Let’s all write an extra book a year!

A recent New York Times article highlights the increasing pressure on successful writers to produce even more content to satisfy their readers’ demands for more stuff.

They are trying to satisfy impatient readers who have become used to downloading any e-book they want at the touch of a button, and the publishers who are nudging them toward greater productivity in the belief that the more their authors’ names are out in public, the bigger stars they will become.

“It used to be that once a year was a big deal,” said Lisa Scottoline, a best-selling author of thrillers. “You could saturate the market. But today the culture is a great big hungry maw, and you have to feed it.”

Writers are even being encouraged to come up with digital-only 99-cent short stories to keep their names before the public.

One word that doesn’t occur in the Times article is quality.  This is about writing as business, not writing as art.  One writer complains that “You don’t ever want to get into a situation where your worth is being judged by the amount of your productivity.”  But what else can it be judged by, if you’re pumping out thousands of words a day?

When I get around to writing up more of my rules for writing, Rule 2 will be “Revise” and Rule 3 will be “Rewrite.”  But these two rules assume that quality figures somewhere in your rationale for writing.  At a certain level of professionalism, you can create a reasonable novel in a single draft with minimal revisions — especially if you’re working in a formulaic genre like romance.  But the resulting product can’t possibly be as good as you can make it.  The ability to make a good living off your fiction is in this respect antithetical to the ability to make good fiction. I have never been able to figure out how to make that tradeoff; and that’s why I have a day job.

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