Isaac Asimov’s Prolific Writing Method

Isaac Asimov's Prolific Writing Method

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Isaac Asimov wrote over 400 books. He wrote non-fiction because that’s what he liked to write the most. He wrote science fiction and other genres of novels because that’s what his fans liked most and it paid better.

If you’ve never heard of Asimov, welcome to Earth. But seriously, maybe you don’t read science fiction. His best work was the Foundation series, but if you’d like a stand alone book, my recommendation would be Nemesis. His writing was very down to earth and easy to relate to considering how many of the stories happened on other planets. In interviews, he said that he always wrote what he knew. Thus, there are very few aliens in his stories and the cultures are similar to America, especially New York.

We’ve got the first tip from him right there. He wrote what he knew. It’s another planet, 500 years in the future, with robot servants, and the culture is the same as his own. That would sure make the writing go faster.

What else might have made Asimov so prolific?

Years of Practice

Asimov taught himself to read when he was five. He wasn’t allowed to read the pulp magazines in his parents store, but managed to get an exception made for science fiction magazines because they had the word “science” in there. This gave him early exposure to examples of short stories and serials.

He began writing short stories when he was 11 and was able to start selling them at age 18. That’s seven years of writing before he sold an article. That’s also how John Creasey and Enid Blyton started their prolific writing careers. They did a lot of writing that didn’t sell before they got good at it.

One Draft Writing

Asimov did no revisions or editing. Neither did John Creasey (600+ books) or Ryoki Inoue (1000+ novellas).

While most writers struggle with revisions, authors who put out hundreds of books seem to get away with none at all. How does that work? It looks like the “secret” is to write so many books that you learn to write your stories correctly the first time through.

That creates a dilemma for most of us. Do we start writing first drafts as writing practice knowing they won’t sell in order to learn to write in one draft? Or do we continue using the multiple draft process to perfect each novel?

I can see a way to practice both. Continue to write novels in multiple draft and write short stories in one draft. I’ve written plenty of short stories that weren’t good enough to share. It’s such a short time commitment that it makes a great way to practice single draft writing.

I’ve also noticed that after writing hundreds of blog articles (not all of them posted or worth posting), I sometimes can’t find anything to fix on the revisions. Stick with the same kind of writing for long enough and the multiple draft process may fade away naturally.

Put the Time In

Asimov wrote from 7:30am until 10pm and sometimes finished books in days. That is a huge daily time commitment and some fast writing. Putting that amount of time into daily writing would lead to speedy writing, so it’s the time that is key.

Since he wrote his stories in one draft, he must have had the entire book imagined before he began to write. All he needed to do was tell the story. With no outline to follow, he needed to keep writing before any distractions disrupted the story idea. But, what distractions? He was writing all day. He mentioned how that worked in an interview.

One Goal – Writing

In an interview with Slawek Wojtowicz he said that all he does is write, eat, sleep, and talk with his wife. Even a slow writer would maximize their writing output with a schedule like that.

I usually point out several take-aways on the analyses of prolific writers. This time, I see one. Write as much as you can every day.

Article by Ivan Izo.

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