Thursday, January 9, 2014

Practice Makes Professionals.

Nice lady. Please don't throw that at me.

by Louis Shalako

On Kindleboards someone asked, ‘Does haste affect the quality of the work?’

Comments mentioned some author friends posting big word counts on Facebook and the like, which people tend to do mostly during Nano-Month. (I’m up to ten or eleven thousand words for the year, by the way, by the time I’m done this post, and it’s only January 9.)

It’s a very good question.

The answer is yes and no, and I know how you all love that one.

What I kind of said on Kb was, ‘It depends on who’s doing it.’

Hopefully that wasn’t too snarky.

But, ah, please bear with me.

If you wrote ten stories in a year, say from two to four thousand words each, that represents from twenty to forty thousand words. In a year. In ten years, that would be anywhere from two hundred thousand to four hundred thousand words, maybe from two to four books, or a bunch of shorter works.

Forget about past experience, mine or yours, forget about quality.

How much practice does it actually represent?

Speaking strictly in scientifically accurate terms, it represents 20,000 to 40,000 words of practice, no more and no less. Per year.

Ignore everything else. It’s just practice of the craft of writing—putting words down on paper, constructing sentences and paragraphs, (most of which should be almost subconscious or second nature at some point) and working with ideas.

Now think of the guy who grinds out twenty to forty thousand words a month. Some of it is crap. That might never be published. Some of it’s okay. It might end up being self-published or given away for exposure, it might go in a contest, he might publish it on a blog or website, under a girl’s name even.

What does he care? He likes the work. He’ll tackle any genre at some point just to see if he can do it, or just to have some fun with it and do something different, something no one else dared do because they were worried that somewhere out there in the world, there would be one person who didn’t much care for that author. They didn’t like a certain book or story.

Well, big deal. After a few years, we have the right to forget all that. We can move on.

Twelve months times twenty thousand words is two hundred forty thousand words…of practice, per year, if we give the guy credit for nothing else. He’s also publishing more often. He also problem-solving and trouble-shooting more often, creating more marketing images, writing more blurbs, typing in more meta-data, reading more blog posts on writing, publishing, craft…

It all adds up over time in a cumulative fashion.

Within one year he has twelve times as much experience as the guy (or girl) who writes twenty to forty thousand words a year.

That’s like twelve years of ‘experience.’

And with practice, and with experience, and no doubt, in some small way, with some confidence in the result, quality actually improves—it does not diminish with practice or experience.

It can only get better, in that sense practice is not a zero-sum game. Because so many different learning curves come together—developing a work ethic, studying other masters, listening to them talk, watching what the real pros do, and more than anything, writing story after story and book after book creates quality because it creates skill. To practice all the different aspects of self-publishing results in knowledge, skills and experience that are greater than the sum of all the individual parts.

I’ve been writing for over thirty years. Most of the progress has come in the last four or five years. But then, in the last four or five years I wrote my ass off, and it shows.

For too many years I pecked away at this and that project and dreamed of a future that sure as hell wasn’t going to be coming around and knocking on my door.

I had to go out into the world, take some risks and meet Fate halfway at least.

And now I’m knocking on your door. Because in ten years, I will probably write a minimum of five million words! It might even be more than that.

That is a veritable shit-load of books and stories, ladies and gentlemen.

I have every expectation of being pretty good at it, at some point—and let the critics fall where they may.


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