Are you too productive as a novelist?
Bizarro writer and diy-er Christoph Paul was recently (and rightly so) profiled in the Huffington Post about his excellent book promotional and marketing capabilities. There’s a lot there to consume, but one quote really stuck out to me was one not from Paul, but from another writer about how often you should put out a book:
“Eric Shelman, another author at the Miami International Book fair who has written and self-published eleven books since 2011 advises, “You have to stay on it. With independents like us, never let up. Get a book out quickly. Unless you’re Stephen King, you should have a book out every four or five months.”
Every four or five months?????
That seems bonkers to me.
I’ve put out some small ebooks of essays and tweets, but I can’t imagine putting out a real novel that often. I don’t have the serialized mindset. I don’t have the trilogy with a hook. Maybe I should, I don’t know. (BTW, I later asked Christoph on Facebook about the above quote and he said he agreed with it, at least the “getting a book out quickly” part).
Funny thing is, Eric Shelman says Stephen King doesn’t have to put out a book that often, but then Stephen King defends putting out a book that often. Here’ our man in the NY Times recently defending productivity.
Though he defends the idea that some authors with lots of books can be of high-quality (he notes Agatha Christie), he also says this: As with most postulates dealing with subjective perceptions, the idea that prolific writing equals bad writing must be treated with caution. Mostly, it seems to be true.
His main rub though is that anyone who waits a really long time is automatically considered to be of high-quality, which isn’t true either. Again, from King:
No one in his or her right mind would argue that quantity guarantees quality, but to suggest that quantity never produces quality strikes me as snobbish, inane and demonstrably untrue.
I guess I don’t have as many stories to tell as Christoph or Eric Shelman or Stephen King. I also want to stand by my work after I put it out. They probably are really proud of their work, I just can’t create work that I’m proud of that fast.
My perspective: Write quickly, but don’t publish everything you write.
Here’s why: You’re gonna make mistakes. You’re gonna need some time for editing. You’ll probably still want to write everyday, but not everything you write will be amazing.
But keep writing.