Can a writer be too prolific? I’ve heard from both camps on this recently. There are those who bemoan that their favorite writers produce one or two books and disappear. Others say that those who churn out story after story (shorts, novels and novellas), sacrifice quality for quantity. I’ve been accused of it myself.
I’m guessing the answer is somewhere in between. I know a few writers who are workhorses; they churn a prodigious amount of volume a month. They are professionals. They tend to freelance and ghostwrite and put out their own pet projects on the side. Some of the writers who whip out WIPs use the old pen-name trick. They have a host of pen names, one for each genre, and hide the numbers that way. If you write in several genres this will probably never get picked up on.
There are other authors of my acquaintance who’ve been working on the same novel for years. One a year is there motto and that’s about all they can handle.
Some of this can be laid at the feet of the advent of e-publishing. Quick and dirty release dates (because production time is so low – two or three rounds of edits and out as a PDF) can make a writer seem more prolific than they may actually be. Short stories are released as stand alones. A writer can have an impressive “shelf” with their publisher, but its two novellas and five stories under 7,000 words.
Honestly though, I don’t think this is a new trend. Many of the greats of Science Fiction and Fantasy had similar outputs, but it didn’t show as visibly because it was a story off to this journal or that and then a novel on the shelves. There work wasn’t collected in one place (at least until the best of anthology release). It’s more in your face with the advent of the internet.
Like I said: an imponderable. Something to think on.