Pulp Writers’ Abilities
I got a great question today about some of the basics the really prolific pulp writers did to be so productive. And how to go about finding out about a lot of their styles.
How I have learned about so many of the older pulp writers is by reading book about them in their own words, reading books about the era, and just finding anything I could to read about the pulp writers of the 1920s to 1950s.
A great first book to start is Frank Gruber’s The Pulp Jungle. Oh, trust me, you will realize how little you have given to be a writer after reading that. Great stuff about other pulp writers. Lester Dent, Frederick Faust, and many others. (Frank Gruber was a great pulp writer as well.)
Also, I learned a lot about the pulp writers because I was lucky enough when I came into the field to be able meet and talk with numbers of them.
And I also know some of the main modern pulp-speed writers as well.
So I got thinking after the question today about what all of the ones I have studied have in common that were very productive. What traits as writers they had similar because they were all very different men and women.
What do I mean by productive? Basically, writing above a million words a year for years and years and years.
It is the years and years and years part that is the big eliminator in this question. Often writers would have a few good years and then just vanish for one reason or another. We mostly don’t remember them.
The ones we do remember all seemed to keep the pace up for a decade or more. That created a body of work that, for the most part, has made it down through time.
Every productive pulp writer I have studied had a few work patterns in common. And they all seemed to just take most of these in stride, as if doing anything else would be just foolhardy.
1 They did regular page counts or word counts every day.
Usually seven days a week. Very few of them took time off regularly.
Frederick Faust (Max Brand and other names) did 18 pages a day every day of the week without vacation, for decades. Even when traveling with his large family. (About 4500 hundred words.)
2 They never rewrote anything. Any of them. They fixed typos on the manuscript and that was it. (As one of them said and I can’t remember who, “They don’t pay you to rewrite.”)
3 They all treated their writing as part of who they were. It was never work, just part of what they did every day.
The Main Key
However, over the years, I have come to the conclusion that they all had one ability in common that most modern writers don’t have.
4 They just let go of finished stories.
Now, I know that sounds simple and somewhat silly, but it is the driving thing for all of these productive writers. Once a story was finished and sold, it was gone. They always looked forward to the next story or novel.
They all had the natural ability to let go.
They typed at a decent pace on manual typewriters, they did one draft, they fixed typos, and they let the story go and moved on. No story had any more importance than any other story.
In my opinion, that is the hardest thing for writers to do, and most these days never attain it. But it is the secret to being extremely productive as a writer. Pulp-speed of a million words a year productive.
The enjoyment is in the writing of the story, the fun of the puzzle, the thrill of creating something. Once the story is over, they just move on to create a new story, have more fun with another puzzle, have another thrill of creating something.
Why this helps in production? Obvious first answer, at a writing speed of over a million words a year for years and years, you won’t remember older stories and you are producing so many, none of them much matter. Or have a difference from one to the other.
But I think it is more than that.
I think the really productive pulp-speed writers at a deep level don’t care about the finished product. They did the best they could while writing. That was all they could do, so them move on.
The lack of caring comes from the fact that real pulp-speed writers of any era love the process of writing. Some love it for the challenge, some love it for the creation, some love it for the fear. So when a story is finished, all the things they love about writing are done.
So they move on to the next story.
They just let go.
Very few writers have that ability. That’s why there are so few pulp-speed writers and so many writers who want to produce more but never seem to be able to.
Have fun with the writing. It is the first step to picking up production as a writer.