Quality vs. Quantity
by Rita Goldner
In the ubiquitous argument about quality vs. quantity, you might not expect me to champion the side of quantity, especially at this season of the year. Surrounded by mounds of cheap tinsel, you might be looking for a discussion of quality, but you won’t find it here. In creative pursuits like writing and marketing, it’s all about the quantity.
When motivating my art students, I caution against laboring over one painting until it’s perfect. Instead, get in a lot of “brush mileage” and the quality will improve automatically. They already have a head start on quality just by eagerly and voluntarily coming to the class. I think that if one can walk into a room and viscerally know that the furniture is placed incorrectly, he already knows about composition. And if one can pick out an outfit that goes together, she already knows about color harmony and value balance.
There are indicators for measuring your probable creative writing quality, too. If you’re annoyed by people who jump into a conversation with a non sequitur statement, then you already know the value of segue and a progression of ideas. If you go nuts when you’re recounting a funny event and someone says “It didn’t happen exactly that way” or “You forgot this little detail,” then you already know about storytelling’s impact, focus, need for dominance and subordination of elements, and simplicity. If you insist that other people in a conversation at least have a point, then you get the importance of a story arc, leading to a climax and resolution. You already recognize that conversation is an art form, not just a means of communication (which may be a blessing and a curse). So accept that as an aspiring author, you already have a leg up on the rest of the population in the quality of your writing. Now focus on quantity, or “word processor mileage.”
There are two events held annually in November for authors, focusing on quantity. The first, started in 1999, is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This event challenges participants to add 50,000 words to their novels during the 30 days of November. The sponsors call it a “difficult, but doable, goal.” The organizers offer small prizes but consider the biggest prize, which everyone can win, producing 50,000 words to edit and polish. The other event is Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo), which was started by Tara Lazar on her blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them). The goal is for participants to come up with 30 different picture book ideas in 30 days.
Both of these contests just ended, but I can’t help think that I could challenge myself on any random month to come up with 30 different plot ideas. The rules, like brainstorming, would simply be to document them, without judging. Each day might precipitate something for the next day. They should be just ideas, not fleshed out in a real outline. Then at the end of the month, I’d discard 90 percent of them and keep the best three ideas for development.
I guess I’ve just established my New Year’s Author Resolution.
Rita Goldner is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series. For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book, visit OrangutanDay.com. To view additional illustrations and other books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook.