Monday, 2 November 2015

It's All About Quantity

November is the month when hundreds of thousands of writers from all over the world challenge themselves to write fifty thousand words in just thirty days. It’s sometimes hard to explain to a non-writer why we would want to turn out a large quantity of what is quite often garbage. Because, National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) is very definitely about quantity not quality.

In my first career, as a consultant in pharmaceutical manufacture, Quality was paramount. I spent many years talking to people in factories all around the world about getting it ‘right first time’; about quality systems, quality assurance before quality control. I even wrote a text book called ‘Quality’ which is still selling today, thirteen years later.

So when I started my second career, as a creative writer, I tried to apply the same principles to my work; and I failed miserably. Very few writers ever manage to produce polished prose first time around. We have to draft, edit and polish - often many times before we produce something we are happy enough to present to the world.

And once I realised that the first draft is supposed to be garbage - then life became a lot simpler. You can’t edit a blank piece of paper; but you can certainly edit words on a page as much - or as little - as you wish. And therein lies another potential problem. We spend so much time trying to edit the words we've already written, we sometimes forget to get on with writing new ones.

So NaNoWriMo is an opportunity to put some words on file: lots and lots of words. We don’t think about editing them until December or beyond. This month, we just write. Two years ago, I produced a whole raft for short stories which I’ve been editing and working on ever since. Last year, I produced the first draft of my next novel, Counterfeit! This year, I am writing treatments, character studies and a few chapters for the following two books: Deception! And Corruption!

So to all the other writers out there who are taking the challenge this month - good luck - and see you on the other side. To any of our readers who think we might be a bit quiet this month - there’s a good reason; and hopefully you will see the results in the coming months.


  1. NaNoWriMo is great for producing material! I miss the sheer drafting but have revisions to complete. I'm hoping to find revision bliss. :-) Best to you and all my fellow WriMos!

  2. Thanks, Charli. I'm still at the fun stage :-)