Friday, April 24, 2009

Time vs. Quality

On the Firebrand Literary Blog, agent Chris Richman discusses the importance of time when implementing corrections to one's manuscript. He concludes that turning around a new version too quickly is not in an author's best interest nor does it promote a sense of depth in the changes made. He says, "If I request revisions, I’m not going to forget a project in two, three, or even six months. If it takes a writer that long to get to the changes, that just makes me assume they’re taking the revisions seriously."

I can see his point, but it does give me pause. While I do agree that making minor changes to major problems is attributable to both lazy writers and overly-enthusiastic ones, setting time thresholds on revisions seems to go against motivation.

My top 4 areas of concern:

1 - People work at different speeds. Some writers take years to pen a novel, while others only months.

2 - Learning curves vary amongst individuals. With some folks, lessons don't sink in right away, and with others, hearing it one time is all they need.

3 - Desire to please and urgency aren't bad things. There are go-getters and there's wait-for-it-to-come-to-mes.

4 - Everyone's process is different. I like to read hard-copy drafts once in a while. Some people prefer soft. One is not better than the other, but both have different time allotments.

When I get critiques, I generally make changes right away to the sample material and save as a new file. With instructions like "use more active sentences" or "watch your economy of words," I take the time to re-read my manuscript and weave in those lessons. Sometimes it takes a month. Sometimes a week.

Should I be penalized because I push all other things aside to get the job done?

On the other hand, pondering feedback and "allowing it to sit" can lead to greater understanding. Perhaps critiques are like marinades. If the meat is thick, the ingredients need more time to permeate in order to add flavor. Stubborn writers may need to soak up the criticism before cooking up a new submission.

In the end, I agree with Chris' assessment, just not 100%.

I would love to hear what you think about the concept of establishing time limits for quality of work. This applies not only to writing, but also to other professions. Do you relate excellence with completion time?

Thanks for reading.


  1. Wow, that's a tough question, especially for a Friday :) I tend to agree with you on this. I am the kind of person who will work hard on a project right when I get it. And once I start, I don't like to stop. This way I tend to get things done faster than others. It might take someone like me only a week to complete something that it would take someone else to complete in four weeks. Not because I'm better, only because I like to immediately devote myself to something I feel is important. But in the end, the outcome would still be the same. So, to answer your question, I don't relate excellence with completion time. Excellence will speak for itself. Have a great weekend!

  2. I identify with, "Different people work at different speeds." I tend to comprehend and apply changes quickly. My agent likes that I can turn things around in a heart beat - heck, screen writers have to turn in new pages within hours and it has to be top notch. In the end, if the writing is good I don't care how long it takes.