Prolific

From dictionary.com: prolific is defined as producing in large quantities or with great frequency; highly productive: a prolific writer.

It’s true, some writers can push out a lot more words than others. Recently I heard a comparison between Toni Morrison and Danielle Steel to show that Toni Morrison had 9 novels out to Danielle Steel’s 70. However, I counted this morning and I got 86 for a similar time period. To compare with an author I’ve actually read – Mercedes Lackey has 116 novels out in half the time, just over twenty years instead of forty.

Mercedes Lackey is one author I think of as prolific. She’s been described that way on her book jackets. Sometimes I wonder if that’s what you say when you’re not sure what else to say, but over a hundred novels out in twenty years? I’m not sure there’s another word to describe that. One great thing about a prolific author is a reader spends much less time lurking in bookstores trying to find that next sequel. I’m sure I could put Dean Koontz in there as another example.

So when a new friend from the festival and I were chatting and I explained how I couldn’t really combine all these ideas I have because they’re so different – she said I might just have to be prolific. And she might be right. Well, there might be a way to combine stories about teen pregnancy, time travel, and the random urban fantasy in my head, but they each have their own story lines. Not to mention the mainstream YA novel I’ve been working on lately.

Though I’ll admit I’ve let a lot of things get between me and that novel lately. However, I figured out how to show the one scene I’ve been missing over the weekend, so I think I can dig into that rewrite pretty well now.

Maybe this overflow of ideas is just what happens to some authors. We can’t stop the ideas from flowing and we just can’t wait to get to the next one, though we do our level best to make a good solid manuscript before moving on. Is that why I’m happy to put a story to bed at some point and not endlessly rewrite the same characters over and over? I have a couple more sets of characters telling me their stories already – I can’t make just one into the baby of the family and coddle them more than they need.

What are your thoughts of prolific – or not – writers? What do you think drives them to put out that much work? Why don’t all writers do this?

Critique Group

Writers and critique groups can’t be separated. Many writers need to have feedback to polish their stories, and critique groups are a good place to find that.

But what do you look for in a group? Where do you find one? How do you know it’s the right group for you?

Look for a group that is as serious as you are about writing, not more or less. If it’s a bad fit, you’ll either outstrip them with your progress or they’ll leave you behind. The meeting times need to work for you. Frequency needs to be long enough for you to get something else ready and not too frequent that you spent more time reviewing other’s work than minding your own.

One way to find a group is to ask other writers. They know which groups are good and can let you know a bit about it. Libraries and bookstores often host them. There are also a lot of writers online willing to meet virtually.

Knowing if it’s the right group for you is an individual decision. Can you get to the meetings and hold up your end of the critique? Are you getting the feedback you need for the piece? Can you work around all the personalities in the group?

That’s always a good question – the other people in the group. If you’re part of an existing group, they made it work. Some of them might grate on you, but the important part is working together. Sometimes it might seem impossible, but if you’re still learning from the group and getting what you need, it’s worth working against a difficult personality.

I hate missing my critique group. Luckily, I should be able to see them a bit next Saturday. I only hope I can get my stuff together by then.