Writing Machines of the 20th Century

The envy of one-hit-wonders over, ‘writing machines’ as I have nicknamed the following six writers, have produced an enormous collection of work during their lifetime. A startlingly high concentration of these prolific penmen/women were active in the twentieth century, and are listed here, as the most efficient writing machines of the twentieth century.


Dame Agatha Christie

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From the publication of her first book in 1920, ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’, Agatha Christie published a novel every year- some years publishing two or three (without taking into account her short stories, poetry, plays or autobiographies) – until a few years before her death in 1976. Not only were her contributions to the literary field plentiful, but she is currently the bestselling author of all time, having sold over two billion copies of her books worldwide.

There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.


Stephen King

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Publishing almost a book a year, Stephen King is one of the most modern prolific authors on this list. First published in 1974 with his first horror novel ‘Carrie’, this author continues to be as consistently prolific to this day, despite the distractions of the 21st century. Since the turn of the millennium, Stephen King has released at least one novel every year and boasts a daily word count of two thousand. King typically finishes the first draft of a novel within three months

Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing to do is to shovel shit from a sitting position.


R. L. Stine

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The second horror enthusiast on this list, Stine is best known for the ‘Goosebumps’ series, though he wrote multiple other series and stand-alones for children and young adult audiences. With an average output of 12 novels per year and a record of 49 books published in one year, Stine undoubtedly deserves to be mentioned on this list.

I’ve had a very sheltered life. What can happen to you if you stay home writing all day?


Nora Roberts

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To date, Nora Roberts has produced over 200 novels, most of which are romances. Whilst Roberts was prevalent as a romance author in the 20th century, she has continued to wield her lusty pen well into the 21st century, and continues to provide captivating romances for her readers (as well as some fantasy and suspense novels). Roberts is rumoured to write for eight hours a day, even on holidays.

Each book has to receive your best effort every single time. No slacking.


Isaac Asimov

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Not only did Asimov publish over 500 books in his lifetime, but he wrote on a plethora of topics, to the extent that his books are included in all major categories of the Dewey Decimal System, with the exception of category 100: philosophy and psychology. As well as being a celebrated author, Asimov was a professor of biochemistry at Boston University, making him not just a prolific author, but a tremendous overachiever.

If my doctor told me I only had six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.


Enid Blyton

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Enid Blyton is the bestselling children’s author of all time. Publishing over 750 books in her lifetime, Blyton is the most prolific author on this list. Writing up to six thousand words a day, Blyton would often complete a novel in a matter of weeks, making her the ultimate 20th-century writing machine. Her series’ for children remain household names: from ‘The Famous Five’ to ‘Mallory Towers’, ‘The Naughtiest Girl’ to ‘The Secret Seven’, Blyton’s many, many books remain in people’s hearts, and homes, over sixty years after their first publication.

Writing for children is an art in itself, and a most interesting one.

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