East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Erle Stanley Gardner’s Trick

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The writer’s life would be ideal but for the writing. That was a problem I had to overcome. Then, I read in the Guinness Book of Records about Erle Stanley Gardner – the world’s fastest novelist – who can dictate up to the rate of ten thousand words a day. That was for me. None of that romantic stuff with a typewriter. I had better uses for those two particular fingers.

The quote above is from a 1972 movie called Pulp, featuring Michael Caine as a rather sleazy pulp novelist that gets involved in a complicated – and in the end pretty ludicrous – caper with mobsters, killer and what else.


The bit about Erle Stanley Gardner is true.
Erle-Stanley-Gardner-1966The author of the famous Perry Mason hard-boiled series and a number of other crime novels and short stories, has set a target of 1.200.000 words per year at the onset of his career, and because he was a two-finger typist, he later moved on to a tape recorder, and a pool of typists – three sisters, one of which Gardner  married, and that were (all three of them) the model for the Della Street character in the Mason books.
According to one source…

Gardner’s work habits were legendary. Rising well before dawn, he would begin the day by dictating new novels for several hours. A staff of typists would transcribe the recordings and he would spend the remainder of the day revising and preparing his manuscripts to send to the publisher.

And it is also true that Gardner made it into the Guinness Book of Records.

According to the 1988 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, as of January 1, 1986, Erle Stanley Gardner’s books had sold more than 319 million copies in thirty-seven languages. This sales total makes Gardner one of the most popular fiction writers of all time. The sheer number of volumes he produced is overwhelming; 141 of his books were in print at the time of his death, including 80 in his most popular series, the Perry Mason books (another 5 were published later), 46 mystery novels of other kinds, and 15 nonfictional volumes. This list is supplemented by hundreds of short stories and magazine articles.

Not bad for a two-finger typist.

Me, I’m a four-fingers and a half typist – much to the shame of my late mother, that had been a typist before marrying. But it’s fine like this – I can pick up speed when I’m on a roll, and despite typos and other problems, I can keep up a nice speed.
Alison_CoursewareIntro_386I was taking a look at Google Docs, because of my programmed online writing session, and I found out that, among many other features, Google Docs come with an integrated dictation tool.
For unfathomable software reasons, the dictation tool only works in Chromium, and I had to install it ad hoc, but as soon as it was up and running, I tested the system and boy is the speech-to-text function neat.
It “gets” both English and Italian, and while not my cup of tea when it comes to writing, because I sort of think through the keyboard, when it comes to translating it is a wonder – I did some tests this morning, and I basically translate five times faster than I usually do. It’s absolutely great.

So, it looks like I’ve found a new took to improve and speed up my work.
Google Docs has a wealth of other tools – including a few add-ons designed to write posts and send them straight away to WordPress. I could start dictate my posts. How cool is that?

Anyway – one really never stops learning.
And I guess now I’ll have to write a review of Michael Caine’s Pulp, isn’t it?

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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