In today’s Journal
* About Anthony Trollope
* Of Interest
About Anthony Trollope
This is a bit I originally wrote and posted in the Journal way back in mid-2021. I came across it a few days ago. Yesterday, I inadvertently wrote that Trollope was a pulp writer. He wasn’t. Born in 1817, he lived roughly 100 years before the pulp era.
We’ve recently discussed the tendency of all those self-thought brilliant amateur writers and would-be writers out there to believe that writing “fast”—which actually means having a work ethic and believing in yourself—equals writing garbage. It doesn’t.
But then, that’s no real surprise, is it? Writers just starting out and those who are still hoping to be writers someday know as much about writing as the typical infant up through young teenager knows about anything at all: they “know” what they’ve heard, not what they’ve actually experienced and has proven successful. In other words, they’re speaking from a place of utter and arrogant ignorance. Read on:
Around four years ago I posted a link to a video about Anthony Trollope. The title of the video is “How to Be Prolific.” I posted the link in today’s “Of Interest” again.
The video left me feeling surprised the presenter thought Trollope was “prolific.” Measured against truly prolific writers who came along in the pulp era (say 1920 to 1950), he wasn’t.
My comment was in that vein:
“I had to laugh. Many of the old pulp writers (many of whose works are still in publication or were made into films) produced hundreds of novels in the same time frame. I write on average 3 hours per day and turned out 32 novels (plus 7 novellas and around 150 short stories) in 4 years. So 8 novels per year, average. At that rate of productivity, if I were able to write for 38 years total, I would have turned out 304 novels. And frankly, I consider myself a slacker. Just sayin’.”
Some two years later, someone else came along and replied to my comment: “Yeah, but Trollope was using pen & paper for all of it. That’d slow you down!”
Okay, he obviously missed what I was saying, that the old pulp writers, many of whom wrote on pen and paper or typewriters, were much faster than I.
So I replied, in part, “Nope. Many of the old pulp writers wrote far more than I and [they] did so with pen and paper or typewriters. But the point is, whether using pen and paper, typewriter or computer, what slows one down is ‘constructing’ a story rather than just listening to (and recording) the story the characters themselves are living.”
Another commenter (this one, hiding behind the handle “sliver tain,” a year later) wrote, “It’s surprisingly easy to write shit.”
Yes, some commenters are just that gracious and gifted with the nuances of the languange.
But there was that old myth again, that anything written “fast” must be bad. So again I responded: “What an incredibly juvenile statement. I’ll let my work speak for itself. How about you? Where can I find your books and stories?”
That’s what I wrote, and of course “sliver tain” never responded. Know why? I don’t. But I suspect s/he didn’t respond because s/he HAS no books or stories.
Anyway, I have to admit, what I really wanted to write is the following:
“Forgive me. I admit, I don’t deal well with stupid people and those who believe the best use of their day is to spout garbage in the hope of running someone else down. But as long as you’ve gotten my attention, allow me to correct you as gently as possible. I’ll retain your colorful representation of ‘poor writing’ so I can be sure you’ll understand. Okay? Is your tiny brain ready? Here goes:
“No, it isn’t easy at all to write ‘shit.’ In fact, it’s incredibly difficult. Instead of simply letting the story happen, to create ‘shit’ you have to plot and plan and edit and devise and scheme and trade atta-boys and other ‘critiques’ until your story is scrubbed and polished and Just Simply Peachy Perfect—and as far from an authentic story as it could possibly be. Hence, ‘shit,’ as you call it.
“You know, just like all the other finely polished stones in the publisher’s inbox. And oh, Heaven knows, as finely polished and perfect as You Yourself are, and you know that’s true ’cause your mommy said so.
“Good luck with that. Me? I trust my characters to convey to me the story that they, not I, are living. Like King says, I’m only their stenographer.
“Then again, what do I know? I’ve only written 73 novels, 9 novellas, over 220 short stories (and around 35 collections) and 15 or so nonfiction books, all of which are selling well. None of them will ever be purged from a drainage pipe by a plumber.
“But more to the point, what did the pulp writers know? Most of them, maybe all of them, wrote far more than I, and many of them were millionaires at a penny per word. Of course, all of that must compare very poorly with your own achievements. Which are?
“But I’m being unfair. You’re probably still making your way through the ‘talking about writing’ and ‘thinking about writing’ and ‘taking classes about writing’ stages, all while you somehow manage to teach others about writing rather than actually, you know, Writing.
“So you get yourself on into the plotting and planning and devising and critiquing and polishing stage just as quick as you can, you superbly precious creature, because sure as shootin’ the world is Just Waiting With Bated Breath to read your singular masterpiece.”
Talk with you again soon.
See “How to be Prolific – Anthony Trollope” at https://youtu.be/TdbuA6lByBE.
The Journal…………………………………… 950
Total fiction words for May……… 14404
Total fiction words for 2023………… 97868
Total nonfiction words for May… 21270
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 102960
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 200828
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 73
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.
4 thoughts on “About Anthony Trollope”
Silver Tain’s comment reminds me of a comment I saw on the Film Courage YouTube channel a few days ago that called those who managed to write six screenplays a year hacks. I wrote down a reply but ultimately decided not to post it. No matter what I say I doubt I could get through the thick layer of wall the myths laid down in the guy’s head.
Its just ironic to me how people like that will put down those who write fast but, if I’m not mistaken, On The Road by Jack Kerouac was written fast, ‘spontaneous’ prose as he called it and he didn’t believe in revising (but his editors forced him too) and these same people who say things like this would never dream of calling Kerouac a hack.
Yup. It always amazes me. People who would never dream of telling a lawyer or carpenter or plumber or mechanic how to do their job (because they don’t want to openly display their ignorance) will spout mushroom fodder all day to established, working professional writers.
Let me ask, why didn’t pen&paper stop this guy from writing 240 novels (and pretty much of other fiction):
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