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How do you work?

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  • How do you work?

    Hi, Mike.

    Before anything, I must apologize for my English speak. I can understand and read it without problems, but to write it is another story... Well, my name is Luis Manuel Ruiz, I'm a Spanish novelist and have produced some works about suspense, terror, phantasy and so on. Mike, I've just discovered your Elric's novels in the Orion paperback edition and must say I'm overthrilled: I've found in them some quality I believed was forgotten since Lovecraft and Howard. Elric has driven me to Von Bek, that I only can calificate as genial. Reading all this, I've found some questions I would like to put to you. They are about your way of working.

    First: How much time do you spend to write a single novel? And then: How much time do you work a day? Do you work in more than a story at the same time? Which is the hardest moment when you create a plot?

    I hope you don't think I'm abusing you, but I've a great curiosity about your litterary handscraft, since I'm dedicated myself to the same profession.

    Thank you very much: it's a huge pleasure to meet you.

    Luis Manuel Ruiz

  • #2
    Thought I'd bump this thread up as it was hidden down the bottom of the page and it's likely Mike may have missed it previously. Hope you don't mind Mike?
    'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

    Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks, Marca. Sorry, Luis.
      I'm very pleased with the new Elric editions. I've had some tremendous reviews from Spain in the past and it was a matter of some dismay to me that the books had gone out of print, especially given their roots in Peninsula Romance which, as I say in Wizardry and Wild Romance, my critical book, are the roots of the whole Epic Fantasy genre.
      Apart from the most recent, which took me a month or more to write, the early fantasy novels never took more than three weeks and in the 60s and early 70s never took more than three days. I put this down to having a natural sense of structure, rooted in a study of the form. Of course, these methods of construction have now become pretty common to the genre and don't seem as original as they seemed to me at the time. One of the reasons I've taken longer to write the new Elrics is because I was trying to work out new ways of writing Epic Fantasy. I recently retired from writing any further novels of that kind, though I'm still doing short stories, because I don't believe there's anything new I can bring to the genre and because most of my methods have been incorporated into the genre as a whole.

      I do tend to write more than one short story at a time, but only in the beginning stages. After a few pages, I'll devote the whole time to one particular story. I used to say that I wrote novels in such a short time because I had a butterfly mind and couldn't hold the idea in my head for any longer than three days...
      I've written more complex plots, I think, in recent years. I write many different kinds of story. The shortest I ever took was for a comedy thriller written in the mid-60s and the longest is probably for the last Pyat novel (much of which is set in Spain at the time of the Civil War and much of which was written at our apartment in Mallorca, where I used to go to write.
      My wife says that I work all the time, but generally I have always worked 'office hours' -- say, 7 am to 5pm, with an hour off for lunch -- and taken summer holidays off during my children's long summer holiday. Since my children grew up, I have lost some of that routine. Also, I think, I was to a large degree tied to the seasons. I would begin to want to work in September and in January in particular, which follows the end of the main school holidays but also marked the beginning of autumn and the end of the hardest winter months (in England). Since I moved to Texas, it's become harder to follow these routines.
      Please forgive me for not replying sooner. As Marca properly guessed, I had simply not seen your letter.
      I'll be happy to continue this discussion!
      Thanks for writing.

      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
      The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
      Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
      The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
      Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

      Comment


      • #4
        Wow! That's amazing. There are probably very few people who would be able to write a novel (especially great ones such as yours) as quickly as you do no matter how well they knew the form/structure. I mean that is superhuman. There are great writers who take years to write one novel (especially in the field of epic fantasy). Wish I had that abilty, for sure.

        --Christopher

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        • #5
          Not as uncommon as ALL that, Christopher. Balzac, who is a hero of mine, is a case in point. Though he did tend to rewrite on proof. Dickens was pretty quick, too! My own feeling about my work is that it would probably be better if I'd given them a bit more time. The Pyat books took months and then years. Until 1977, as I recall, the longest a book had taken me to write was Gloriana, which took six weeks. I see myself as lazy and not taking long enough on an individual book.

          Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
          The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
          Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


          Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
          The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
          Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

          Comment


          • #6
            Mike I tried writing, but it took me much longer and I ended up not getting very far.

            So I wondered if the following was a good way to approach writing ones first novel length story when there is so little time and the challenge seems insurmountable?

