Sunday, February 24, 2013

[Link] How to Write a Book in Three Days: Lessons from Michael Moorcock

by Eric Rosenfield

This article is the first part of a series about one of my favorite writers, Michael Moorcock, which will culminate in an interview with the man himself.

In the early days of Michael Moorcock's 50-plus-years career, when he was living paycheck-to-paycheck, he wrote a whole slew of action-adventure sword-and-sorcery novels very, very quickly, including his most famous books about the tortured anti-hero Elric. In 1992, he published a collection of interviews conducted by Colin Greenland called Michael Moorcock: Death is No Obstacle, in which he discusses his writing method. In the first chapter, "Six Days to Save the World", he says those early novels were written in about "three to ten days" each, and outlines exactly how one accomplishes such fast writing.

This is not the best way to write every novel, or even most novels. Moorcock used it specifically to write sword-and-sorcery action-adventure, but I think it could be applied more-or-less to any kind of potboiler. Once Moorcock himself had perfected this method, he became bored with it and moved on, restlessly playing with one genre and style after another, and turning in some of his best work, including the literary fiction Mother London (shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize) and the quasi-historical romance Gloriana. (Which took him six whole weeks to write!) The rest of Death is No Obstacle is about writing in these other forms.

So all of the quotes below are from just the first chapter of the book. I cannot recommend enough for fiction writers to hunt themselves down a copy (it's sadly out of print) and studying it, especially if you want to understand the purpose of form and structure in fiction. If you want to think of this post as a naked advertisement for this brilliant book, I'm okay with that.

To be clear: This is not my advice. This is Michael Moorcock's advice. I have never written a book in three days. I am planning on making the attempt, however, on the weekend of September 18th, which is Jewish New Years (Rosh Hashanah), and the next time in my calendar when I'll have three days straight with nothing else to do. Digesting this material is part of my preparation.

How to Write a Book in Three Days...

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