Prolific writers

Prolific writers

According to Guinness World Records, L. Ron Hubbard is credited with having the most published works by one author (1,084). But the man who once said, “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion,” and promptly did so, (Hubbard founded the loony Church of Scientology), doesn’t hold a candle to Philip M. Parker. Parker, who has developed a way of generating books from templates that are filled with data from internet searches and databases, reckons his programs have written over 200,000 books!

But if titles like “The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais”, (which won a prize for Oddest Title of the Year in 2008), don’t grab you, plenty of other authors have turned out an astonishing number of books.

Still with Guinness World Records, R. L. Stine is reckoned to be the “Most prolific author of children’s horror fiction novels“. Frankly, that sounds more like a title made to fit a writer. (Where’s the record for “Most prolific author of children’s horror non-fiction novels” for example, or “Most prolific author of children’s novels featuring cats”?). Still, Stine has written over 300 novels including the Fear Street, Goosebumps, Rotten School, Mostly Ghostly, and Nightmare Room series,

Still with living authors, Nora Roberts has written more than 200 novels under at least four psuedonyms since 1981.

The late Isaac Asimov wrote 506 books, many of them non-fiction. He published books in nine of the ten Dewey Decimal System categories.

Jacob M. Appel wrote more than 200 books and reportedly received around 21,000 rejection letters — which averages out at 105 rejection letters per novel.

Enid Blyton produced around 600 books.

Barbara Cartland wrote 722 books and also holds the record for the most novels produced in one year (23).

John Creasy wrote more than 600 books under his own and ten pseudonyms.

Terrance Dicks is credited with 666 books, including around 75 based on the Doctor Who TV series.

But they all pale against Charles Hamilton who is reckoned to have written more than 100 million words in his lifetime — the equivalent of more than 1,200 80,000-word novels. Hamilton specialised in writing long-running series for weekly magazines and is perhaps most famous for the Billy Bunter books and stories, written under the pen name “Frank Richards”.

Hamilton died in 1961 at the age of 85. His first story was published in 1895. when he was 19. Over the following 66 years, he turned out the equivalent of 4,151 words a day, every day.

So, how much have you written today …?

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Secret writer’s tools – The G&O Style Guide

Pacman or Pac-Man? Phony or phoney? Post-modern or postmodern?

At some point in your writing you’re going to need a style guide. Many publishers use the definitive Chicago Manual of Style, but it’s weighty — and expensive! Online tools are quicker — and cheaper — and the best general style guide I’ve come across is the one published by the UK’s Guardian and Observer newspapers. Entries are often short and to the point:

GuardianStyle-zero  and sometimes amusing:


The front page  of the guide is a little confusing if you want to look something up quickly. Better to bookmark the A page and go from there.


Here you’ll find:

  • A style-related quote. (There’s a different one on each page, indexed to the letter concerned, from Aristotle to Zeno by way of Vampire Weekend and Yoda.)
  • A plug for the Guardian’s style guide on Twitter, worth following, if only for gems like this:




  • A clickable A-Z index (much more useful than their homepage).
  • An illustration of one of the phrases therein.
  • And the meat and potatoes, the entries themselves.


The guide is slightly English-centric. You’ll find references to the 11-plus and freshers’ week, but it’s well maintained and bang up to date.



It’s also a great “grazing” resource. Take these two entries, for example:



Or this—proof that even tired cliches can still be made to work:



(PS: It’s Pac-Man, phoney and postmodern.)


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30 awful analogies

analogiesAs Abraham Lincoln once said, “The problem with the internet is that you can’t always rely on it’s accuracy.”

The awful analogies below are widely attributed to quotes taken from high school essays by US teachers. They’re not! They were actually crafted with the express purpose of producing truly bad analogies. The original source is a 1999 Washington Post contest. Below you’ll find my Top 30—in no particular order—along with credit to the original (awful) authors.

1. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.
(Brian Broadus, Charlottesville)

2. Even in his last years, grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.
(Sandra Hull, Arlington)

3. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.
(Jerry Pannullo, Kensington)

4. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
(Malcolm Fleschner, Arlington)

5. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
(Malcolm Fleschner, Arlington)

6. “Oh, Jason, take me!” she panted, her breasts heaving like a college freshman on $1-a-beer night.
(Bonnie Speary Devore, Gaithersburg)

7. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
(John Kammer, Herndon)

8. Her artistic sense was exquisitely refined, like someone who can tell butter from I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.
(Barbara Collier, Garrett Park)

9. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
(Susan Reese, Arlington)

10.It came down the stairs looking very much like something no one had ever seen before.
(Marian Carlsson, Lexington, Va.)

11. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
(Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

12. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.
(Paul J. Kocak, Syracuse)

13. The dandelion swayed in the gentle breeze like an oscillating electric fan set on medium.
(Ralph Scott, Washington)

14. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.
(Brian Broadus, Charlottesville)

15. Her lips were red and full, like tubes of blood drawn by an inattentive phlebotomist.
(Greg Dobbins, Arlington)

16. The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object.
(Nanci Phillips Sharp, Gaithersburg)

17. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.
(Susan Reese, Arlington)

18. She was as easy as the TV Guide crossword.
(Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

19. Her eyes were like limpid pools, only they had forgotten to put in any PH cleanser.
(Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

20. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
(Brian Broadus, Charlottesville)

21. Her pants fit her like a glove, well, maybe more like a mitten, actually.
(Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

22. She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.
(Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park)

23. It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.
(Brian Broadus, Charlottesville)

24. Her voice had that tense, grating quality, like a first-generation thermal paper fax machine that needed a band tightened.
(Sue Lin Chong, Washington)

25. Outside the little snow-covered cabin, a large pile of firewood was stacked like Pamela Anderson.
(Meg Sullivan, Potomac)

26. A branch fell from the tree like a trunk falling off an elephant.
(Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park)

27. The sardines were packed as tight as the coach section of a 747.
(Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

28. The sunset displayed rich, spectacular hues like a .jpeg file at 10 percent cyan, 10 percent magenta, 60 percent yellow and 10 percent black.
(Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

29. He regarded death with hesitant dread, as if he were a commedia dell’arte troupe and death was an audience of pipe-fitters.
(Brian Broadus, Charlottesville)

30. Her eyes were shining like two marbles that someone dropped in mucus and then held up to catch the light.
(Barbara Collier, Garrett Park)


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17 quotes about writing

Easy reading is damned hard writing.
Nathaniel Hawthorne

…I have this one nasty habit. Makes me hard to live with. I write…
Robert A. Heinlein

Those who write clearly have readers; those who write obscurely have commentators.
Albert Camus

Writing historical fiction is a legitimate use of Multiple Personality disorder.
Peggy Ullman Bell

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you’re gone, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.
Benjamin Franklin

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.
Bertrand Russell

I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it by not dying.
Woody Allen

Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.
T. S. Eliot

Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.
Mark Twain

The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.
Tom Clancy
(paraphrasing Mark Twain)

A great many people think they are thinking when they are acutally rearranging their prejudices.
William James

A witty saying proves nothing.

Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.
Bertrand Russell

Destiny is not a matter of change, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.
William Jennings Bryan

Write drunk. Edit sober.
Peter De Vries

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.
Douglas Adams

The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept.
George Carlin

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Cheer up!

cheerup250Some humourous quotes about writing …


I wrote a few children’s books. Not on purpose.
Steven Wright

If Moses were alive today he’d come down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments and spend the next five years trying to get them published.

Having been unpopular in high school is not just cause for book publications.
Fran Lebowitz

I get a lot of letters from people. They say: “I want to be a writer. What should I do?” I tell them to stop writing to me and get on with it.
Ruth Rendell

If writers were good businessmen, they’d have too much sense to be writers.
Irvin S. Cobb

The road to hell is paved with adverbs.
Stephen King

If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers.
Doug Larson

Writers don’t have lifestyles. They sit in little rooms and write.
Norman Mailer

The dubious privilege of a freelance writer is he’s given the freedom to starve anywhere.
S.J. Perelman

I was sorry to hear my name mentioned as one of the great authors, because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead, so is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I am not feeling very well myself.
Mark Twain

Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore the bastard.
John Steinbeck

Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.
Christopher Hampton

The only time I’ll get good reviews is if I kill myself.
Edward Albee

About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgement.
Josh Billings

An autobiography is an obituary in serial form with the last instalment missing.
Quentin Crisp

From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.
Winston Churchill

Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.
Flannery O’Connor

Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
Dr. Samuel Johnson (to an aspiring writer)

Write a wise saying and your name will live forever.

From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend on reading it.
Groucho Marx


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Ah, so that’s what they mean!

Ever wondered what those editorial quotes on the backs of books are all about?
Here’s a quick guide:

a real tear-jerker writing so bad it makes you cry
a writer to watch as opposed to one you are actually want to read
absorbing makes a great coaster
accessible not too many big words
acclaimed poorly selling
affecting I felt something. Could’ve been the book. Could’ve been indigestion.
an ebook original no proofreading and bad formatting
breathless prose needs resuscitating
brilliantly defies categorization even the author has no clue what he’s turned in
dazzling prose so gorgeous you won’t really notice that nothing happens
definitive could have used an editor
edgy irritating
epic very long
erotic porn
gripping there’s something sticky on the cover
haunting sat unfinished for months while I read other stuff.
heart-warming major character is a dog, an old guy, or both
in the proud tradition of J R R Tolkien has a dwarf in it
literary plotless
long-awaited late
luminous not much happens
lyrical not much happens
magisterial long
meticulously researched overloaded with footnotes
novella a short story with a large font
promising début flawed
provocative about race/religion/sex
rollicking chaotic
sensual soft porn
stunning a major character dies
unflinching has a lot of bad words
weighty I’ve been lugging this monster all over town and I still can’t bring myself to finish it
wildly imaginative the writer must’ve been on drugs

(Freely adapted from One-Minute Book Reviews)

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