Michael Frayn

“When I start I like to know in advance where the story is going, and I spend a lot of time thinking about the story before I begin writing it.” (Paris Review)

Michael Frayn writes: spy thrillers (A Landing on the Sun), historical fiction (Headlong), about the creative process (The Trick of it),  farces (Noises Off)    award-winning plays (Democracy)  and translations of Chekhov’s plays (The Cherry Orchard).

“I get more enjoyment out of rewriting, I think, than writing the original. The great difficulty is getting from nothing to something; going from something to something else is always easier.” (The Guardian).

Writers' rooms: Michael Frayn

Photgrapher: Eamonn McCabe

“Somerset Maugham said that writers should sit with their back to the window. I sit sideways on most of the time.” (The Guardian)

  What do you face when you write?  

35 thoughts on “Michael Frayn

  1. I’m quite different actually. I face the window when I write. Somehow it frees my mind. Thanks for sharing, Carol.

  2. Hmm, I can face the my husbands large bookcase if I use our Study computer or if I use my portable one at the dining room table, where I face the distracting back yard. But I love light so that’s not bad. 🙂

    I face plot challenges in fiction because I want my work to have a running theme throughout. If it bogs down, I look it over and say, “Well that’s yuk. How can I pick up the pace or create more interesting characters? Who can I add or what other direction could this go?” Always a challenge. Do you have any tricks to “pick up the pace? Thanks friend,

    • Ellie, I like that you interpreted face in two ways.
      I went on your blog to search for your books and then clicked your link to Smashwords to read Sometimes marriage is a Real Crime (since you’re writing a sequel to that book) but couldn’t find it…so you might want to rectify that.
      The only advice I can offer regarding picking up the pace, is probably one you’ve already heard: cut what’s not needed; trim; use one word instead of two or three; use noun and verbs rather than adjectives and adverbs.
      And this is what I read today from the book Story Trumps Structure by Steven James: “You do not have a story until something goes wrong.” So make sure that you character needs to have something go wrong from the start. That will make her interesting. Hope this helps. 🙂

      • Thanks Carol, I’ll follow up on my book not being available. That was my first novel and I really had no idea what I was doing when I originally posted it. Since we keep our rights, I’d like to try another free internet publisher.

        And I certainly appreciate your advice. You probably feel the same way: the more we write, the more we learn. My favorite book is “To Kill a Mockingbird” because its plot is so perfectly streamlined. There seems to be a balance between being descriptive and long- winded, isn’t there? I’ll continue to pray for wisdom and a good friend’s advice. 🙂

      • I loved To Kill a Mockingbird. And to think it’s the only book she wrote.
        There is a balance between descriptive and being long-winded. The secret is knowing where it is…at least it is for me.
        Praying for wisdom is good. I also like listening to my heart and trusting what I hear. Though too many times I dismiss that little voice inside of me.
        I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. 🙂

  3. So interesting…we all obviously have our own process. I find it’s best not to start writing in my head–although once a draft is on the page I’ll start to edit even while doing groceries. I face a wall at the moment- but a window sounds lovely. I know someone who’s office is her outdoor patio. A blessing of Wifi.

    • Oh, an outdoor patio sounds wonderful but I think I might be too distracted. Your editing at the groceries is proof that writing is not a 9 to 5 job but rather a 24/7 one.
      Wherever you are in your writing, may you be inspired.:)

  4. He is so absolutely right, in my view, in expressing how difficult it is to go from nothing to something. Even when I know the story in my head, filtering it through my mind, getting the right words to express the right thoughts in a way I’d later be able to understand what I wrote in my frantic hurry, that takes time. It all starts as a big jumble of ideas that need to be streamlined into something legible. And when that happens, when the jumble becomes coherent thought, that’s a beautiful thing. Thank you for this post, Carol.

    • Thank you, Silvia, for your comment. I can relate to that. It’s only in the writing that we become clear as to what our story is about. At least that’s how it is for me.I think writers who plan everything must also go through a beginner phase of not knowing and they discover their story as they plan it.

