Nothing is new under the sun. This is how most writers write. By the seat of our pants. We start with an idea, a scene, a few words, a character … and begin. Some of us are ‘Plotters’, setting down meticulous outlines—scene by scene and chapter by chapter—before the real writing begins. Others of us are ‘Pansters’, making it up as we go along, page by page. The process may be different but with one thing in common. We begin with virtually nothing, and when we type THE END, the story is fully formed and from the heart.
Nobody really believes him when he says it. And in the end I guess it is unprovable. But I can put my hand on heart and say, having been there, and watched him at work, that Lee Child is fundamentally clueless when he starts writing.
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Of course he is not totally tabula rasa. Because he, and I, had a fair idea that the name Jack Reacher was going to come up somewhere in this, his 20th novel in the series.
. . .
He is, more than anyone I can think of, a pure writer, with a degree zero style. Maybe sub-zero. He doesn’t plan. He doesn’t premeditate. He loves to be spontaneous. Which explains two things: One: that he said yes to my proposal. “I’m starting Monday”, he wrote, “so if you want to do this you’d better get over here.” And, two: that he also said: “I have no plot and no title. Nothing.”
When I got there, on September 1 of last year, to his apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, overlooking Central Park, just up the street from where John Lennon once lived … all he had was sublime confidence. And a title, which he had come up with the night before: Make Me. He just liked the sound of it.
It had to be September 1. It’s a ritual with him: 20 years to the day since he went out and bought the paper and a pencil with which to write his first novel, Killing Floor. (It had to be a pencil: he decided he couldn’t really afford anything better, having just been sacked from his job in television). When he sat down to write the first sentence, all he had in his head was a scene, a glimpse of a scene: a bunch of guys are burying someone, a big guy, using a backhoe (or JCB). He had no idea who they are, why they are doing this, or who the big guy is either, other than that his name is Keever.
So he wrote the following sentence: “Moving a guy as big as Keever wasn’t easy.”
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And Reacher, when he gets off the train in the small town of Mother’s Rest, in the midst of “nothingness”, has no absolutely no idea what is going on.
Which was exactly how Lee Child felt.
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He wandered around New York, then drifted off to the West Coast, then Madrid, then Sussex, and still had no idea what the hell was going on in his book. If it was a book.
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Link to the rest at TheConversation