Ian Rankin at Work

A recent BBC program, part of the Imagine series, followed Ian Rankin as he writes a new novel.  This was done using a mixture of interviews and video diary recordings.  I found it interesting to compare the way he writes with mine. Ian Rankin gets his plot ideas from a file of newspaper and magazine cuttings that he collects over the year.  I get some of my ideas from current events but I’m not so organized to file these away systematically. He planned to start writing his first draft on 2nd Jan 2012.  At this point Rankin only has a vague idea how the plot will develop. I usually have a synopsis of about 50 – 100 words per chapter before I start, although I may add sub plots later  the main plot doesn’t change too much in the course of writing.  Rankin didn’t actually write his first word until a week later; I start up to a month late.

Rankin managed to write his first draft by the end of February. I was impressed by his speed; I take between six to nine months to finish mine. Rankin’s first draft was peppered with comments such as ‘expand/do later’ rather than a complete, if imperfect, manuscript.  My first draft is much the same.  In the course of writing the second draft Rankin visits locations and makes notes of details to add to his story; I try to do this too although there are some locations I just can’t visit and have to make do with book/internet research.

The program showed Rankin going through mood states experienced by many writers such as playing God, insecurity, being completely wrapped up in your current literary creation.  Overall Rankin took 4 drafts and 6 months to have a manuscript ready for publishing; I took 7 drafts and 18 months. Still Rankin’s been writing for over 20 years and I’ve just started.

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