Writer Wars: The Prolific and the Percolators

September 16, 2015


Yesterday I read an article I enjoyed.  To me, the lesson was: take your time writing books, pay attention to quality, and don’t feel pressured to pump out multiple novels a year, but rather do what you know is right for your stories.  Since I don’t have much time to write, and I am committed to seeing books through even if it takes years to hit gold in revisions, I appreciated the message.

But if your point and purpose as a writer is to take someone’s breath away, capture a riveting story, translate an idea — whether fantasy, love story, science fiction, human interaction, tragedy, thriller, family saga, memoir, non-fiction — in a way that raises hairs or gets someone shouting “YES!”; if you’re compelled to tell that story so beautifully, so irreverently, with such power and prose as to make a reader stop to read a line over just to have the opportunity to roll those words around one more time, then don’t listen to that advice [to write 4 books a year]. – Lorraine Devon Wilke (emphasis hers)

I posted the article in my writer’s group, not noticing that the article was somewhat condescending in tone toward those who do put out many books a year.  She implied (perhaps unintentionally) that writing many books a year means your books will be sub-par.  I heartily disagree!  Some of my favorite authors are extremely prolific.  But I failed to notice that overtone while I was appreciating the other aspects of the article that reinforced how I tend to do things.

Others drew my attention to a response article (be aware if you look it up – there is coarse language), in which Larry Correia tore the original one apart sentence-by-sentence, taking the opposite tack…that writers who take their time are the real hacks, not the other way around:

For most authors our first book is crap that probably doesn’t deserve to see the light of day. I’ve seen them referred to as books with training wheels. Pragmatic professional types stick that piece of crap in a drawer, move on with life, and write more books. Maybe they’ll come back to it and pick out all the good bits to use in other projects later, or they’ll try to edit it again once they have more experience (or your heirs will wait until you are dead and then publish it to cash in on your name), but the important thing is they move on.

Idealistic, literati artistic types will waste six years polishing that turd. At the end of it, the turd might even be so shiny it no longer looks like a turd, and they’ll publish it to rave critical reviews, and rejoice in their whopping $1.75 an hour they made from writing before going to work their shift at Starbucks. Meanwhile, the “hack” will chuckle, cash their royalty check that pays all their bills, and get back to work on book #15. – Larry Correia

Reading the second article was difficult for me, partly because I’m no fan of mocking sarcasm and rude language, but mostly because it was an extreme example of the mindset that made me appreciate the original one! 😉

At the same time, it also had good points.  Going slow doesn’t guarantee quality either.  It’s important to actually write and not just think about writing.  Etc.

At the end of the day, I was disappointed at the writer world.

Clearly there aren’t just “Mommy Wars” – there are “Writer Wars” too.  We can’t just disagree with each other.  We have to call each other “hacks.”  We have to call each other’s books “turds.”  We have to make fun of people who put out fewer books than we do and accuse them of being unprofessional.  We have to tear down the people who put out more books than we do because clearly they aren’t doing it “right.”

At the end of the day, we’re all doing the same work.  We do it at different paces, for different reasons, by different methods, and with different results.  Of course we do, because we are individuals!

But we all care about our stories, right?  We care about our characters, our worlds, and our readers.  We want our books to be the best they can be, and we search for ways to accomplish that.  We’ve all felt the sting of rejection, and celebrated the joy of a beautiful review or positive feedback.  We know what it is to get lost in a fictional universe, and try to balance that work/fun with “real life.”  We’re all human beings with feelings, and life is hard for all of us.

We have much in common.  And the important thing is to give the world good stories.

Doesn’t the world have room for both kinds of writers, the practical prolific ones and the dreamy dilly-dalliers (and all the ones in between)?  The world needs all kinds of stories, from all different personality types and backgrounds.  We need plotters and pantsers, literary and genre writers, indies and traditionally published, and yes, the prolific and the percolators.

Can’t we appreciate each other’s strengths and learn from one another without sniping at each other’s perceived disadvantages?

I don’t get it.  I truly don’t.

All I know is that the world of Christian writers and publishing should be different.  (And all praise to God, we usually are!  The thread in my group of believers was gracious and polite, even though several didn’t appreciate the article I shared.)

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits,impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3:13:-17

If you like to write fast and hard and earning lots of money is your goal, go for it!

If you like to write slow and gently, and prefer to prioritize ideals, that’s cool too.

Basically, “You do you,” as Chuck Wendig wrote in a third article I just saw this morning.  Do what you feel called to do.

Reading Jeff Gerke’s The Irresistible Novel (click that link for my review) primed me to take the writing advice I like and leave the stuff I don’t.  This controversy reminds me that the same goes for publishing advice too.  We should all be teachable, and yet remember that God didn’t make us to walk the same paths.  We are all members of one Body, and we fill different purposes in His world.  We all have different processes, and that’s not only okay, it’s GREAT!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a battle scene to write.


