Friday Friends: For All of Us Pantsers

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Jeffery ArcherIt was encouraging to see (in The Costco Connection—who knew I’d learn about writing from Costco?) that a famous writer like Jeffrey Archer (Kane and Abel, Best Kept Secret, etc.) said “When I write I never know what’s going to happen in the end.” (And thanks to Rachel Stafler, a freelance lifestyle writer in London, for introducing us to a new Friday Friend through Costco!)

He went on to explain that he “generally knows” what would happen in the 10 pages coming up, and could possibly write another 5 after that . . . but then, “I pray. I haven’t got a clue myself what will happen in the next book.”

I find that hilarious. And comforting. This 72-year-old writer doesn’t know what will come next any more than I do. He’s had an interesting career path: politician (a member of Parliament at 29!), a loser-investor (which forced him to resign and write a first novel to repay creditors, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less), a prisoner (charged with perjury and conspiracy to “pervert the course of justice” which led to A Prison Diary), a short story writer, a playwright, besides novelist (“I am just a storyteller at heart,” he says. And he uses his life to inform his stories, as you can see.

By the time he wrote his third book, Kane and Abel, his name was already recognized around the world.

And here’s what encourages me, frightens me, challenges me, about this writer: he sounds like a pantser. He uses his life for writing ideas. And he works hard!

At 8 hours a day, often for 50 days at a time, he drafts each page by hand, writing around 17 versions. He keeps it close to the vest until about the last three versions which he finally sends to his editor. He easily spends a thousand hours of work on the average book (though nothing seems “average” about his books, if you ask me). And, at age 72, he has now outlined (a pantser? outline?) His next four books, wants to write a set of short stories, and spend at least two years on a “big, sweeping novel”.

“There is no substitute for hard work.” And he should know. Look at his track record. Look at his output!

See you day-after-tomorrow for Sunday Snippets!


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