Archive for July 21, 2009

Quantity vs. Quality

Posted in Writing Related on July 21, 2009 by carltonmellick

This rant is for beginning writers interested in marathon writing.

Just before my marathon started, I wrote the blog “Get Off Your Butt and Write” with ideas on how to write marathon-style. However, every time I tell new writers they should challenge themselves to write 20,000 words in three days or 50,000 words in a week, there’s always a handful of writers who tell me:

“I can’t do that. I’m more interested in quality than quantity. I’d rather spend five years writing a good book than one month writing a sub-par one.”

Although this sounds like good logical thinking, it’s usually not the way things work. Especially for new writers. You can easily spend 5 years writing a sup-par book (or even a terrible book) and you can easily spend one month writing a really good book (or even your best work ever). Quality is more likely to come from your skills as a writer rather than the amount of time you spend on a book, and you gain these skills by writing as much as possible.

So, that means: quantity = quality.

As a new writer, you should focus on quantity first and quality second. Never sacrifice quantity for the sake of quality. Ever. Even if you have to trash a lot of what you write in the beginning. Your ego will tell you otherwise, but trust me when I say that quantity is more important to your growth as a writer. When you’re writing, set a firm deadline. Force yourself to write a 30 page short story in a day or a 100 page novel in 3 days. Whatever your deadline is, meet that deadline no matter what. Try to make it the best book it can possibly be, but only give it as much as time will allow. After you’re done, set another deadline for another story and do it again. Over time, you will gain experience that will increase the quality of your work. Not only that, but if you do many marathons where you are forced to work at a fast pace you will eventually learn how to produce high quality work in a very short period of time. You’ll be able to write quickly and efficiently, a skill that will be very useful if you want to write professionally.

In addition to that, I actually believe your work turns out a lot better when it is written at a fast pace. It seems my best books are the ones that I wrote in less than a week and the worst are the ones that took years to complete.

Here’s why:

1) Excitement – when you first come up with an idea for a book you’ll probably have a lot of excitement for it. You want to get that idea down on paper as fast as possible before your interest in that idea fades. If you marathon a book when you are at your most excited to write it then the energy that you put into it will really pay off. If you’re loving writing the book the reader will most likely love reading it. Finish the book before the excitement fades. If you take years writing this book your excitement will most likely fade. You will probably get bored with it. Writing the book will seem like a chore. These negative feelings will definitely have an impact on the quality of the book.

2) Focus – if you write a whole book in a short period of time, without distractions from everyday life, you’ll be able to focus more intently on your book. You will be able to live your story as you write it. You can’t do this with a book that takes years to write. The absolute best writing comes when you are in the “zone.” You can only get into this state when you are completely absorbed into your writing. When in the zone, you will forget that you are at a computer, writing the story. You’ll forget where you are, maybe who you are, and the story just flows out of you. I can only get into this state when marathon writing.

3) Memory – this is a cheap one, but if you write a book in a short period of time you are most likely to remember everything going on in the plot. When books take years to write you’ll have to keep notes and reread the thing several times, because you’re probably not going to remember everything you’ve written. If you have to reread your book several times before finishing it you’re going to get bored with it. Your book isn’t likely to be very good once you get bored with it.

4) Making it to the end – the fewer days you spend on a book, the less likely you will give up on it. I have given up on several books that have taken me years to write, but never on a book that I marathoned. On a marathon you just don’t have time to second guess yourself. If I didn’t marathon Cybernetrix or Apeshit and had time to second guess myself I would have said “There’s no way anybody will ever want to read this crap” and then trashed them.

When you start writing by deadline, you’ll probably produce some crap that will be thrown out. Don’t worry if you produce crap. You’ll still learn from it. What I don’t recommend is focusing too much on rewriting this crap. Just throw it away and use the knowledge you learned on your next book. Your time would be better spent starting a new book than rewriting the crap book, because it’s difficult-to-impossible to turn crap into gold.

This marathon-writing method doesn’t include editing and rewriting. When it comes time to do the rewriting, don’t be a perfectionist. Like you did while writing the first draft, give yourself a deadline and stick to it. Make your book as perfect as you can until the deadline is up. Then be done with it. If a publisher asks you for some revisions then do those, but otherwise call it quits. I say this because you have to know that your book will never be perfect. All works of literature, including all of the classics, are flawed. You can work on one book for the rest of your life and it will never be perfect. You have to know when to let it go and move on to your next book.

I think most people don’t believe it is possible to write a book in a week that is equal (or better) in quality to a book of the same length written in a year or two. But I assure you that you can do this with practice. Normally, I would say all writers are different and all writers have their own ways of doing things, but every single writer I have convinced to write books marathon-style have become better writers for it.

Writing Marathon Finished

Posted in Bizarro Books on July 21, 2009 by carltonmellick

I finally finished marathoning my book “Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland” yesterday. Most of the time when I write a book I will lock myself away from the world and do nothing but write, eat, and sleep until it is finished. Well, most of the time my books are on the short side so I can finish them in 3-7 days. This book took me 20 days to complete. It is about 3-4 times longer than my usual books. It came out to be almost 80,000 words and 400 pages. The longest book I’ve written since 1999 (It might actually be longer than Satan Burger, which would make it my longest book since EJC in 1995).

This was probably the most exhausting writing experience I’ve ever gone through. Some days I could do nothing but stare at the computer screen, forcing out just a few sentences an hour. Other times I got so into it I forgot who I was or what I was doing and could get out thousands of words in a big gush. I drank dozens of energy drinks (which I never used to buy before) and smoked a ton of hazelnut tobacco.

Despite its Troma-esque title, this book is a little more serious in its approach than a lot of my books, but no more than most of my recent stuff. It’s basically like a bizarro version of Road Warrior with werewolves. I was watching a lot of anime and re-reading Vonnegut’s “Slapstick” the week before I started this book, and now that I’m going over the recently finished draft of this book I realize that those two things really rubbed off on this book. I’m not saying the book is like an anime written by Vonnegut (which would probably be pretty interesting)… its just like a book by me with a lot of influence from Vonnegut and anime.

After finishing the book, I went up to Olympia to a cocktail party at Kevin Shamel’s house. Kevin Shamel recently got his short novel “Rotten Little Animals” accepted to be published as one of the first books in the New Bizarro Author Series. Anyway, after 20 days of nonstop writing I was hardly able to hold up my martini glass or think of anything else but my book. It was a weird experience coming out of that daze.

While it was fun, I’m not doing the 20 day writing marathon anytime soon if I can avoid it. But I also probably won’t be writing any 80,000 word books unless I do.