working through the snags I’ve hit with my memoir, Losing Michael. It’s no wonder my books take years to write. Yet, I have the satisfaction of knowing that when I’m finished, they will be well crafted stories.

The soil of my mind is fertile and can produce an abundant harvest of stories. The children of my creativity just require longer gestation and growth periods. Stories don’t just spew out of my brain, ready made. They must be honed and crafted until they become the works of quality writing that my readers have already come to expect. But another thing that I’ve realized, with as many projects as I have going, when they all are finally published, and they are all lined up across my author pages and my website, it will appear that I am prolific to anyone who doesn’t know better.

The point is, as authors, we’re all heading toward the same goals, quality crafted stories. The path we chose to get there, they way that we approach the writing process, isn’t nearly as important as the fact that we complete the job. And we can all do that. What kind of writer are you?


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6 Comments on “We Can’t All Be Prolific Writers”

  1. Well said, and I believe your post is important on a number of levels. Too many new writers look at those who can pump out story after story, not realizing they frequently have ghost/co-writers that do a lot of the fill-in writing. Yes, there are those who turn out a lot of words in a hurry, but that is not most of us. Too often, in the rush to keep up, writers push out their works before they are ready. (BTDT)

    What is important for writers to keep in mind is, if I may borrow from an old wine commercial, “We will sell no story before its time.” If we turn out one a year or one a decade is not as important as doing it right.

    Thanks for an important post.

    • Thank you for your comment. I do think that many aspiring writers are disillusioned by those who pump out book after book. The fact is, most of aren’t Stephen King, or Kevin J. Anderson. And you’re right. There are many authors out there that are throwing books together just to say they are published. Indie authors have had to strive to overcome a bad rep. due to all the sub-par books flooding the market. In the old days, publishers acted as gatekeepers, assurring that bad writing and unedited works didn’t hit the shelves, but indie’s must be their own gatekeepers, and unfortunately not all want to take the time or put in the effort required to put out quality writing. They should, because in the end, that’s what sells. I don’t want to put out anything that I’m not proud to have my name on and I work to make quality a part of my brand.

  2. Amen and Amen! I wish more writers would realize that they need to slow down and write it right and stop publishing stuff that isn’t ready yet!

    I’m looking forward to Delilah: The Homecoming!

  3. I found your post interesting, Kaye. I am putting out my first full length YA novel later this year. It took me exactly one year to get to the publishing stage. Luckily, the editor liked the story so the editing process was more clarification and expansion than changing and re-writing. I tend to see things very clearly and easily and other [very frequently] point out to me that not everyone can understand in the same way and clarification and expansion is required. This is the same as for my day job. My sister asked me how long a book should be and I said as long as it takes to write the story. With regards to length of time it takes to write a book, some people take years and produce a masterpiece, like Tolkien. There are no limits or right ways for creativity.

    • Indeed Robbie. I think that’s the point. Although some are prolific and are able to pump out voulumes in relatively short periods, not all are. As was pointed out in a comment to a promo for this post on social media, there are many famous authors whose fame came from a single work of well-crafted, quality writing. It may have been the only work they ever produced, but the quality of the writing made it great. Quality always wins out over quantity for endurance.
      I think many percieve that they have to crank out x number of books in x amount of time because they see authors who are prolific and set them as the example of what a writer “should” do. Not all authors can do that and still produce well-crafted stories. If you can, more power to you. Go for it. But it’s okay to take longer and strive for excellence, if that is what it takes for you. šŸ™‚


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