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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Anthony Trollope’s Writing Strategy

Anthony Trollope was one of the most successful Victorian writers. He wrote over 80 very lengthy novels, travel books, and short story collections. The most curious thing about his prolific writing career, though, is that, all the time he was churning out his 800-page-long novels, Trollope had a full time job that had nothing to do with writing. Trollope worked for the Postal Service and his job often involved extensive traveling. So how did the writer manage to create so many high-quality works of fiction while working this very demanding job?

Trollope’s life-long regimen of writing consisted of writing for at least two hours a day every day irrespective of where he was or what he was doing. If his regular job required that he get to the office by 8 am, he would wake up at 6, write for two hours, and then go to work. On his extensive travels, he always managed to make a writing space for himself to fulfill his writing goal for the day. He had a diary where he recorded how much he managed to write each day. Days when no writing was done for reasons of health or family problems were also recorded.

Trollope didn’t come up with this strategy on his own. He learned it from his mother who, at the age of 51, had found herself with no money, a mountain of debt, a chronically depressed husband, and a bunch of children who relied upon her to provide for them even in adulthood. So Mrs. Trollope decided to become a writer. She would get up each morning – often as early as four am – and do her two daily hours of writing before assuming the endless duties of running a Victorian household. She didn’t create any masterpieces but the books she wrote allowed her to repay her husband’s debts, create a comfortable lifestyle for herself and her children, travel, and lead an exciting life of a bestselling author.

I gleaned these interesting facts from Victoria Glendinning’s biography of Trollope.

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9 thoughts on “Anthony Trollope’s Writing Strategy

  1. I’ve heard that technique advocated before, but didn’t know the story of Mrs Trollope. How interesting!

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  2. I was just at a graduate student seminar and one of the professors told us about Trollope as an example of how we should try to finish our dissertations.

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  3. I did my entire dissertation in 10 months by writing for 3 hours a day 5 days a week.

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  4. Great anecdote, Clarissa! Paul Silvia also cites Trollope as a model in his book _How to Write a Lot_ which I highly recommend.

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  5. I wonder if Trollope’s mother was like Lady Carbury in any other ways?

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    • Ah, I see a fellow reader of Trollope. 🙂 Mrs. Trollope also shared with Lady Carbury an unhealthy dedication to her sons and a lack of interest in her daughters. She worked hard to keep her useless son Tom entertained and provided for. She tried finding him employment but working bored him. 🙂 Also, Mrs. Trollope was very good at manipulating the editors and creating a buzz around her work.

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  6. Fascinating! I have heard this sort of story about many academic writers as well. I know the two hour a day method works wonders for me as well!

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  7. My understanding is that he also had an amount to write – 250 words every 15 minutes.

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