Wednesday 3 April 2013

If it's good enough for Agatha Christie ...

I mentioned on this blog, on 16th January, that I seem to have been ambushed by a new idea for a book. I'm happy to say that it is still hanging in there and getting more complicated by the minute. It's staking a pretty strong claim to be the next thing written. It arrived with quite a bit of the story in place, but with the inevitable holes that need filling.

I've joked a lot since then about a necessary part of creating a book - staring into space and calling it plot planning, but actually that is not so far from the truth. I do like having the shape of the book, many of the scenes, and details of dialogue fixed in my mind before I start to write anything down. But I've never been quite sure where planning ends and procrastination begins. Am I fooling myself, saying that it has to be pretty much organised before I put pen to paper?

I recently re-read one of my old library of Agatha Christie classics - The Man in the Brown Suit - and in order to find out some of the background to how it was written I looked up the references in John Curran's brilliant book Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks - which uses the notebooks she left to give fascinating detail on how the author planned and drafted her stories.

Imagine my delight when I found a passage (on page 67) quoting from a radio interview, recorded n 1955, when Agatha Christie confessed that she didn't have much method in her writing - that the real work was done before the book was written. (My italics) It was then that she spent time 'thinking' and 'worrying' about the development of the story, and that the process might take a long time.

Which is more or less what happens to me too.

So - my method of working is not as unusual as I thought it was. Which is very nice to know.

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