We at Bad Advice for Writers are a little upset.
We've been dispensing official Bad Advice for a little while now (for instance, here, here and here), and we take this job seriously, because legitimately bad advice for writers is an art form, and we like to take our time crafting that advice. We have a laboratory. And white coats. We look adorable in them.
With all the work we put into this, we're displeased when someone who is not licensed and certified to administer bad advice to writers comes along and does so without even consulting our institute first.
All right, it's a little bit our fault.
A few weeks back, a famous and somewhat prolific author wrote an article in The New York Times about how writing fast isn't such a bad thing and it would be nice if some of his personal favorite authors maybe put out a novel more often than we elect Presidents. We should have taken this as a sign.
Shortly after that came another article from a not-famous, not-at-all prolific probably-author who declared that being too prolific is bad, and further that there is a maximum number of books an author should write and a year. The number she gave? "Less than four."
We have a lot of problems with this, because while this is certainly bad advice, it is not the worst bad advice, and certainly nothing our institute would ever certify. For starters, it's incredibly vague: less than four could be a lot of numbers. Three, for instance. Or even two!
Another problem is that it's clear no research was conducted to support this assertion. It appears to have been a quick back-of-the-envelope figure arrived at haphazardly with no quantifiable rigor.
This is unacceptable.
However, the piece did reveal an obvious, crying need in the book industry for a real answer to an important question: exactly what speed should a novelist operate at in order to produce a genuine, quality novel?
We have been working tirelessly all week to provide this answer. Here are our results.
Question: what is the correct number of novels a novelist should write in a year?
Based on our calculations -- 1.736
Yes, that is the exact number of novels a writer should aim for in order to create a genuine, legitimate, quality work of novelistic art.
Also, if this number looks familiar to you, it should! It's the Golden Ratio! Plus 0.118!
An amazing coincidence!
We're sure you have a lot of questions.
How did you arrive at this figure?
Math! Lots of it! Using numbers!
What can I do with this information?
Here are some more numbers for you.
If you want to write a quality novel, you need to make sure you write 0.00475 of that novel each day. This would mean a quality novel begun on January first would therefore be completed on July 30th, at roughly 3:15 PM, assuming you write every day. (This does not account for leap years.)
How many words a day this ends up being depends on the exact word count of your finished manuscript. (Little known fact: all quality novels have an exact word count, so make sure you have one!) If your manuscript is going to be 103,217 words, simply make sure you write exactly 490.28 words each day. Shorter novels, say 82,865 words, would be 393.61 words per day.
This will require discipline! You will often have no choice but to stop writing in the middle of sentences and in the middle of words! Don't give up on this, because remember, you are making a quality novel, which is not easy!
How are you defining quality novels?
Quality is an objective reality, which should require no further evaluation! It's a universal truth, much like the Golden Ratio plus 0.118!
But what do I do if I'm writing novels faster than this?
You must stop, and spend more time with your words. Go over them one letter at a time, and make absolutely sure these are the words for you. Talk to them. Caress them. Fondle them gently. Show them how much you care. (Massage their syllables, they like that.) If the words you've chosen don't reciprocate, find new words, better words, words that care about you as much as you care about them. You have to really love your words.
What if I'm taking longer to write novels than this?
That's not necessarily bad, but be careful! It may start out fine, with your carefully chosen words thriving, until one day when you and your words are both, well, a little tired of each other. When this happens, a lot of authors make the mistake of going out and finding more words, looking for that same spark they had with their earlier, perfectly polished, shaved and waxed words. They may find it, but maybe they shouldn't have! Maybe they should have been happy with the words they already had. If they're not careful, their novel could end up with as many as 300,000 lovingly fondled words, and they've taken eleven years to find all of them and assemble them just so.
Readers may gaze upon those words and think to themselves, I love these words, and be sated, and happy, until realizing there are so many more words left to love, and it's all just too much. Soon they're putting down your novel and seeing other novels. They've become binovelous, or even polynovelous. Sure, they may come back to your words again someday, like they always promised themselves they would. But they may not.
What if I'm making more money writing novels quickly?
Money is overrated. The important thing is to produce a quality novel people will talk about years from now, well after you have died of starvation. It's a known fact that for many well regarded authors, death due to poverty, alcoholism, or suicide ended up being effective career choices.
Don't make money, make elegantly wrought fiction stuffed with divinely molested words, and then die prematurely from malnutrition!
This is how art works!
That's all for this edition of Bad Advice for Writers! We'd like to remind everyone we are always here! If you need certified Bad Advice, just ask!