  5. I love these little quizzes 🙂 I also enjoy the rewrite more than the write and I also sit sideways. The window is to my left. I glance out occasionally when I’m searching for a word or thought, but while I’m in writing mode, the window is to my left; I only need turn for some inspiration. 🙂

    • Quizzes? How funny 🙂 I guess it’s the teacher in me that can’t help testing lol.
      Interesting that you enjoy the rewrite more than the write. I’m not so sure about myself, it’s been so long since I’ve had a brand new project to create. My 3 novels are all in the editing stages and have gone to various amounts of uncountable drafts. Oh, dear, why can’t I just whip up a novel every six months,like some writers do? 🙂 I do so enjoy that first creative rush – it’s a bit like falling in love.
      What’s your third book on? Or is it too early to talk about?

      • Three novels Carol? That’s wonderful. I know I am always working on something. Even while I’m in grueling editing stages, I still find myself moving over to one of my writing projects for a change of pace, and that way I always having a book going to continue on with after a book comes out. You can’t put a time on creativity Carol. Some writers churn out books every two months. Though I don’t know how they do it for it takes me that long to begin revisions, edits and formatting alone for publication. My new book Meno-What? was more than half written when I published my first book, Conflicted Hearts, that’s the only reason I seem to be churning out my second book in six months. Thanks for asking about my next book. I’m enjoying writing this book, I’m writing about women’s self-esteem issues, I’ll save the title surprise for later.:) I have also written quite a few chapters for my fourth book, which will be a sequel to Conflicted Hearts. So I will be quite busy through 2015. After that I may breathe. 🙂

      • Women’s self-esteem issues…I’m sure a lot of women will be anxious to read such a book. And you have a fourth book, Deb… That’s great. You sure will be busy and are building up your writing career. Your mind is working overtime. 🙂

      • Yes Carol, one day I shall catch up on sleep! 🙂 P.S. I’m submitting to Writer’s Union next week! I’ll let you know how it goes. Submissions are open til June 1st, so I don’t know if I’ll hear anything until then. 🙂

    • Seeing a tree canopy can be very calming and inspiring. Basement caves…come to think of it I don’t recall any great classic written by a caveman. lol.
      Have a terrific weekend.

  6. Frayn is a high on the list of writers I admire. His play ‘Copenhagen’ about the meeting between scientists between Niels Bor and Werner Heisenberg in 1941 is riveting, likewise his anti- philosophy book The Human Touch.

  7. “…going from something to something else is always easier.”
    Totally agree with this. I’m on the verge of finishing a short story I started a couple of weeks ago. I’ve posted parts of it already in my blog, but now I’m still thinking of how I’m going to make it reach its climax. I wish I wasn’t working so I could really sit and finish it.

    You’ve got a beautiful blog here Ms Carol! It’s such an honor to have been visited by you. Thanks so much. Much appreciated. ~Jake

    • Thank you so much for being part of my blogging community, Jake.
      Having just read both parts of your short story it seems to me that you might want to have something about sounds in your title.
      I also got a thriller mood from what I read, as if something scary or dangerous is about to happen.
      Steven James in Story Trumps structure said: you do not have a story until something goes wrong.”
      Hope this helps. 🙂

      • That’s what I’ve been thinking about. I have some ideas, but I’m not convinced just yet. I’ve been really busy too. Probably after my major activity next week (English Day), I’ll be able to finish this story. Thank you so much too for making me part of your blogging community. It’s a joy.

  8. You are a busy lady, Carol, with all the reading and writing you do. I, on the other hand, am busy for the summer months in particular with grandchildren, and going to the city to be with Leah. Writing at the moment is at a standstill except what I share on WordPress. But listening to The Goldfinch is what I’m still on and will be involved with for some time. That’s okay, though. Sorry. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Frayn. I must look him up.

    • There are much too many good writers around for anyone to know, let alone read them all.
      So, your listening to The Goldfinch. I always forget about audio books. The last one I listened to was Reading Lolita in Tehran. It was great.
      Have a beautiful Sunday, Drew. 🙂

      • Thanks Carol. My Sunday was spent cutting grass all day. I have ten acres, but part is swamp. Not done yet, though. It was so wet, I couldn’t get to it before I left for my daughter’s. Then I have to roto-till my garden so I can put seeds in. Tomorrow, it’s supposed to rain. Oh, well! Have to do what I can and forget the rest.

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