Friday, May 23, 2008

2,000 words a day

At the Times, Peter Kemp interviews Sebastian Faulks on what it was like writing the new Bond book. A great bit here:
Subject matter apart, I wonder how easy Fleming’s not very individualised style was to emulate. Faulks’s reply reminds you that, like Fleming, he spent years working on newspapers. “I think it’s standard journalistic: no semicolons, few adverbs, few adjectives, short sentences, a lot of verbs, a lot of concrete nouns. These are the tools, and that’s literally the style.” More distinctive, he points out, is the tone, “a sort of slight hauteur that was a little bit harder to catch – a little bit cold and a little bit superior in places”. To capture its cadences of “I’m more worldly than you”, Faulks “sometimes imagined myself sucking on my teeth, with perhaps a cigarette-holder”.

Another stimulant was a magazine piece Fleming published in 1962, How to Write a Thriller. It’s an article, I find, on reading it after the interview, in which Fleming is almost startlingly forthright about his intents as an author: “The target of my books... lay somewhere between the solar plexus and, well, the upper thigh”; “They are written for warm-blooded heterosexuals in railway trains, airplanes or beds”. But it offers, Faulks stresses, a pro’s invaluable advice, namely: “You’ve got to do it all quickly. You give yourself six weeks. You write 2,000 words a day and that will give you the required length. Don’t stop. Don’t agonise. Don’t try to correct your prose as you go along. Don’t worry too much about the details. You can always revise them later and get it checked by experts.”

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