I love reading biographies of my favorite authors. Among the few books I’m reading concurrently (it’s a terrible habit) is Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond by Andrew Lycett, first published in 1995. If your exposure to Bond is limited to the movies, I highly suggest you check out Fleming’s novels. The only similarity between the books and the films are the titles and the names of characters. Fleming’s stories are far grittier than what you see on the silver screen. The writing is also superb.
Fleming wrote all fourteen Bond novels at his Jamaican retreat, Goldeneye. Here, as described by Lycett, is his writing routine:
Ian had finally decided to launch into the novel which had been rattling around in his head for so long. He was not a man to tackle such projects half-heartedly. Every morning after a swim on the reef, he breakfasted with Ann in the garden. When he had finished his scrambled eggs and Blue Mountain coffee, he kissed her and made his way across the small veranda into the main living-room. He shut the big doors, closed the jalousies, and opened his big roll-top desk. For three hours, he pounded the keys of his twenty-year-old Imperial portable typewriter. At noon he emerged from the cool of his retreat and stood blinking in the heat of the day. After lunch, he slept for an hour or so, and then, around five, he returned to his desk to look over what he had typed earlier in the day. When he had made his corrections, he placed his manuscript in the bottom left-hand drawer of his desk. Ian was a man of routine, and that writing regimen, now established, continued for the next dozen years, whenever he was at Goldeneye.
The book would eventually become Casino Royale. It’s interesting to note that Fleming edited the manuscript as he went along. I’ve tried doing this but find it to be the kiss of death, as I end up scrapping everything I’ve done. I generally try to get the whole thing down on paper before I take the red pen to it.
Fleming, needless to say, took his writing very seriously. Here is some advice he sent to a friend, who was struggling with a manuscript. It’s great and probably pertinent to every writer:
You will be constantly depressed by the progress of the opus and feel it is all nonsense and that nobody will be interested. Those are the moments when you must all the more obstinately stick to your schedule and do your daily stint . . . Never mind about the brilliant phrase or the golden word, once the typescript is there you can fiddle, correct and embellish as much as you please. So don’t be depressed if the first draft seems a bit raw, all first drafts do. Try and remember the weather and smells and sensations and pile in every kind of contemporary detail. Don’t let anyone see the manuscript until you are very well on with it and above all don’t let anything interfere with your routine. Don’t worry about what you put in, it can always be cut out on re-reading; it’s the total recall that matters.
Some interesting food for thought.