Enid Blyton was a children’s author who wrote over 600 books, sometimes as many as 40 per year. Her first book was published in 1922, so a lack of competition could partly explain how she got published. How did she write so many books?
Her first book was 24 pages long. If that was her average book length, we’d know her secret already. It wasn’t her average. When I was a child, I bought 10 of her Secret Seven books at a library book sale. If memory serves, and sometimes it doesn’t, the books were between 200-300 pages each. Are there any clues as to how she could write 600 books?
In the 1950s, her work was criticized as unchallenging and biased. Keeping the stories simple and one-sided would help make them easy to write, but it’s not enough. We want more clues and there are some.
Start Writing Early
Like John Creasey, Blyton excelled in writing from a young age. When she was 14, she entered a children’s poetry competition and the sponsor encouraged her to write more. She decided to become a writer and received many rejections in the early years. These made her more determined to succeed.
She has been described as a workaholic and that is as good an explanation for prolific writing as any. Seat in the chair, writing away.
This is the greatest contribution to becoming a successful writer, prolific or not. Spend a lot of time writing.
Seat of Your Pants Writing
Blyton took a shortcut that would also increase her output. Most authors write a plot before starting, but she did not. She found out how the story was going to end as she wrote it.
Other prolific authors have said they wrote all of their books in one draft and sent that to the publisher. Perhaps they also made up the plot as they went along.
Stick to the Plan
As with many prolific writers, she often wrote several books using the same characters. This would speed up the writing process. Little work would be needed for characterization, the mood of the books would be the same, and the plots, especially in children’s books, could be carbon copies.
Sticking to the plan isn’t just a method used by prolific writers. Many authors who only put out a book every one to three years also write using the same characters. When readers find a main character they like, they’ll keep buying those stories. I’m think of the characters Alex Cross by James Patterson, Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling, Inspector Rebus by Ian Rankin, the list could go on for many pages.
But, you need to write that first book before you can use “stick to the plan”.
The take-aways here are keeping it simple, dispensing with plots and the multiple draft process, and, most important of all, spending lots of time writing.
I’m not sure I like Blytons prolific writing methods much. Oversimplifying and dispensing with plots doesn’t sound good. Writing in one draft is a long-term goal that could happen after writing lots of books. I do like the idea of sticking with characters that are well received. What do you think?
Article by Ivan Izo.