Lester Dent’s formula for writing adventure pulp fiction

author, pulp fiction, doc savage, master fiction formulaIf you’ve read my piece on the length of novels, you might know who Lester Dent was. He was the man who wrote roughly ten books a year, making a mockery of the question how long does it take to write a novel.

Lester Dent churned out pulp fiction in 1930s and 40s, credited with some 159 books in 16 years (or 181, depending on where you read). Doc Savage was an adventurer, doctor, and all round bloody-nice-guy, who endured some of the greatest hardships known to man. The stories were designed to entertain, in rapid succession, and Dent had no illusions of high literary quality. Indeed, his goal was “churning out reams and reams of sellable crap”. For his troubles, he was reportedly paid $750 a novel in the era of the Great Depression.  Doc Savage was hugely successful, with a cult following even now (just look at all these shenanigans relating to him). How did Dent produce so many stories in such a short period of time, commanding such a loyal audience? Simple. He had a formula.

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