Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: The Work Ethic of These Best-Selling Writers is Insane

Photo by Kateryna Babaieva from Pexels:

That’s no hyperbole, either. Some of these writers have downright ludicrous levels of dedication and focus. They’re not even human, and quite possibly superhuman.

You think you’re a hard working writer because you banged out a few articles on Medium last week? Get the f*ck out of here. You’re nothing compared to these uber authors.

So let’s get started. Prepare to feel inadequate.

First up is, without a doubt, a name you’ve seen, because her books usually take up a half mile of shelf space at the library.


(Pictured above: the TX-9000 Writernator emerging from its luxury tank to obliterate writer’s block).

Her name is Danielle “The Woman of” Steel. To date, this weapon of mass production has written 185 books, including 141 novels, over a career that’s spanned six decades, and sold over 800 million copies.

And the romance novel queen is still going strong. In the first half of this year alone, she’s pumped out three books, with four more planned for the rest of 2022, including one this June. She publishes seven books a year like clockwork.

Her secret? No sleep, apparently.

According to Glamour, she works practically non-stop, sometimes all 24 hours in a day if she’s pressed for a deadline. Says Steel, “Dead or alive, rain or shine, I get to my desk and I do my work.”

For a true writing workaholic, you’d think Steel would have never had time for a personal life. But she actually has nine children. Nine! She’s also been married five times, including one marriage to a man who was an inmate at a prison when she met him for a journalism assignment.

Steel often juggles multiple projects at a time, outlining one, researching another, while writing and revising others, in order to maintain her prodigious output. She hardly eats, abstains from caffeine, scoffs at the very idea of burnout. She writes on a 1946 Olympia standard typewriter. A freaking typewriter. As in that thing Jack Torrance went mad click-clacking away at in The Shining.

Steel also has no concept of so-called writer’s block. Like every writer, she has tough days, sure. But this powerhouse offers this advice for the days when the muse is slow,

“I keep working. The more you shy away from the material, the worse it gets. You’re better off pushing through and ending up with 30 dead pages you can correct later than just sitting there with nothing.”

That’s easy for you to say, Ms. Steel, you’re a literal Terminator.

Up next is a guy some people get mixed up with Stephen King. And that’s because, like the horror master from Maine, he writes a lot of thrillers, some with supernatural elements.


(Pictured above: Dean Koontz, who actually wrote a whole book with his left hand on a hidden typewriter while this picture was taken).

But to be clear, Dean Koontz has a style all his own. He mixes and matches with different genres, often blending them together into his own special recipe.

Koontz is best known perhaps for the Odd Thomas series, which is about a short-order cook who can see dead people. But he’s been writing novels since the late 1960s.

He’s sold somewhere around 400 million copies of his books. The Wikipedia entry credits him with 91 books, but at this point it’s likely at least 130 plus. That’s another sign you’re a Robo Writer. Articles can’t even keep up with how many books you’ve actually written.

Don’t dare ask Dean Koontz if he’s working hard or hardly working. The Koontz Express is always rolling.

So, what is Mr. Koontz’s recipe for earning consideration as one of the hardest working writer’s today?

Koontz writes on the FAQ section of his website about his daily work habit:

“I work 10- and 11-hour days because in long sessions I fall away more completely into story and characters than I would in, say, a six-hour day.”

But lest you think that Koontz regards his phenomenally successful writing career just any old 9–5, the suspense master also mentions something special that keeps him motivated to churn out the pages:

“I am enchanted by the English language, by its beauty and flexibility, also by the power of storytelling to expand the mind and lift the heart.”

In addition, the writer stays motivated by his charity, the Dean and Gerda Koontz Foundation, which contributes to the severely disabled, critically ill children, and dogs.

Like his romance novelist counterpart Steel, Koontz exhibits profound focus, eschewing TV, the internet, email, and other distractions. After first starting out on a typewriter, he eventually bought an IBM Displaywriter, which he used to write for most of his career. Though recently, in 2020, he upgraded with a newer HP computer and Microsoft Word.

The type of writing tools Koontz uses may seem just seem like trivia, but it actually highlights a way he stays on task. Especially today with social media and texting, it’s easy for a writer to get distracted. But with a machine like a Displaywriter, or a typewriter, that can only perform a single operation at a time, all you have to be “distracted” by is the writing itself.

In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Koontz says:

By 6:30, I’m at my desk, then I work until dinner. I rarely have lunch, because if I eat, I get furry-minded. I do that six days a week or, if I’m at the end of a book, seven. If it’s the last quarter of a book, where the momentum is with me, I’ve been known to work 100-hour weeks.

In addition, he credits his wife Gerda, his wife of 56 years, who helps manage all the practical concerns of life (money and other domestic issues), allowing him to focus on the fiction side of things.

Never underestimate the importance of a good, supportive spouse. That’s true for writing. Or for any career, for that matter.

Man, Koontz and Steel are Warrior Writers, without a doubt. Who could possibly top them?

It’s time to talk about the gran jefa, the queso grande, the grand campeona herself.

The grand prize for Ridiculously Prolific Writer for the Ages has to go to Spanish romance author Corín Tellado.

(Pictured above: Corín Tellado. You can call her “Boss”).

I found Senora Tellado’s output mind blowing. So much, I had to whip out the old calculator to try to crunch the numbers, and see just how much this mad scribbling machine did over her career.

Yes, Ms. Tellado got me, an English major, to actually reach for the dreaded calculator and do maths. That’s like Moses parting the Red Sea.

Tellado wrote over 4,000 books in her lifetime. Mainly novelas, that ranged around 100–150 pages each. But even sticking with steamy shorter-length books, at an average 125 pages for each book, times 4,000, that comes out to roughly 500,000 pages.

A typical MS Word page might be anywhere around 500–750 words, depending on the font and type of content (description or dialogue). But even if we’re taking the lower estimate at 600 words per page on average, that means Senora Tellado wrote about 300,000,000 words in her lifetime.

Tellado lived until age 81, and was an active writer from when she sold her first novel at age 18, until her death in 2009. Broken down by days (22,995), that means the Spanish author averaged about 13,046 words PER DAY.

Simply astounding. Even if you cut that number in half to 6,523 it’s still incredibly impressive. That’s like six average-sized Medium articles a day. Every day. For 63 years. It’s fair to say Tellado would have smoked Tim Denning.

All in all, she sold over 400 million books, and remains the second most read Spanish writer of all time, after Miguel de Cervantes (the Don Quixote guy).

And there you have it. Three superhuman uber authors. Don’t dare mention the words “ghostwriter” or “coauthoring” to them. All their books came from their own keyboard-hardened fingertips.

While it may seem these writers scale the literary equivalent of Mt. Everest every year like it’s no big deal, their big secret to word mastery is actually very simple.

Good old fashioned hard work. Yep, that’s it.

They sit down and punch letters. No matter what. Every day. For as long as it takes. Until the job gets done.

A sign hangs in Ms. Steel’s office that sums it up best: “There are no miracles. There is only discipline.”

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