L. Ron Hubbard, center second row, with members of the New York chapter of the American Fiction Guild, of which he served as president in 1936.

     The point here, as LRH so appropriately phrased it, and a point reiterated in one way or another by both Chandler and Hammett: “If you write insincerely, if you think the lowest pulp can be written insincerely and still sell, then you’re in for trouble unless your luck is terribly good. And luck rarely strikes twice.”

     All this and more is the stuff of Ron’s first instructional essay on the business of writing for the pulps. Aptly entitled “The Manuscript Factory,” it dates from late 1935, or his formal admittance into the professional fold as President of New York’s American Fiction Guild chapter. His residence stood at the 44th Street Hotel in Manhattan, augmented with a rented desk from the Wholey Office Equipment Company on Madison Avenue. Notwithstanding the continual clamor of “ten thousand taxi drivers,” he continued to work much as before: “plotted the yarn in my sleep, rose and wrote it.” Meals were generally taken at Rossoff’s, unofficial Guild headquarters and watering hole for the likes of Lester “Doc Savage” Dent and Walter “the Shadow” Gibson. In addition to regular duties – enlisting the New York City coroner to enlighten members on strange forms of murder – Ron’s tenure as Guild president was largely devoted to the neophyte author. In particular, he sought their admittance to the Guild in the status of “novice,” and otherwise worked to ease their entrance into the stables of a Five Novels Monthly or a Thrilling Adventures. He also passed on more than a few worthy names to his own agent extraordinaire, the wildly eccentric Ed Bodin who boasted $20,000 in annual sales, but still shared an office with a button broker and bill collector. Then, too, we find what is reprinted here for the education of all.

     Considering what those “gentlemen of the craft” typically offered in the way of advice, Ron’s “Manuscript Factory” is remarkably candid and enlightening. For the fact is, those two or three hundred hard-line pulpateers were generally a guarded lot, and particularly suspicious of those who would encroach upon their markets. There are accounts – possibly apocryphal, possibly not – of authors who actually came to blows over stolen plot twists. Then again, one hears of raging jealousies over half-a-penny advances in pay. In either case, here is what L. Ron Hubbard initially “learned about this writing business.”

American Fiction Guild President’s Cards

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