Churning Plots


image via atomicbooks. com


I usually take a long walk each day after my writing routine, and when it's not too hot outside I listen to music – high energy stuff – it quickens my step, makes me shake a leg, as the saying goes. In the summer, as now, I listen to podcasts of various sorts – they slow me down, keep me from over-revving in the heat. and that's how I came to listen yesterday to one of NPR's books podcasts, and heard, for the first time, of Plotto

A pulp writer of the early 1900's, William Wallace Cook,  assembled this book from his methodology for his assembly line writing. Most creative writing analysts claim some seven basic plots, although I've a book that claims twenty. Cook, however, claimed 1462 different plot structures. Yep, you read that right – 1462. You may look down on pulp, but you have to have something in your noodle to have written, as Cook did, fifty-four books in one year, ranging from western to romance to sci-fi.

I doubt many of Cook's books were more than 20,000 words long, which would mean, for instance, 4,000 words per day for five days, leaving a day or two per week for an orgy of editing, if he were to crank out a book per week. 

This made me think long and hard about my own writing process – in the early moments of the self-pub e-book movement, in which your best guaranteed way of being noticed in the crowd is to churn out books. Do I want to try this? It's tempting, I admit. And I suppose a lot of enterprising journalists can write at this rate. Still, while it doesn't take me all that long to write a novella, I find I need to do a lot of editing to connect my montage of thoughts into a coherent form. And another thing I find fruitful is to think about stories I'll end up writing as I'm taking my daily walks or pulling weeds from my veggie garden or yard. Cook, known as "the man who deforested Canada," wrote for $$$ in the moment, and my ego tells me that I write for long-term posterity. Still, I'm in awe of Cook's prolific nature.


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