Method In Their Madness
By Edward Weeks
When Kenneth Roberts withdrew from his other work and went to Italy to write his first novel he made headway at the rate of 2,200 words a day, longhand. To be sure he did nothing else but eat and sleep -- and I don't blame him! When Hatter's Castle was at white heat, Dr. Cronin turned off 50,000 words in ten days, longhand. "It nearly killed me", he said. Conrad was content to average 350 a day. Ellis Parker Butler tells us that in one year he wrote seventy-five short stories totaling about 300,000 words. Then he thought he'd try quantity production and so wrote 3,000,000 words the next year -- with, incidentally, exactly the same financial return as when he had written one-tenth as much. The million words may scare you, but 200,000 shouldn't. That figure, or something not much less, is what you ought to be capable of in a twelvemonth if you are to make that break which all aspiring writers fear and long for.
You may be sure Mr. Butler used the typewriter when he went after his non-stop flight. But I don't mean to imply that the use of the machine is largely confined to works of fiction. In my acquaintance Mr. James Truslow Adams and Dr. C. M. Fuess, both historians and biographers of excellence, compose directly on the typewriter with a mastery that I envy. What you read is not, of course, their first tune. They type and retype, fit in and strike out in a process that may be three times repeated. In addition to carrying on an enormous correspondence (which he types) Mr. Adams may publish as much as 275,000 words a year, whereas Dr. Fuess can find time for a two-volume biography while teaching English.