Quality Versus Quantity
Recently there was a post in my writer’s forum on Robert A. Heinlein’s Rules for Writing Speculative Fiction (Appeared in his essay On Writing Speculative Fiction in 1947). The poster argued that the rule; “You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.” was no longer a valid business practice in today’s market. His argument is sound, and I have already blogged on my thoughts on the rewriting circle several times (mentioned here), so I don’t plan to do into it.
But it did involve lengthy discussion about the need to constantly rewrite and ensure you put out high quality work. The argument was that, in the 1950s, there were so many pro rate markets that there was far more demand then supply. Therefore established authors (and new ones) could quickly turn out a high amounts of manuscripts and be able to sell them. So I thought I would elaborate on the quality versus quantity debate
If you throw darts at a target, one at a time, you might hit the bulls-eye but it may take a while. But, if you throw 1,000 darts at the target, surely one of them will hit the bull-eye and quickly.
Obviously, simple statistics would show that the more works, you put out the more likely you should be to get published faster. And the slower you put out works the longer is should take. But, if there is one thing I have learned, math has little place is art.
But the truth is you have to submit works to ever get them published. And very few people are ever satisfied with one published work.
If you take time learning how to throw a dart. You study how darts fly, how to aim, and the correct throwing techniques. Then you take that one dart, and throw it at the target, you are more likely to hit the bulls-eye.
There are a lot fewer pro rate markets out there. It would be a good idea to understand the craft, and write well, before you cast your dart. However, when is a manuscript ever perfect? I’ve never written one.
But the truth is you have to write well, and edit them well, to ever get published.
So do you throw 1000 darts or cast that one best shot? I think it is a bit more complex then that. After all, you could throw 1000 darts and they all miss the bulls-eye. Or you could spend years studying darts, only to miss that one best shot.
There is really a fine balance between the two. If you throw one dart a year, you won’t hit the target much (maybe with blind luck) but you also won’t get better. But if you throw darts regularly, slowly you will get closer to your bulls-eye. You need to submit often and you need to do a few rewrites. How many? Well that depends on your target.
I think the first thing you have to do is define your bulls-eye. If it is just getting published, then there are a ton of markets. If you want some type of payment, there are still a lot. And, if you want a pro-rate payment there are only a few.
This is why I use the Darts analogy. Because I think you should have a target, with a bulls-eye in the middle. That bulls-eye is you best case scenario, the big deal for you. Mine looks something like this:
So, make your target. After all you need to know what you are aiming for. Always aim for your bulls-eye. You may not hit it, but keep throwing those darts. Throw your darts often enough that you learn each time, but not so fast that you sacrifice accuracy for the odds.