Progress Update, Quantity and Quality

The vacation is over, and life is back to (somewhat) normal, which means it is time for another progress update. There is not much to report just yet – one of my novels is currently being evaluated by a prospective publisher after my query submission resulted in a request for the manuscript sample; there are no news on two more novels; a couple of rejection notices came about; few more prospective publishers lined up for submissions for the works currently not under consideration elsewhere.

In this manner, having a number of works completed prior to actively seeking publishing is a two-edged sword. As a father of two, I can say with certainty – it is not like children. Yes, you spend a good amount of time and energy on every novel you write, and you feel very strongly about their quality and merit, but you do not feel the same way about all of them. Some novels have topics that resonate better with certain moods, or have parts you have stronger attachment to than others. And while I stand behind everything I wrote and saw fit to promote, I have my favorites, and hope that those works will be the ones that get noticed first.

Herein lays the bane of many aspiring writers. It is good to have multiple works fit for publication – in fact, the old saying about putting all of one’s eggs into the same basket is very apt. At the same time, it also creates much extra work, because not every novel will be a good fit for the same type of publisher, and an author will have to research publishers in the genres he or she might not have considered if the author was pushing only a single work. And this is the dilemma of many writers (and, I suspect, many publishers): quality versus quantity.

A writer who spends all his or her time on a single project may eventually get that project as close to perfection as possible. The problem with that is simple: it takes time and limits opportunities. Opportunities like having multiple works under consideration by different publishers, who tend to dislike simultaneous submissions. Opportunities like attempting to access several different markets that a single novel may not appeal to.

And then, there are writers who are capable of churning out novels very quickly, and who work on the premise of quantity first, hoping that if they have a dozen or so novels under consideration, something will finally get noticed. Such writers may not be able to spend as much time on each single project, but they will have more opportunities available to them on the basis on sheer number of works they are producing. This is not to say that fast writers will invariably write bad fiction – far from it, as the ultimate quality of a novel will depend more on writer’s talent than writing speed. That said, while quantity has quality all its own, an unagented writer may end up spreading him- or herself very thin by pushing too many projects.

Enter yours truly, with five novels written, revised, edited, and improved over the period of several years. As I do not depend on my literary endeavors to make a living, I can afford to create a first draft over a fairly short period – anywhere from three weeks to two or three months, depending on draft length, time available, and other pertinent factors. Then, I tend to hold off on starting a different project until I have had a chance to evaluate my current one, incorporate the input of my beta readers, and perhaps do significant rewrites. “Flight of the Locust” was originally one of my shorter novels; when I did a rewrite, I had eliminated pretty much the entirety of the first draft, taking concepts from it and writing the second draft almost from scratch, getting almost twice the length of the first draft. The second draft of “All is Dust” added another subplot, expanded on a previously minor character, and added significant depth to the universe and the actors within it, increasing the novel length by a sizable amount and developing themes that can lead straight into a sequel. All of my other works had similar edits, revisions, modifications and so on.

Thus, my answer to the dilemma was to spend time crafting several unconnected books that may appeal to different segments of the marketplace, to spend significant time on perfecting each book, and to work on promoting them at the same time. With publisher and agent response times being anywhere from several days to many months, it gives me a chance to solicit several prospective publishers or agents at the time by having several novels under consideration instead of waiting to hear back from one publisher/agent before being able to submit the sole project elsewhere. It avoids both simultaneous submissions and long times of inaction while waiting for a singular reply.

That said, my answer is far from the only one, and just because it works for me (or, rather, because it will hopefully accomplish its goal) does not mean it will be the best way for someone else. For all other aspiring or published writers reading this, what are your thoughts on the matter?

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