Can A Writer Write Too Much?

What do readers want?  More books. What does Stephen King give us?  More books.  But not nearly fast enough, some of you would scream.

Here's a great essay by King Can A Novelist be Too Productive? that appeared as a NY Times opinion.

King not only looks at the volume of material some authors produce, but the gaps.  (I expected him to mention Harper Lee.)

A couple short notes:

Interesting, King discusses the relevance of  John D. MacDonald, a writer who praised King in his introduction to Night Shift. I'll never forget this idea: MacDonald suggested that King is a good writer because he's written piles of junk. (My summary.) But staying faithful to the craft made King a strong writer.

King mentions that he wrote Running Man in a week. And that he once published four novels in a year. Not a bad pace!

I love this:
As a young man, my head was like a crowded movie theater where someone has just yelled “Fire!” and everyone scrambles for the exits at once. I had a thousand ideas but only 10 fingers and one typewriter. There were days — I’m not kidding about this, or exaggerating — when I thought all the clamoring voices in my mind would drive me insane.


What's nice about a writer like King -- a writer who produces a lot -- is that I can look back at seasons in my life and remember what King book I was reading. I am particularly fond of Needful Things, Gerald's Game, Dolores Claiborne and The Wastelands because they came out around my senior year of High School and freshman year of college. This was the first time I found myself waiting for King to write another novel.

Before that, earlier in High School, I was just blown away by all the stuff he'd already written. It, The Stand and all those early novels just had to be read. But once I made it to my senior year, I'd read most of the "old" stuff. There were a few false starts -- Tommyknockers and Salems' Lot. I don't know why I couldn't do Salems' back then, but it was tough.


  1. I'd say a novelist can be too productive if he publishes crap. But if everything he publishes is good (which is the case with King, I'd say), then no, I don't think a novelist can be too productive.

  2. Bryant, you think everything King publishes is good? Wait. . . I'm just checking here:
    Colorado Kid
    . . . okay, explain.

  3. I like all of those!

    The books he's published that I might say don't count as "good" for me would be Lisey's Story, Rose Madder, and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. But even those have good qualities (and the people who like Lisey's Story tend to love it).

    My point is, I don't think he shovels junk into the marketplace just because he's written it.

  4. I was working on Rose Madder -- but gave up. I need to jump back in.

    You are right, he does not shovel junk.

  5. I've actually not only read Rose Madder all the way though, but am still surprised by how much I actually like it.

    It's a shame that book doesn't get more love.

    As for the question of "writers writing too much", well, I'd say if it reads or sounds flat, keep it in the trunk. Other than that, I can't say as how I have any objections to creative types continuing to do what they know best. Just so long as they remember it's not supposed to be work, but play (although this isn't to deny that technique always requires practice).

    As for Harper Lee's so-called "sequel", my three words review: pile o'crap!