            First write down a summary of the story, the basic plot and what is to be included in say a 1000 words.
            Then write a description of each of the main characters, everything you can think of about them
            Then use the above to structure the story, each of the chapters and add the detail to reach the desired length.
            Then rewrite to capture the desired style and make corrections.

            Does this structured approach work for authors? I guess this is the approach that a design engineer might think would work!

            Thanks
            TFT
            Last edited by Tales from Tanelorn; 11-08-2006, 09:21 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              TFT, are you familiar with the Lester Dent's Master Plot Formula thread posted in the Enclave?
              _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
              _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
              _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
              _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

              Comment


              • #8
                It's what works for you. I have different methods for different books and I must say I'm not really all that organised. Much work is done in my head, often at a semi-conscious level. It really depends on the nature of the book. When I was writing the early fantasy novels, I had a very brief outline, mostly based on a rough map (with Hawkmoon that of course was a regular map of the world) -- where people went. Half the tensions were planned, half came off the top of my head. Some writers go to great lengths to plan out plot, characters, motivations and so on. I tend to work more instinctively than that, often over years -- again depending on the books. Few books are done right away. Note how the metatemporal detective stories were done -- the first one done in 1966 (Pleasure Garden), the next done in, I think, 1992 -- slowly working out the kind of stories they were, shifting from what was essentially a pastiche of the hard-boiled urban thriller to a more conventionally English/Holmesian method -- actually Sexton Blake -- as I began to riff off Sexton Blake, mainly because of Zenith/Zodiac/Elric. Not the first time I've done this -- Final Programme began as a version of the first Elric stories. However, at root, I'd say the Hawkmoon stories, for instance, were done according to Lester Dent. I have a tendency to write in three parts -- three acts, if you like -- introduction, development, resolution.
                The rule there is to introduce all your main characters and plots in the first third, develop characters and situations in the second third and then resolve them all in the final third.

                Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                Comment


                • #9
                  The intro/ development/ resolution-denouement (or beginning-middle-end, if you like) structure seems to be almost a natural law - a Power Law as it would be termed biologically - in other words, it seems to reflect a fundamental logic or primal flow of thought in the human mind. Much as experimental structures are fine, the three-stage structure still seems to 'work' better for fictional drama and storytelling - as does Lester Dent. I applied LD structure to an 18,000 word novella, and it seemed to work even at that length...well, relative to my other stuff! LD just seems to end up in a very satisfying tale with all the right climaxes and tension, regardless of the details. It's extremely clever, really!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
                    Note how the metatemporal detective stories were done -- the first one done in 1966 (Pleasure Garden), the next done in, I think, 1992 -- slowly working out the kind of stories they were, shifting from what was essentially a pastiche of the hard-boiled urban thriller to a more conventionally English/Holmesian method -- actually Sexton Blake -- as I began to riff off Sexton Blake, mainly because of Zenith/Zodiac/Elric.
                    So, Mike - if Seaton Begg is a riff off Sexton Blake - is it in order to ask whether there's any chance of a re-working of Caribbean Crisis being included in The Metatemporal Detective collection? (À la Nick Allard/Jerry Cornell)
                    _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                    _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                    _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                    _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Nothing much to work with, David. The problem there is that there's no original manuscript in existence, as far as I know, and it passed through a couple of hands before eventually seeing the light of day -- with Bill changing its pro-Castro slant to an anti-Castro one! Also, it would have to have a lot of substance added. By and large the Metatemporal Detective stories tend to have a political or at least historical context, dealing with real figures or versions of real figures. To put Caribbean Crisis back together again would require pulling in a real Castro, I suspect, and then adding various other elements. The thing about most of the MD stories is that they are riffing around some serious thoughts, even if they aren't especially serious in tone -- Crimson Eyes was about Thatcher and Big Business, Nazi Canary was about Hitler and Geli Raubal, Twister was about Bush and the Oil Business. I'm not saying they're profound essays on problems of modern times, but they do have a certain substance which, even its kindest critics would argue, the Sexton Blake novel lacks...
                      That said, it's a very weird feeling reading the new Pynchon, which I'm enjoying, which frequently touches on similar themes by using similar methods. One of the reasons I've stayed away from reviewing him in the past.

                      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                      The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                      Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                      The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                      Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                      Comment

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