Sir Terry Pratchett, beloved best-selling author of fantasy novels passed away too soon. Today should have been his 67th birthday. He did, however, leave us some wise advice on writing.
One thing that writers have in common is that they are readers first. They have read lots and lots of stuff, because they’re just infested with lots of stuff.
You have to have really wide reading habits and pay attention to the news and just everything that’s going on in the world; you need to. If you get this right, then the writing is a piece of cake.
There can be no better grounding for a lifetime as an author than to see humanity in all its various guises through the lens of the reporter for the town.
If you’re going to write, say, fantasy – stop reading fantasy. You’ve already read too much. Read other things; read westerns, read history, read anything that seems interesting, because if you only read fantasy and then you start to write fantasy, all you’re going to do is recycle the same old stuff and move it around a bit.
My advice is this. For Christ’s sake, don’t write a book that is suitable for a kid of 12 years old, because the kids who read who are 12 years old are reading books for adults. I read all of the James Bond books when I was about 11, which was approximately the right time to read James Bond books.
In all seriousness, people think it’s the ideas that are important. Well, everyone has ideas, all the time. I tend to write them down and remember them, but at some point you have to apply the bum to the seat and knock out about sixty five thousand words – that’s how long a novel is.
I’ve always felt what I have going for me is not my imagination, because everyone has an imagination. What I have is a relentlessly controlled imagination. What looks like wild invention is actually quite carefully calculated.
I don’t really plan. I’m almost intuitive about things.
Often I sort of work up and down the manuscript. I sometimes used to go ahead of myself to see what was going to happen next, to make certain it fits what was going to be happening soon.
My own books drive themselves. I know roughly where a book is going to end, but essentially the story develops under my fingers. It’s just a matter of joining the dots.
For an author, the nice characters aren’t much fun. What you want are the screwed up characters. You know, the characters that are constantly wondering if what they are doing is the right thing, characters that are not only screwed up but are self-tapping screws. They’re doing it for themselves.
Five exclamation points, the sure sign of an insane mind.
I have to write because if I don’t get something down then after a while I feel it’s going to bang the side of my head off.
I write books back to back, and I work very hard on them.
The only superstition I have is that I must start a new book on the same day that I finish the last one, even if it’s just a few notes in a file. I dread not having work in progress.
The harder I work, the luckier I become.
I like being a writer.
A ‘Just Giving’ page donating to the Research Institute to the Care of Older People (RICE) has been set up in his memory: https://www.justgiving.com/Terry-Pratchett