Crime Writers’ Writing Habits
I thought it would be fun to select a few crime writers and discuss their writing – or not – habits! Much emphasis is placed on ritual and routine when it comes to art, but as these few examples show, every writer is different.
Ian Fleming (1908-1964)
Ian Fleming described himself as a writer rather than an author and writing in an article on the topic or writing he suggested that writing 2,000 words per day, five days a week for six weeks enabled him to produce his first draft for his Bond novels.
The novels he produced were around 60,000 words which is acceptable in series writing even to this day.
Agatha Christie (1890-1976)
Agatha Christie didn’t have a special room to write in and carried notebooks around and jotted down plots, labelling her notebooks. She wrote longhand and then typed it up later. In later life she dictated her books. She never had a daily routine of writing and would nip off to write when the opportunity presented itself it.
Strangely, it appears that Agatha Christie was the only one of these four to admit to having difficulties writing with the process causing her much stress at times. And yet it is Christie’s works that are among the world’s top bestsellers with her estate claiming she is third only to Shakespeare and The Bible. Her books are still enjoyed today with Miss Marple and Poirot being crime mystery staples. I remember seeing The Mousetrap on stage in London, the longest running play in London still enjoyed by so many readers today.
Dorothy L Sayers (1893-1957)
Dorothy L Sayers wrote at night as she worked full time for a London advertising agency.
I couldn’t find anything written about her habits but would assume that as one of the first female graduates of Oxford she was methodical.
Sayers moved away from crime writing after WWII, her last being published before the war’s outbreak. She later concentrated on writing Christian drama for which she was well regarded.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)
Arthur Conan Doyle, one of the earliest writers to use an agent claimed not to have much of a routine once money wasn’t an object.
In an article, he explained he would spend a whole day on a work if he was engrossed but less time if he wasn’t. He seemed to intimate spending less time writing his short stories (Sherlock Holmes novels seemed to be short stories to him), and was also less concerned with their accuracy as they were a product of what he termed, fantasy.
It seems from just these four examples that routine isn’t everything and yet so many writers today swear by it.
I personally set myself a goal of 2,000 words when writing but don’t write every day. I’m perhaps more akin to Ian Fleming at this point in my career although I will be much more like Arthur Conan Doyle as I develop I think. It pays to remember there is no such thing as one size fits all.
If you would like to read more about writer/artist rituals, the two books listed here might be worth a read. Daily Rituals: how artists work seems to be out of print but is available as an audiobook.