Arthur C. Clarke on Writing

In his preface to the second in a quartet of Rama novels, Arthur C. Clarke explains how what he once found unthinkable—collaborating with another writer on a work of fiction—came to pass. (“I was quite sure I would never let any outsider tamper with my unique brand of creativity.”) Here are a few remarks about writing I found of interest.

There is much to be said for this kind of long-distance collaboration; if they are too close together, co-authors may waste a lot of time on trivia. Even a solitary writer can think of endless excuses for not working; with two, the possibilities are at least squared.

And Clarke means long distance: he was living in the hills of Sri Lanka and Gentry Lee lived in the US. Any communication required considerable effort and thus encouraged careful preparation. He continues,

However, there is no way of demonstrating that a writer is neglecting his job; even if his snores are deafening, his subconscious may be hard at work. And Gentry and I knew that our wildest excursions into literature, science, art, or history might yield useful story elements.

For example, during the writing of Rama II, it became obvious that Gentry was in love with Eleanor of Aquitaine—don’t worry, Stacey, she’s been dead for 785 years—and I had to tactfully dissuade him from devoting pages to her amazing career. (If you wonder how E of A could have the remotest connection with interstellar adventures, you have pleasures in store.)

The writers among you will thank me for providing an authority to appeal to when friends and loved ones rudely insinuate that napping on the couch or taking deliciously long idle walks in the woods with your dog doesn’t count as work! You simply reply, “But the genius Clarke said there’s no way to demonstrate . . .”

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One Response to Arthur C. Clarke on Writing

  1. It is quite interesting how the process of writing works, after all, there’s no way to demonstrate genius…

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