Saturday, October 2, 2010

Michael Frayn on Writing Success

"I don’t think it is a very good idea to write different sorts of things. If I were to give serious practical advice to a young writer about how to succeed I would say, Write the same book, or the same play, over and over again, just very slightly different, so that people get used to it.

"It takes some time, but if you do it often enough, finally people will get the hang of it, and get familiar with it, and they’ll like it. Then you go on producing a consistent product and you’ll have a market for it. Because the consumer of books or plays, including myself, very reasonably wants to know or have some idea in advance what the book or the play is going to be like.

"It is the same as buying breakfast cereal: if you buy a packet of cornflakes, you want to be sure it will contain cornflakes and not muesli. It is very irritating if the packet doesn’t contain what you expected it to contain. Similarly it is a reasonable demand from the theatergoer or novel reader that he should get a constant product, which is identified by the author’s brand name.

"If I could have done this, I would have. But I don’t have much control over what I produce. All I can do is to write the stories that come to me.... If I had been better organized as a writer, I would have gone beyond the stories’ dictates and imposed my own central imprint on everything."

—from a 2003 interview in The Paris Review

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