Quantity or Quality

PhotoFunia Keep Calm Regular 2013-11-18 07 46 37

The other day, I was having a conversation with my writing partner about our progress. We both have full time jobs and families. As a result, our writing goals sometimes take a back burner to daily responsibilities. She asked me how the story I was writing for NaNoWriMo was coming along. This is supposed to be one of the great things about telling people you’re writing a novel in the month of November, culpability. You want to be able to say you’ve made progress and are moving along towards that 50,000 word goal. Sadly, that is not the case for me this year.

Then I asked her how her writing was progressing. Her statement stuck with me. “I wrote one really great sentence today!”

That was it. That’s all she wrote-“one really great sentence”. No more would come out of her.

It got me to thinking. Sometimes I sit down and write hundreds or thousands of words in a day, only to delete every single one of them in my editing process. Yet here she put everything into “one really great sentence” that can become the cornerstone of her story.

So, which is the most productive writing session- hundreds or thousands of words or “one really great sentence”?

I think they both are productive in their own ways. The words I delete or edit have to come out of me to get to the story beyond them. Among those words are gems that may lead to much greater things along the process.

As for that “one really great sentence”, that’s something every writer needs to produce at one time or another to keep them motivated and engaged in their writing. It could be the spring board for some more greatness down the line.

Have you ever had the experience of writing “one really great sentence”? How did that affect the rest of your story?


  1. (I apologize for the length of this… Tangents, I tell you…)

    It’s a lovely conundrum, isn’t it? Quality? Quantity? Anything can turn a story, and it’s especially true for one great sentence. That one line has the potential to cause a shift. It can alter your mood. It can change how quickly your ideas develop and when/how they hit the page. It’s almost similar to that time traveling cliche that you see on television shows and movies: once you go back in time and you simply step on the wrong flower or kill the wrong bug, you can change the course of history. It’s a mistake during a sporting event that changes the mood of the crowd, players, and coaches when it comes to deciding what play to move ahead with.

    However, the writing can be overwhelming, and that one segment can take a lot out of you, but that is up to personal preference. That one sentence may convince you to stop and continue the next day. So be it. In the long run, the grand scheme of things, we want our work to be quality. It’s probably for the best to stop in the moment while you’re ahead. The process will always be there, and the progress will be inevitable.

    Luckily, we don’t have to travel back in time when it comes to altering our work.

    • I agree with you Christopher, writing can be overwhelming. There are days I have to give myself a little pep talk to even power up my computer. Quality is, of course, what we all strive for in the end. The important thing is that we keep writing and , as you stated, progress will be inevitable. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

  2. Maribeth

    Great post! We are the tortoises. Our work may be produced slower than others but hopefully in the end we win the race. 🙂 Mar

  3. I’ve had moments like that, where a single phrase or sentence stood out from everything I’d written in a late-night session. I like, at such moments, to think of the Tolkien story, “Leaf By Niggle.” and imagine this one sentence alone surviving all my work. The next morning, by the light of dawn, I realize the sentence calls way too much attention to itself, doesn’t fit the theme or story, or is awkward in some way, and I delete it with barely a moment’s hesitation.

    • Yes that one great sentence doesn’t always make it into our final draft. But who knows, it my show up somewhere else in the future. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment!

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