You may have run across this meme out on social media concerning Terry Prachett’s writing habits:
This testimonial is made by someone who discovered “The Prachett Principle,” which is an established statement Sir Terry is on record as having made. So, whether he did it or not is not in question.
Why ask if he did say it? Because we live in a universe where people are willing to say anything, because there are too many people willing to believe anything. With truth a more precious commodity than gold or plutonium, and harder to produce than social justice, just about everything needs to be asked of it, “U fr real…?”
Sadly, that’s where we are, the end result of people trying to mine the information superhighway to keep people on a narrow lane where what they want is for them to believe in absurdities as part of their overall plan. So as a result, it’s now part of the process going forward:
- Read a statement
- Verify that statement
So, at least we know Prachett said that.
But, did that actually happen?
To that end, that’s easy to verify: Do the math:
Now, 400 words per day over the course of a year (365.25 days, to take into account a leap year) = 146,100 words.
Assuming he kept this schedule from 1971, when he published his first book, The Carpet People, through 2014, when his health issues made it impossible to attend a Discworld convention, that comes to 43 years, which give us = 6,282,300 words.
Assuming that we look at novels where he was the sole author that average (rough guess) about 73,000 words apiece, that gives us about, oh, 86 novels.
When we try and come up with a rough examination of all of Sir Terry’s output (trying to hold aside collaborations, dramatizations, and adjacent tie-in materials), this figure holds up well. If anything, a back of the envelope count shows us being well below that, and with some room to allow for variances (a longer book here, a collaboration where he built on previously written materials there).
Is it worth it, spending time that could be used elsewise to challenge a heartfelt statement that honors a beloved writer?
Yes, it is; even if what we find is indeed quite true, the fact that it’s verified makes it all the more precious. And better to go through the process and be able to treasure those found than to just let it slide along with the sludge.
Melius est semper ut reprehendo…