I've read that Ernest Hemingway limited himself to exactly 500 words per day. I try to get at least 1000 myself. Every day, seven days a week.

How about you?

And do you think word count is ever an indicator of quality? Is it probable to crank out, say, 5000 words a day and still produce something that's worth reading?

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Only Cammie May Hunnicutt would say Neil Nyren makes no sense when he talks about writing. Wow. Girl, you are unbelievable.

Read more carefully, Jack.

It was Jude Hardin that said that.

Gee, I guess I should have said, "Makes no sense to me", but I figured people would kind of assume that.

So, am I the "only" one who things that obsession isn't the road to quality?

Oops. Sorry. Another mistake.

I'm not sure what you mean by sloppy prose. My point is that today's popular  (substitute commercial or genre here if you like) fiction is about story. Yes, you must be able to string a sentence together, you must be able to write so your ideas flow, and the reader gets the pictures in their heads you want them to get, but I do not believe you must obsess over every sentence, every word choice, to make "quality fiction".

Quality matters in the final product, no question, but must you agonize over every written word, every sentence until it shines, again I say no. Those who do, are the ones who take three years to write a novel then another three years re-writing it until it is perfect. And it never will be. Dean Koontz early in his career wrote five to seven novels a year, had them published under different pen names, he couldn't do that if he was obsessively worrying over each sentence. He improved because his output improved.

If you writing goal is to make a living at writing, it will never happen working like that. Quality comes from practice. Write a lot of stories and your writing gets better. It will not improve by constantly rewriting a sentence , getting it perfect, because chances are you don't know what was wrong with it (if anything was) in the first place.

I'm saying, tell a good story. Yes, use compelling language, find your interesting voice and a unique point of view. But, write it, editing it, and kick it out the door.

Today's market, today's voracious readers, want writers who can get stuff out to market. Even the big names are doing short stories and novellas in between their annual novels because its critical to keep you name in front of readers who have lots of distractions for their entertainment time and attention spans shorter than most TV commercials. The writers who obsessively rework sentence after sentence and doesn't get work out, and get known, will be left way behind.

Just my 2 cents.

Getting good, competent product out the door is the key to writing success today. Your quality will improve with each now story, not obsessively worrying over whether every sentence is perfect.

That's really well-put, David.

I'm just starting and learning, but that's exactly what I'm finding.

I have several ebook stories for sale, and they've gotten good comments from writers.  They just sort of flow out, then get cleaned up.

But they're just telling stories out of my life.  My goal of having crime novels out there is stumbling along because I have trouble shaping up made-up stories.  And you're so right.  That's what people pay for.  Especially in crime, I would think.  

I was told that Mickey Spillane and Harold Robbins just dashed off their best-sellers.  I looked at some books by both of them and I don't think they'd get medals for literature, but I admire the way the stories keep you moving along.

I read that again and the word "competent" hit me.  That's a good one.  Does the job, right?  A Yugo isn't a Ferrari, but people buy more of them.  Some Chinese blender or bedroom slippers in WalMart aren't as good as what you'd get in a fancy catalog, but people buy them.

I'm going to do something thinking on what that means when it comes to books.

But what if they are morons?  Or have nothing to say.  I've seen both things going on.  Somebody talking about how they've been over word by word, but the sample they show you is boring junk.

I said "assuming you have some game." It's true that you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear, no matter how much you rework it.

So I guess I should read more carefully.  :-)

Read more carefully, Jack.

It was Jude Hardin that said that.

This is why I always quote the person I'm replying to in italics instead of clicking on the "reply" button. I hate that button. It makes responses confusing, and you have to hunt through the entire thread sometimes to see who commented last.

That DOES make sense.  :-)

I'll keep that in mind for posting.

Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
Hemingway: Getting the words right.
(Ernest Hemingway, "The Art of Fiction," The Paris ReviewInterview, 1956)

I have rewritten--often several times--every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers." (Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory, Random House, 1966)

The swiftly done work of the journalist, and the cheap finish and ready-made methods to which it leads, you must try to counteract in private by writing with the most considerate slowness and on the most ambitious models. And when I say "writing"--O believe me, it is rewriting that I have chiefly in mind. (Robert Louis Stevenson, Letter to Richard Harding Davis, quoted in "When They Were Twenty-One," by Richard Duffy, The Bookman, January 1914)

OK, but who lately?

Just kidding.   This looks to me like something that's pretty individual.    Again, you see the same thing in sports.  One girl works out like a demon all the time, another girl shows up to practice hungover... and they both have the same amount of points or runs or errors or whatever.

This discussion has been interesting to me, and caused some thinking (hey, blondes think sometimes) which is what I like about this site.

One thing I keep coming to when I look at all these writing discussions is that different things work for different people, but whenever somebody says everybody needs to do things the way they do, it starts arguments.  

Kind of like real life.  :-)

Dean Koontz early in his career wrote five to seven novels a year, had them published under different pen names, he couldn't do that if he was obsessively worrying over each sentence. He improved because his output improved.

If you writing goal is to make a living at writing, it will never happen working like that.


"Rewriting is also not a separate task for me. I don't bang out a book, or even a chapter, and then go back to revise it. I rework every sentence before moving to the next, and then rework every paragraph before moving to the next, and then revise each page twenty, thirty, fifty times before moving on to the next. When I reach the end of a chapter—which has by that time been revised exhaustively—I then print it out and pencil it three or four times, because I see things on the printout that I don't see on the screen. By the time I reach the end of the book, every line in it has received so much attention that there's nothing to go back and revise—unless the editor spots a problem that, on reflection, I agree needs to be addressed. I've sometimes described this method of writing a novel as being similar to the way coral reefs are formed from the accreted skeletons of marine polyps—though I must admit I've never polled any polyps to see if they agree. Some writers have wondered how I maintain spontaneity when working in this fashion, but it's no problem at all, because you get so intimately involved with the fine details of the story that it remains eternally fresh to you on a lot of levels rather than just on the level of plot. I'm sure all those polyps feel spontaneous and full of life as they form colonies, reproduce, and finally die in the service of creating underwater tourist attractions and providing the raw material for junk jewelry and dust-catching paperweights."

--Dean Koontz, from a 2003 interview



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