Writing to Produce

It is a rare writer’s conference or symposium where a writer doesn’t get asked: “How many words do you write a day.” Most attendees are looking for a magic formula from writers of all ilk, seeking that path to publishing. But there is no pat answer. It’s different for all of us. But if there is one truth it is this: How much you write isn’t a reflection on how well you write.

Here is what one of today’s most successful and well-known writers, Stephen King, has to say about the subject.

No one in his or her right mind would argue that quantity guarantees quality, but to suggest that quantity never produces quality strikes me as snobbish, inane and demonstrably untrue.

It is easy to look at those few books, each of extraordinary quality, and conclude that the fewer the better. Perhaps: The recently retired Philip Roth wrote multiples more than the two of them combined, and “Our Gang” was pretty awful. But then, “American Pastoral” seems to me a much finer novel than either Ms. Tartt’s “The Goldfinch” or Mr. Franzen’s “Freedom.”

My thesis here is a modest one: that prolificacy is sometimes inevitable, and has its place. The accepted definition — “producing much fruit, or foliage, or many offspring” — has an optimistic ring, at least to my ear.

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