Friday, May 18, 2012

Guest Post: Zoe Harrington


A big thank you to you, Ashley, for allowing me this slot on your blog! I knew what I wanted to say as soon as you offered; it was a post I wanted to do from my own blog. I hope you all like it!

I was sat in my PE theory class the other day and I had to go over terminologies for the upcoming exam. One of them was SMART. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound. I realised that this can be applied to writing. I also realised that Measurable was something that wasn't as easily adapted.

How do you measure writing?

Word count? Drafts? Profits? Published works? Sales? Different people have different ideas about this.

Some believe that they need to have a mahoosive word count to call it a success. Others disagree. Take short stories and flash fiction, for example; they have small word counts but often touch us just as much as a full scale novel. 

Having multiple drafts, each (supposedly) better than the previous, is another way people measure writing. But let's face it; most of us get bored after the first couple of drafts. If that really was the way we measured our writing success then some Authors wouldn't be all that successful. 

A touchy subject is profits. It is widely acknowledged that most writers don't make a living on writing. (Although not as widely accepted!) The profit margins aren't huge in most cases and the author isn't rolling in wonga. Does this mean they failed? Absolutely not.

So is it how much work you've had published? Is it sales? Well...no. You could write one book and it could sell millions. Your neighbour could write a series and never sell more than 500 copies. 

If none of these are the answer, what is?

In my eyes, it's how many people you have touched with your words. It's how many people cling onto your plot as if it is a lifeline; drink in your descriptions like someone dying of thirst; well up as your protagonist takes a death defying leap of faith. Those are the people you truly connect with. There's no point smashing sales figures when half of your customers thought it was just 'alright'.

If you can make someone fall in love with your words over and over again— your writing has succeeded.

That is how  measure writing.

Do you agree? Maybe you have a different viewpoint. Whatever your answer, share it with us!

24 comments:

  1. "it's how many people you have touched with your words. It's how many people cling onto your plot as if it is a lifeline; drink in your descriptions like someone dying of thirst; well up as your protagonist takes a death defying leap of faith."

    Thank you, Zoe and Ashley. What a wonderful post!

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    1. You're very welcome, Linda! Thanks for the feedback. :-)

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  2. Love. It. This is so true.

    And the "mahoosive word count" can actually be a BAD thing... I'm currently trying to cut some 10K words from a WIP, and it's so difficult!

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    1. Yep! I think the big word count is a mistake many first time writers make. You're right, it can be a bad thing. It's an absolute pain when you have to cut a lot.

      Good luck with your WiP! :-)

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  4. Great post!! "it's how many people you have touched with your words." So True! I dont want to ever forget this. I didn't realize this was a guest post at first (I'm an idiot sometimes) hehehe. I will be checking out your website shortly!

    Andrea

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    1. You're not an idiot; just lost in the reading :-)
      Thanks very much for the comment and for following my blog, Andrea!

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  5. I measure it as whether one will be remembered as a writer for all time, like Shakespeare. It's not about writing books that might sell a million copies but then end up at the bottom of the bargain bin in a few years, but in having characters, themes, and stories that resonate across cultures and eras, even long after you're gone.

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    1. I think how you put it is perfect; it's about leaving your mark. Permanently.

      Couldn't have put it any better :-)

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  6. I agree with what you said: I think writing is successful when it touches other people. As I'm writing, though, I do tend to focus on word count, but that's simplt because I write a lot of flash fiction and 100-word pieces. I need to be focused on the count in those cases.

    Really enjoyed your post!

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    1. Thank you, Dana!

      Yes, there are instances when you have to consider word count. To a degree, some of the things I mentioned are used to measure writing, but they each have their cons. :-)

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  7. Great post. I love how you measure it. Excellent advice. :)

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  8. You nailed it! That's exactly the best way to measure success. I remember a very cool moment from my own crit group, when I first realized people were talking about my book, unprompted, and discussing the characters amongst themselves because they'd become so engaged with the story. That's the best feeling in the world for writers!

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    1. Thanks, Nicole!

      I agree! There is a saying, "I am an artist. If you feel the need to permanently cease discussion about my work, I have failed."

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  9. That was perfect. I love being threatened with bodily harm because people can't wait to read the next installment. They get so connected with the characters they want more before I even have it to give. I love that.
    I completely agree with you with the sales thing to. I think sales just has to do with connecting to the right person at the right time and then it works. It has little or nothing to do with the story being good or not. There have been some really bad books that have gotten wonderful ratings. I'd much rather have a smaller following of people who actually love my characters than a large following of people who think they're just meh. :)

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    1. Thanks, Jean :-)

      I didn't know where you were going with the 'bodily harm' comment at first! Haha. Yes, it is better to have a small, loyal following!

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  10. So many writers seem to be in a hurry to put out as many story as they can, regardless of quality. It's refreshing to find a writer who actually cares more about the story than the sales. I think there are two types of writers these days. There are those who see it as the latest get rich scheme. Then there are the true writers who would do it for free if they had too.

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    1. Definitely!
      Those who see it as a get rich quick scheme need to get real.

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  11. Hey Ashley, I have an award for you on my blog! :)

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  12. I started writing my novel when i first began courting my wife (back in 94) she was working as a croupier at a casino and worked crazy hours, sometimes getting in at 3.00AM.
    I knew she loved reading so I made up a little story and it grew into 1800 A4 pages. I would leave what I had written for her with a sandwich in the fridge when she got home.
    the next day she would wake asking me to write more so it went on and on. That what was got me hooked into writing, seeing her enjoyment at what I wrote. I found creataspace recently with the idea of getting the book printed to give to her as a birthday present but now Zachania is on amazon and selling!

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