Friday, April 30, 2010

State of (Writing) Grace

Following up on yesterday's post, the following is from "About France," the excellent book by friend, fellow alum, and Paris resident Joseph Harriss, about the incredibly prolific crime writer, Georges Simenon. Simenon wrote over 500 novels. (Not bad, as the author points out, for someone who never graduated high school.)

"Simenon uses an artisan's methods when writing. He constructs his books solidly around a few characters. From a few initial traits, he builds them up, giving each a complete family, often down to an address and phone number--he keeps a stock of telephone books as a source of names--even if these details are never used in the book itself. Then he draws a diagram of the apartment, office or house where the action takes place carefully noting which way doors open, which windows admit the sun in morning or evening.

"That done, be becomes the main character himself and enters what he calls a 'state of grace' in which he thinks as little as possible, letting his subconscious have its head. He sustains this for up to two weeks, writing a chapter a day and reserving three or four days a the end for revisions. His concentration is so intense that if he misses a couple of days writing due to illness or other interruption, he usually is unable to continue the book and gives up on it. He seldom has the whole plot in mind when beginning. He puts his characters in a situation and watches, a spectator, as the action develops."

("About France," by Joseph Harriss, p. 225.)