Our Man in Wimbledon tells me of a great story he heard apparently about a novel-writing speed record attempt in Germany this week. Surely this, with its shades of the great Python sketch featuring Michael Palin giving a running commentary as F. Scott Fitzgerald (it was him, wasn’t it?) makes inroads into his new novel, was too good to be true? Sadly, it seems that way – after some time spent Googling for the story, according to the BBC it turns out it was part of Germany’s World Book Day activities, and wasn’t technically a competition but an effort by a group of 40-odd (maybe that should be 40 odd?) German authors to write and publish a book in one day, with the authors writing two pages each. I have to say I was disappointed, although according to another report, the print run of 1,000 copies sold out in five minutes, which is pretty impressive.
I wonder though who the fastest novelist actually is? I know that Anthony Burgess once wrote six novels in six months or something, and of course Barbara Cartland used to knock out her bodice-rippers on an almost weekly basis. But although Burgess was generally fast, he was under a death sentence when he wrote all those books – diagnosed (wrongly) with a brain tumour, he’d been told he had only a year to live, and wanted to provide for his potential widow – and Cartland used to dictate her novels from a sofa, which doesn’t really count as writing in my book. Plus they’re both dead. However, I do know from his excellent book On Writing that Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day every day for three months to produce the first draft of one of his blockbusters, so maybe he’d be in with a shot?