December 30, 2014

Quick Tip On Writing A Thriller

I'm sure 99.99% of us have heard of James Bond. Well, famed 007 agent creator Ian Fleming wrote an essay in 1963 on how to write thrillers, including the following tip:

We thus come to the final and supreme hurdle in the writing of a thriller. You must know thrilling things before you can write about them. Imagination alone isn't enough, but stories you hear from friends or read in the papers can be built up by a fertile imagination and a certain amount of research and documentation into incidents that will also ring true in fiction.

As a bonus, here is another quick tip: 
[N]ever correct anything and never go back to what [you] have written, except to the foot of the last page to see where [you] have got to. If you once look back, you are lost. How could you have written this drivel? ... If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky if you write 500 words a day and you will be disgusted with them into the bargain. By following [Fleming's] formula, you write 2,000 words a day and you aren't disgusted with them until the book is finished, which will be in about six weeks."

So keep your eyes peeled and your ears unplugged for any information or tidbit you might want to swipe and place into your own writing!

For more tips from Ian Fleming, refer to MI6


  1. Hi Alessa,
    I will be back soon. I had incredibly busy November and December and then I landed in emergency room with huge oscillations of blood pressure. Getting better.

    1. OMG, I hope you're better and taking it easy! I will be emailing you a long response to your lovely email later. Please take care of yourself, and I hope 2015 will be 1000 times better than 2014 :)

  2. Ian Fleming's advice, especially the "quick tip" about never looking back to what you have written, may work for writing thrillers. I can't say as I have never attempted to write one. From my writing experience (letters, essays, various papers), I am positive that my first version is utter garbage, and then, with heavy editing work, it becomes less so. I guess it depends on the personality and on the type of writing. Incidentally Mr. Fleming does not strike me as a particularly good writer. I read his "From Russia with Love" and I have had enough.

    You know Jane from our department. We are a great writing team when it comes to various department papers. She is a genius, who can create the structure in 15 minutes, and then I polish it for a few hours, and it sometime comes presentable.

    1. I agree that it takes a certain talent to be able to write things in one sitting and have it be perfect (I'm thinking of Stendhal, for instance). I know I need to revise and revise and revise, and still I can't consider myself a literary writer (at all!!). But I think in this quote Ian Fleming was talking about writing your full draft first before going back in to revise, otherwise one risks never finishing his/her work, as he/she would be stuck rewriting the previous passages over and over again.

      How great that you and Jane are such a fantastic writing team! :)

      It does help to have another pair of eyes on the material. I feel that in movies (I'm taking Pixar as an example), their best stuff always came because multiple people (with a similar global vision so it wouldn't make a total chaotic mess of the thing) worked together to elevate the film to greater heights!