Art of storytelling

John Grisham, best selling author, is persistent when it comes to writing each day and that probably explains how storytelling comes to him automatically

October 03, 2019 03:10 pm | Updated 03:10 pm IST

Who would not like to know the secret of being a best selling author from John Grisham? A divine blessing that gets him millions of readers? Inspiration from deep oceans or high cliffs or a talking whale? Well nothing so dramatic. It is sheer dint of hardwork.

“I never miss a day. Every day I am in my office by seven in the morning. I normally start writing a novel on the first of January every year. That has become a kind of ritual for me, with the goal of finishing the book in six months and being done in July. That has been my schedule for the past 10 or 15 years. I get a lot of writing done in January, February, March…that is a good time to write. When I am writing, my routine rarely varies. It is the same spot, the same computer. The office is a separate building with no phones, no internet, same type of coffee…the hours between seven and ten in the morning are very productive, the best time in the day.”

He continues, “On a good day I probably write 2000 words and on a slow day, it is probably a 1000. There are not many slow days because by the time I start a book, I have a very good idea where it is going. I don’t write the first scene till I know the last. That is the rule I have kept for myself for the past 25 years. I just don’t start something unless I know where it is going. So once I do start it, there are not many down days.”

Grisham is not swept off his feet by the astronomical numbers that his book sales show up, “I often wonder who does these countings. For example I have never seen how many copies have been sold in South Korea…who gets this information? I would be very wary of those numbers…but I concede the numbers are big!”

Trained as lawyer

However, he says, “It is tough to give advice on story telling…I am not sure you can teach it. I never took a course in story writing, I was trained as a lawyer. I grew up in a family of big story tellers…I have heard a lot of lies and fiction in the porch outside! I read thousands and thousands of books and spend a lot of time pacing and plotting. I do not spend so much time on character…I am plot driven. Don’t waste time with other things. It is something you absorb and do. I do not know if one can give tips…”

Grisham describes his day, “Today is a typical day. I came to the city for some fund raising event. I woke up at 6 this morning and wrote six or seven pages…if you do that everyday, pages are bound to be piling. I will finish and turn it into New York by July first as per schedule. And I play golf the rest of the six months…”

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