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What is more impressive?

Posted: December 28th, 2009, 6:22 am
by casnow
What is more impressive to you: An author that writes one very good (not bestselling, groundbreaking etc) novel per year or an author that writes two or three okay novels per year?

For the purpose of answering assume that even though author #2 in this scenario publishes more that they make the exact same amount of money, get the same amount of satisfaction, and have the same number of adoring fans. Which one impresses you more?

At first, I thought it was surely the author that put out one high quality work a year. Quality over quantity, right? But then I started to think more about it more, and thought that I was actually more impressed by author #2 since he is telling 2-3 times as many stories. He's creating more, it's just that he doesn't chose his words as carefully.

I'm actually still split on this and was just wondering what you all think? Obviously I would choose to read one absolutely out of this world unbelievably perfect novel over 20 so-so ones, but would you choose 1 pretty good novel over 2-3 novels of slightly lower quality? Tough to answer (for me anyway).

Re: What is more impressive?

Posted: December 28th, 2009, 9:08 am
by taylormillgirl
The answer is easy for me. I'd rather produce 1 quality novel than 5 mediocre books. It's just the way I am. However, I wish I could "let go" and behave more like author #2. I tend to spend way too much time agonizing over finding *just* the right word, turn of phrase, etc. and it's like digging a hole to China using a teaspoon.

Re: What is more impressive?

Posted: December 28th, 2009, 9:09 am
by Scott
I definitely appreciate the "one book" scenario more. I have a possibly irrational fear of clutter and junk and how the world's airwaves, landlines and landfills are filling up with cheap, disposable, product directed at meddling, or worse, lowest common denominator taste levels for a quick buck. Donna Tartt, bless her genius, writes one book every ten years. But you can bet that book holds its own among other shelf luminaries (to be fair, her second book hasn't been received as well). I know it sounds elitist, but the literary world used to feel that way to me and I kind of liked the high bar.

If the scenario, say, presents a choice to do one or the other and one decides to crank out the other stuff, the irrational portion of my brain would love if it remained digital. ;)

Re: What is more impressive?

Posted: December 28th, 2009, 9:30 am
by Bryan Russell/Ink
Hey, Scott, I thought the second of Tartt's books was better. :) Does that count for anything?

Re: What is more impressive?

Posted: December 28th, 2009, 11:01 am
by shadow
second all the way. That is why I am spending so much time on a novel I care for. I love my characters and I want the novel to be done to its best no matter the time limit.

Re: What is more impressive?

Posted: December 28th, 2009, 12:00 pm
by Scott
Ink wrote:Hey, Scott, I thought the second of Tartt's books was better. :) Does that count for anything?
It might for Donna, as I'll now look a little harder at buying it. :^)

Re: What is more impressive?

Posted: December 28th, 2009, 12:10 pm
by Crystal
I'd like to be the one that creates 1 great novel a year.
I am a picky reader, and though a lot of times I will force myself to finish a book no matter what, if it is just an OK book it tends to take me 5x as long to read it.

I am more impressed by 1 great novel then seeing some authors name on a shelf 100x.

Re: What is more impressive?

Posted: December 30th, 2009, 10:42 am
by casnow
Scott et al., you have Misread my question. I said just a very good novel, not a great one (Bringing up Donna Tartt's novels, which are uber-awesome is bringing up something great, not something just very good).

And I think most people are going to stay on their high horse and say that increasing quality just a tiny, tiny bit is worth the decrease in productivity, but since I am a believer that there are a lot of just "okay" books out there, allow me to repose the question:

Would you rather write 5 publishable stories that people read, and say, "That was okay, I'd read another one by that guy." or would you rather write 1 publishable story that left people saying, "That was good. I'll lend this book to my friend Bob."

I personally have pretty low standards, but that is because I really like the cheesy thrillers and comedies... I'm not a big reader of literary fiction. It actually drives me crazy when I am completely read up on my favourite author's books, and find myself mentally willing them to right faster... but that's just me.

