About that time it occurred to me that I used to write a lot for the Sportsman Pilot and, as long as I had the dope and data, I might as well fix the details in my head by writing them an article.
That done I suddenly saw a fine plot for my Argosy yarn and wrote that in a matter of a day and a half.
Two months went by. Arthur Lawson came in as editor of Dell and promptly remembered Test Pilot in Argosy and demanded a story along similar lines.
In two days I wrote that.
A month after that, Florence McChesney decided that she needed a twenty thousand word flying story.
Test pilot, says I, do your stuff!
Each and every one of those yarns sold first crack out. Article for the Sportsman Pilot, short for Argosy, short for War Birds, twenty thousand worder for Five Novels.
One day of research = several hundred bucks in stories.
This naturally made me think things over and, not being quite as foolish as editors think writers are, I added up the account book and promptly went to work. Thus, the moral is yet to come.
On the dangerous profession stories which followed, I almost lost my life and broke my neck trying to make them authentic. On each one I kept a complete list of notes and a list of plots which occurred to me at the time. There is enough writing material in that file to last me at least a year. It is the finest kind of copy because it is risky in the extreme, full of drama and high tension. I havent any fears about mentioning this as any writer who is crazy enough to go down in diving suits and up in spar trees deserves all the help he can get.
But research does not end there and that is not the point of this article.
A short time ago I began to search for research on the theory that if I could get a glimmering of anything lying beyond a certain horizon I could go deep enough to find an excellent story.
I stopped doing what I used to do. There was a time when I expected a story to blaze up and scorch me all of its own accord. I have found, however, that there is a premium on divine fire and it is not very bright when used by a pulpateer. This gentleman has to write an immortal story about once every three days to keep eating.
On this plan I began to read exhaustively in old technical books, ancient travel books, forgotten literature. But not with the idea of cribbing. I wanted information and nothing else. I wanted to know how the people used to think here, how the land lay there. Given one slim fact for a background, I have found it easy to take off down the channel of research and canal-boat out a cargo of stories.