Writer at Work

prather2Richard S. Prather, creator of the hilarious SHELL SCOTT detective novels (90 million copies in print at the height of the series popularity in the 60s) offers this writing advice in an interview conducted by Dean Davis his wonderfulUltimate Richard Prather Site…

There’s two types of writers: the ones who plot everything first and always know where it’s going, and then you have the people who sort of wing it. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but I think the people who plot in advance are more likely to produce books that hold up over the years. I plot out everything before I start writing the story’s first line.

He had an exhausting work schedule for himself…

I always have coffee and cigarettes sitting next to me while the typewriter is on my lap. It was a Royal portable and then I switched to an electric typewriter. For years I was on just about a 26-hour day. I wasn’t going anywhere…all I did was write. I might start working at ten o’clock in the morning and go to bed about two the next morning, then wake up at ten o’clock and start the cycle over again at noon. Every day it was about two hours later, rotating like that. I just thought of it as a 26-hour day.

I’d just write as fast and as long as I could and then fall into bed. My only goal was to try and do more than I did the previous day. The biggest day I ever had was here in Arizona when I was working on Dead-Bang. I worked 24 hours straight and did 24,000 words. I think when it goes that well and goes that fast, it’s the best stuff you can do.

He makes me feel lazy. By the way, that’s him on the right in the picture, his late wife Tina is in the middle, and the other lady was family friend Mar Cielo McCoy. The picture was taken during Prather’s year in Mexico in the early 50s, and comes from the Prather website.

3 thoughts on “Writer at Work”

  1. Lee,
    My little secret is that I do write (wanna see, nah, it ain’t worthit), but I have discovered that even though I have an idea of where I’m heading, I discover other characters, or that the main character is no longer as interesting or important as I thought. So for winging it, I find that I discover more about what I’m writing.
    But hell, what do I know, I’m not even published. Just insane.

  2. I have what I call a “living outline.” I do a rough outline but it keeps evolving as the book does. So I give myself room to keep a character alive who was, for example, supposed to die in Chapter Three. I usually finished my outline about a week or so before I finish the book.

  3. I’ve read all but one (I think) of Richard S. Prather’s books and believe him to be the “King of the P.I. novel”. When I started writing “Bodies and Beaches” I was winging it. The first four chapters are just off of the top of my head. I soon realized that I needed some direction so I took a copy of “The Sweet Ride” by Richard S. Prather, and outlined what Shell Scott was doing in each chapter, then I “more or less” patterned what my hero, Kip Yardley, was doing in “Bodies and Beaches”.
    It was my first novel. I’m now writing on the second in the Kip Yardley series, “Corpses and Canyons”.
    E-mail me if you’d like to read “Bodies and Beaches”.
    Don Yarber


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