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Monday, September 21, 2009

It's All About the Pot

... You were thinking about the other kind of pot, weren't you? Naughty writer!

Sunday nights are one of the few times my Twin (Amy Laurens from Inkfever) and I are online at the same time. I'm getting ready for bed, and she's starting her Monday morning (One of us obviously lives on the wrong side of the planet. I think it might be me.). This means that Sunday night is my Rant, Rave, and Scream About Writing time.

Last night's rant was the standard: But! But! It's a rough draft!!! I HATE rough drafts! Why isn't this perfect the first time? I quit! I'm going to take up fribble farming!

My Twin laughed, teased, and even at one point called me stupid.

After much whinging (yes, that is a word) I finally had a light bulb moment. Or at least I found a very handy excuse.

I'm not SLACKING from my WIP, said I. I'm getting the next book ready for editing so when I get published (note the optimism) I'll be ready to publish on a steady schedule. I won't need to scramble to find a new plot and another story to write when the editor asks for a two book deal. Not I! This little author is going to be ready with other projects in the works and ready to do a final polish on.

Oh, yes! says the Twin. That's the Pot Theory.


Pot Theory?

It turns out that a number of years ago (ask Twin for the details) a group did a study on pots. Students were assigned the task of making pots out of clay. One half would be graded on quantity, the more pots they made the better the grade. The second half was graded on quality, just one pot, but a perfect, flawless piece of clay that was the epitome of pot-ness.

Guess who had the better pots?

Right, the quantity group. They made hundreds of pots. Some of them were terrible. Some were laughable. But some were really, really good. And all because the group going for quantity had the practice. They knew all the ways to make a pot, right or wrong.

Writing is the same way. I can spend years making one flawless manuscript. Sweating blood and tears to perfect every semicolon and comma. But it won't ever be as perfect as I want.

On the other hand, I could write hundreds of pieces. Short, long, sci-fi, fantasy, noir... whatever. But the writing gives me practice. Maybe only one tenth of my work will ever hit a shelf, but one tenth of hundreds is so much better than one tenth of one.

It's the Pot Theory.

The more you do, the better you do it, and the more you have to show for your work.

So I am off to work on a secondary pot, adding a new opening to an old book that's getting ready for a fourth incarnation. Who knows, maybe this plot will finally find Nirvana.

Photo courtesy of and copyright to Clay Pot Irrigation


  1. Ooh, what a great analogy. Thanks for sharing. :-)

  2. I love pots!

    Yup, heard that one...but its so true.

    That's why I'm glad that while I edit one wip, I make sure to plug out 500 words a day on a first draft. Best of both worlds.

  3. Great post! And very helpful too. I've been whinging about this exact subject for a few days now, and it's actually nice to see this study. I shall now apply it as gospel to my own situation.


  4. I like pot, theories, that is...
    An excellent post.. and I certainly stumbled upon it a good time in my writing.

  5. lol! Obviously that conversation had a profound impact on us both - I posted in my Monday post about it too :D And I linked to the study, if anyone's interested; it's actually an extract from a book.

    I like your theory, L, and plan to emulate it %-) :D

  6. I've heard of the Pot Theory too, there's definitely a point to it.

    Of course, even if I constantly pound out better and better drafts, does it guarantee eventually some will be perfect on the first time? I imagine if I had awhile, possibly. O:) (Immortals, anyone?) So yeah, even though I keep producing drafts, at some point I still have to make myself revise the better ones and do something with them... *sigh*

  7. I love, love, love this story! Time to get me hands dirty.

  8. Haven't heard of the Pot Theory before, but my daughter the artist can probably attest that it's true.

    As to writing a perfect 1st draft.... I've heard of only 1 author who actually does that.

    Larry Block, in one of his books on writing, said he basically writes one draft because by the time he's writing it, the book is completely in his head.

    Now, Robert Vaughn who has written more than 600 novels under more pseudonyms than I can remember says that he writes whatever his quota is for the day then the next day edits that and writes the next batch and so forth to the end of the book.

    He's written a book in as short as a week because of competing deadlines. I don't think he's ever been out of contract in 30+ years, and he's written in every genre.

  9. Yes. This is why I decided to go ahead and write and publish Supervillain of the Day, and write lots of them, and write them quickly, rather then sitting around trying to come up with the perfect novelised version. It's frustrating to look back at the first one and see everything I did wrong, but on the other hand it's amazing to see how much I've learned in just a year since I wrote those.