The Manuscript Factory



     I maintain that there is a medium ground for quantity and quality. One goes up, the other comes down.

     The ground is your own finding. You know your best wordage and your best work. If you don’t keep track of both, you should.

     Write too little and your facility departs. Write too much and your quality drops. My own best wordage is seventy thousand a month. I make money at that, sell in the upper percentage brackets. But let me do twenty thousand in a month and I feel like an old machine, trying to turn over just once more before it expires. Let me do a hundred thousand in a month and I’m in possession of several piles of trips.

     The economic balance is something of your own finding. But it takes figures to find it. One month, when I was used to doing a hundred thousand per, I was stricken with some vague illness which caused great pain and sent me to bed.

     For a week I did nothing. Then, in the next, I laid there and thought about stories. My average, so I thought, was shot to the devil. Toward the last of the month, I had a small table made and, sitting up in bed, wrote a ten thousand worder and two twenty thousand worders. That was all the work I did. I sold every word and made more in eight days than I had in any previous month.

     That taught me that there must be some mean of average. I found it and the wage has stayed up.

     There is no use keeping the factory staff standing by and the machinery running when you have no raw material.

     You can’t sit down and stare at keys and wish you could write and swear at your low average for the month. If you can’t write that day, for God’s sakes don’t write. The chances are, when tomorrow arrives, and you’ve spent the yesterday groaning and doing nothing, you’ll be as mentally sterile as before.

     Forget what you read about having to work so many hours every day. No writer I know has regular office hours. When you can’t write, when it’s raining and the kid’s crying, go see a movie, go talk to a cop, go dig up a book of fairy stories. But don’t sweat inactively over a mill. You’re just keeping the staff standing by and the machinery running, cutting into your overhead and putting out nothing. You’re costing yourself money.

The Manuscript Factory continued...

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