Quantity Vs. Quality

My writing goal for yesterday was 1,000 words.  Did I meet that goal?  Well…..yes and no.  I did write 1,000 words, but by the time I finished editing it, I was down to 640.  Thus the question….Should writers focus on quantity or quality???  For me, the answer will always be quality.  The number is a goal.  This means I strive for it, but don’t sacrifice good writing to meet it. 
In my earlier stages of this project, the words literally poured from my fingertips. It was not abnormal for me to write 4-5000 words in a day. The problem was that much of it was unusable because it couldn’t be worked into the final manuscript.
Does that mean it was a waste? Absolutely not. Through all 200,000 of those words I got to know my characters and their backgrounds, and watched a plot and relationships develop.  I wrote scenes that will never make the cut because someone did something out of character or it no longer belongs in the grand scheme of things.  And that’s okay.  I was learning.  And now, as I begin to piece this novel together, I have an enormous resource to pull from.
However…I consider the work I’m doing now to be my completed project that, after even more editing, will be ready to send out to agents.  The days of writing whatever I want are over.  Every word that goes on paper now is well thought out and specifically chosen because it has a purpose. 
But….Setting a word goal for writers is a common practice and great for motivating yourself every day to stay with it.  It is so easy to get bogged down with other things, that you don’t write like you should, and a word goal definitely helps.  The problem is that some writers get so concerned with their word goal, that they forget that there is a directed storyline (or should be) that needs to be followed.
These are some questions to ask yourself to help with efficiency and keep you from going off on a wild tangent:

  1. Is what I’m writing essential to the plot?
  2. Do these words further the story or are they stagnate?
  3. What do I want to convey to the reader?  Do my words do that?
  4. Am I focused on the word goal or the story goal?
  5. Would I write differently if an agent were standing over my shoulder?
  6. If an agent asked to see what I’m writing at this moment, would I be proud? 
  7. Is this the absolute best I can do?

At the end of the day, sit down and look at what you’ve written.  Then, ask yourself these questions.  I plan on going through this list every time I review my work.  And…continue to set word goals, just remember that not meeting them does not equal failure.  It would be far worse to write 1,000 pointless words than 400 that are so good they sing.
So…even though looking at my little Writertopia progress meter in my sidebar makes me cringe due to the lack of completed words toward my final manuscript, I realize the greater goal:  WRITE QUALITY WORDS.

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