Re: What is more impressive?

Posted: December 30th, 2009, 11:07 am
by taylormillgirl
Is the money still equal? If so, I'd still go with 1 good book over 5 "just okay" books. It's not a high horse issue for me. I'm just very hard on myself. My inner critic is a complete bastard, so it's more important to write quality over quantity. I certainly don't begrudge authors who choose differently.

Re: What is more impressive?

Posted: December 30th, 2009, 11:09 am
by Bryan Russell/Ink
I'd go with the one good book, all things being equal. Though even that wouldn't be entirely satisfying, as I'm aiming for "great". :)

Re: What is more impressive?

Posted: December 30th, 2009, 11:56 am
by robena grant
I think I'm somewhere in the middle, depending on my mood and the reason why I'm reading.

I like the author who can generate a good book every year. I trust that author, know what I'm getting. I'm not looking to be blown away by something considered highly literary, but wanting to be entertained. Commercial fiction does that for me, it's kind of a quick fix thing.

If I'm looking for something meaningful, I research literary works and then read slowly devouring every turn of phrase. Those are my keeper books, and I return to read them again every few years. My expectations of that author are different. I would understand they couldn't produce those works of art so quickly and am patient in waiting for the next.

After all that waffling : ) I guess I find both impressive, just different.

Re: What is more impressive?

Posted: December 30th, 2009, 12:19 pm
by Scott
casnow wrote:Would you rather write 5 publishable stories that people read, and say, "That was okay, I'd read another one by that guy." or would you rather write 1 publishable story that left people saying, "That was good. I'll lend this book to my friend Bob."
The second option, again. Just because we've lowered the bar a little, doesn't mean I still won't feel better that the already packed shelves aren't being filled with forgettable and serviceable fiction.
I personally have pretty low standards, but that is because I really like the cheesy thrillers and comedies... I'm not a big reader of literary fiction. It actually drives me crazy when I am completely read up on my favourite author's books, and find myself mentally willing them to right faster... but that's just me.
Heh, I figured we'd eventually get to the discussion of what "good" is. Comedy, cheesy, pulp, thriller, horror, fantasy sci-fi––all can be written well, in my view. I don't discriminate in terms of quality by genre, just personal preference. Similarly, there is good and bad lit-fiction, and I've read what I consider to be both. Simply put, I prefer not to invest time––both writing and reading––in something that will just dissipate into the ether. Hopefully, I'm able to discern what will leave more of a mark by my instincts, hard work, browsing, reading reviews and assessing recommendations.

Re: What is more impressive?

Posted: December 30th, 2009, 1:04 pm
by kristi
I've always been a quality over quantity girl -- in terms of what I read as well as what I write. I'd be ecstatic to write one great book a year and no, I can't settle for just very good.

Re: What is more impressive?

Posted: January 2nd, 2010, 11:02 pm
by trini
While cranking out a bestseller every year might be impressive I think I am more impressed with a writer who can give me a once in a lifetime book that changes my life, like William Horwood's Skallagrigg or John Crowley's Little Big or even Julian May's Intervention (ok yes, that's thrice in a lifetime...work with me). Those authors do have many more books than one but none of them could be called mediocre.

Re: What is more impressive?

Posted: January 2nd, 2010, 11:15 pm
by Kaitlyne
I'm definitely in the first camp. I'm actually probably not buy the hardcover of my favorite author's book this time around. He's started putting them out faster than he once did, but he's also working on more than one at a time and the past three or four just haven't been as good as he usually is. I'm not going to keep spending the money on something that's just mediocre. I'll eventually read it because he's my favorite author, but if he wasn't I probably would have given up on him by now.

It doesn't have to be great for me to enjoy something, but I'd much rather read something that took longer and didn't have the plot problems or the repetitive storylines, etc. I have no problem with people putting out fast work as long as it's still their best. Some people are just faster than others and that's cool. I just don't like it when someone throws something mediocre out there just to get it out faster.