I went to hear this fellow give a talk tonight. His name is Alexander McCall Smith and he is the author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series among other works. He’s written about a metric ton of stuff. You can check out his bibliography here if you like. Suffice it to say, he is a fascinating man who has led a pretty interesting life. He gives a very funny talk as well.
The part that interested me the most was his discussion of the writing process. He puts out five books a year and writes about a thousand words an hour. He likes to get up early and write between 4am and 7am. He said the words just flow. The story is just coming out of his subconscious and he doesn’t know what the characters are going to say until he types it. It’s like he can hear their voices and he’s dictating their words. That description was very comforting for me. Because I never know what my characters are going to do or say or even why. He had no idea that his main character in No.1 Ladies Detective Agency was going to open a detective agency until he typed it. It could just have easily been a dry cleaners. He wondered if there isn’t a niche to fill with dry cleaning fiction. It occurred to me that might make a great mystery series as all sorts of interesting things are liable to come into a dry cleaners. However, no mystery-solving dry cleaner has started to dictate his/her llife to me. So I think I’m safe for now. Still it is comforting to know that others are also bound to sit and type the words of the invisible people in their heads. I suppose the typing and the editing is what separates us from the people talking and pointing on the bus. (as an aside, my husband Tim says he can tell when I’m writing dialogue in my head because my eyes dark back and forth like I’m looking at different people speaking) I always feel better when I hear writers (especially successful ones) say things like that. He also said that he has particular pieces of music he likes to play over and over again when writing in the voice of certain characters. Again, I’m not alone. Bazinga!
He described himself as suffering from serial novelization. There is no cure for this. You just keep writing novels until you die. I think I’ve got it, too.
Oh, well. Back to finishing What the Chat Dragged In and figuring out just who is going to be dictating to me for National Novel Writing Month.