As inspiration comes to me.  😉

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3

What’s your style?  What are some of the best things you’ve learned that help you write better in your own style?


  1. I’m a pretty quick writer. One of my friends is slower. Another is somewhere between the two of us. I’ve pretty much accepted that every writer is going to write at a different pace. I respect the writer who takes 3 years to go from story idea to published novel. I respect the writer who publishes a new story every 6 weeks. Both are valid, and we have much to learn from both styles.

    • And both take very different skill sets too. Someone who can stick with a book for 3 years has a lot of perseverance and devotion to their project. Someone who can publish every 6 weeks is CRAZY prolific and has a bottomless wealth of ideas! Both are cool. 🙂

  2. I’ve never understood the reason for the wars either though conflict does seem to create a schadenfreude response. And the thing is that both sides, writing fast or writing slow has their pros and cons. Which one works depends on the author. It’s also a good reminder that one should be cautious about speaking in absolutes unless one is certain that something is true. Because people love nothing more, it seems, than contradicting an absolute statement.

    But what matters most, I think, is that great stories are getting put out there. Whether it’s fast or slow, it doesn’t matter.

    Though you did bring up an interesting question as to what constitutes a professional writer in the discussion. I’ve been contemplating that. I think that one indicator you (generic) are probably a professional writer when you have to start claiming it on your taxes and are not within the IRS’s hobby guidelines. Your entire income doesn’t have to be based off writing, but if it’s enough for the government to be interested and want it’s cut, it’s probably safe to refer to yourself that way. And since you get three out of five years to build that up or accumulate it, that still allows some flexibility. But it still leaves some out. :/

    There was an article though in Writer’s Digest at one time that listed a professional writer as being one who was 1) focused on writing and honing the craft 2) patient with the process 3) invested in their work and trained 4) remained disciplined in practice. Lots of interesting possibilities there.

    Anyway thank you for sharing! I hope you have a marvelous and blessed day!

    • Great thoughts, Jessica. The important thing is the stories going out into the world. Once they’re published, it doesn’t really matter how fast or slow the process was, as long as the book is good. 🙂

  3. This was a thoughtful response, my friend! I saw the title in my inbox and smiled….yesterday’s quarrel is today’s post! Good job making lemonade 🙂 Sorry that an innocent post turned into such an ordeal, but sounds like everyone learned a little about the other through the process so it’s a win-win. Your scriptures tied it all together and summed it up well. Way to be gracious!

    Is that photo you and your hubby? I love it! Hard to tell with the facial contortions but since your name is on it that’s my assumption 🙂

    • I’ll respond more to all these great comments later, but no, that is a stock photo, not my husband and me. 🙂

      • Ha ha. She kind of looks like you!

    • I like making lemonade. 😀 I certainly wouldn’t characterize what happened in ISI as a quarrel. It was more like a discussion with multiple viewpoints. The internet at large seemed to be quarreling, though – unpleasant!

  4. I love your post the best! I think you’re amazing and I think everything yesterday was handled with a huge amount of love. I think it’s great to discuss the different ways we write, and after much thought, I think you have the most balanced approach. Thanks for bearing with everything yesterday and sharing this beautiful article today! To all the plodders and the racers! We need both and should learn from each other!

  5. Good thoughts! I agree with you! Why should we all be alike? But you know I’ve struggled with the “Genre Fights” in the greater Writer Wars. People who want me to ditch literary style or squeeze my writing into the envelope of one specific, popular genre. I’ve always failed when I try to be someone else. 😉

    • I hate genre’s in general. I understand the point because I’ve learned that there are a few genres that I generally don’t enjoy much of anything in them. The books I tend to love the most cross several genres. GRRM doesn’t like them at all and I tend to agree with him. 🙂

    • Yes, let’s all be ourselves passionately! God didn’t make us to be cookie-cutter copies. “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” 🙂

  6. […] Killing Your Writing Career? (Kristin Lamb) – Clearly coming from the prolific side of the Prolific vs. Percolator debate I blogged about earlier this week, this post is still a really important thing for us perfectionists to hear. At some point […]

  7. I ran into a brief writer’s war with commenting on the James Patterson on-line course. There is a section where us novices can share with one another. Two people asked about their writing. I’m no expert, but I am experienced. On each one I gave a positive comment followed by my opinion. The one was simply the wording made it difficult to understand the sentence even in the little context I had to go on. Both of them wrote back negative comments, one was truly vitriol. I guess all they wanted was positive feedback. I’ve always wanted honest feedback. I can’t improved my craft without it. I belong to a writer’s group. We support and encourage one another. I thought this class would be the same.

    • Oh dear! That’s unpleasant. People can be so touchy. I’m thankful to be in a writer group like that too, supportive and encouraging but also honest.

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