Happy Birthday, Michael Morpurgo, born 5 October 1943
Michael Morpurgo’s 10 Rules For Writers
- The prerequisite for me is to keep my well of ideas full. This means living as full and varied a life as possible, to have my antennae out all the time.
- Ted Hughes gave me this advice and it works wonders: record moments, fleeting impressions, overheard dialogue, your own sadnesses and bewilderments and joys.
- A notion for a story is for me a confluence of real events, historical perhaps, or from my own memory to create an exciting fusion.
- It is the gestation time which counts.
- Once the skeleton of the story is ready I begin talking about it, mostly to Clare, my wife, sounding her out.
- By the time I sit down and face the blank page I am raring to go. I tell it as if I’m talking to my best friend or one of my grandchildren.
- Once a chapter is scribbled down rough – I write very small so I don’t have to turn the page and face the next empty one – Clare puts it on the word processor, prints it out, sometimes with her own comments added.
- When I’m deep inside a story, living it as I write, I honestly don’t know what will happen. I try not to dictate it, not to play God.
- Once the book is finished in its first draft, I read it out loud to myself. How it sounds is hugely important.
- With all editing, no matter how sensitive – and I’ve been very lucky here – I react sulkily at first, but then I settle down and get on with it, and a year later I have my book in my hand.
Michael answers your questions
- How many books have you written? Over one hundred. Private Peaceful was the hundredth. Sound a lot but that’s fat ones, thin ones. All sorts.
- Where do you write? On my bed where I’m most comfortable. I pile the pillows up behind me, settle back and write by hand with my exercise book on my knees.
- Are the stories true? With each one there is an element of truth. I weave different truths into the same story to make another kind of truth.
- What is the favourite book that you have written? The Butterfly Lion or Kensuke’s Kingdom or War Horse or Private Peaceful.
- Who’s your favourite author? Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island), Rudyard Kipling (The Just So Stories) and Ted Hughes (The Iron Man).
- How long does it take to write a book? I usually spend several months dreaming it up in my head - I call it my ‘dreamtime’, the most important part of my story inventing when I try to weave the story together, do my research and find the right voice for the story. Once I begin writing, I write very fast and will finish a book in two or three months. Then revising it might take another month. So, on average, a novel takes upwards of 6 months to write.
Michael Morpurgo, OBE, is an English author, poet, playwright and librettist, best known for his work in children’s literature. He was the third Children’s Laureate.
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