The high-volume producer
It was all much simpler long ago, in the old days when I was a high-volume producer of fiction…Getting ideas was no problem; they arrived mysteriously out of the air, like radio broadcasts, while I was reading or strolling or listening to music. I jotted them down on handy scraps of paper—often nothing but a title (titles usually came before plots for me, and still do) and a brief summary of theme…The morning I was due to begin work on a story, I would elaborate the summary into a two-paragraph outline, pick some characters, give them their names and physical descriptions, and start work…My years as a high-volume producer had given me skills of expression and improvisation that allowed me to say what I wanted to say clearly and effectively in a single try.
What I wanted to say, though, became ever more complex and difficult to express, and during the late sixties my working methods evolved toward what they are today, so very different from my habits of fifteen years ago…I still begin with a title and a brief statement of theme. Then, on the backs of old envelopes, come structural notations having to do with overall form and texture of the work, lists of characters, bits of background data, suggested sequences of chapters. I usually have the beginning and the end of any story fairly clear before I start; the middle is subject to development once the story acquires life of its own, and so I constantly write memoranda to myself as I go along…Choices I once made automatically and unconsciously I must now work out on paper, and there seems no way around it…There are times when I miss the old ease of production, but I do prefer today’s results.