Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Competing aphorisms

I'm restating the problem I mentioned in the previous post, because I think it has some general utility. It can be framed as a conflict between two aphorisms:

Quality is better than quantity
Best is the enemy of good

Logically, these aphorisms are not in conflict. But when time pressure comes into play, they can be. Should I pour on words, not worry about producing quality prose, keep the WPD up and just push on through? That's pretty much the philosophy behind NaNoWriMo, for instance. Or should I take my time and do it right?

I think this is an area where it's critical for an writer to know her own strengths and weaknesses. For most people (and I hear this from pros: both Steve P. and Steve B. have made the point repeatedly), getting words down on paper is a real struggle; the big issue is the self-editing/self-censoring. Aphorism 2 definitely works as an antidote to that, and I think that makes NaNoWriMo a valuable exercise.

I think I've proved that that isn't my problem.

Anyone who can write over 3000 WPD for more than a week should probably pay more attention to aphorism 1. I do have a tendency to toss things off in a hurry and do slapdash work. The good news for me is that that problem is fixable: as long as I have something down, I can work on it, improve it, add to it when I do my editing. If I have nothing down on paper (silicon), I have nothing to work with.

It does mean that for me, the editing phase will be critical. And I know I need help with it. I can only edit my own prose up to a point.

Luckily (luck has nothing to do with it), I know where to get help. God sent me a terrific team.

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