P. D. James
Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL, commonly known as P. D. James, is an English crime writer and a life peer in the House of Lords.
Awards: Cartier Diamond Dagger, Edgar Grand Master Award, Macavity Awards for Best Mystery Novel, Grand Prix de Littérature Policière - International Category, Macavity Awards for Best Non-fiction, Anthony Award for Best Critical/Nonfiction
|3. Create compelling characters|
Most of all the characters are important. You want them to be "rather more than stereotypes. The characters should be real human beings, each of whom comes alive for the reader, not pasteboard people to be knocked down in the final chapter."
4. Research, research, research
In addition to paying attention to real-life, a huge part of the writer's job is to research. Often times, this is the best way to make your characters real--by finding out the facts they would usually know. James does her research personally, and it usually takes months. "I revisit the scene, get advice from experts, and usually consult both the police and the forensic science laboratory."
5. Follow the "fair-play rule"
James always makes sure that information available to the detective is available to the reader. "By the end of the book, the reader should have been able to arrive at the real solution from clues inserted into the novel." Of course, she also admits that you can provide these clues with "deceptive cunning but essential fairness."
It may seem a cliche, but you have to read in order to write. First, find your favorite authors. James particularly admires and says she has learnt from a diverse collection including Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins, Dorothy L Sayers, Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh. "Read the good prose, and learn from it," she says. "And the tools of your craft are words." she says. " Try always to enlarge your vocabulary through reading. This is not in order to use complex or pretentious phrases, but to have available precisely the right word for every sentence."
When asked if she gets writer's block, James said "No, I have never experienced writer's block, although I sometimes have to wait a long time before I receive inspiration for the next book." So don't think of yourself as blocked. Use your time between inspirations wisely, and practice the craft by short pieces. Create exercises to complete or take a class. "By writing prose and learn from the experience, you will develop your own style."
8. Follow a schedule
Here's how James says she works: "I get up early, make tea and settle down to about two hours writing. I have no special room, require only a comfortable chair, table or desk at the right height, and sufficient space for my dictionary and research material. I do, however, need to be completely alone. When my secretary arrives I dictate to her what I have written. She puts it on the computer and prints it out for editing and correcting."
9 Increase your word power. Words are the raw material of our craft. The greater your vocabulary the more effective your writing. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world. Respect it.
11 Don't just plan to write – write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.
12 Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.
13 Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.