How Deborah Moggach writes #amwriting #writetip

Deborah Moggach“One of my great tips for writing is not to start too quickly. If you get excited about a book, don’t plunge in and write it too quickly, because until you know the characters pretty well, anything could happen to them. They could do anything, and that’s chaotic. The novel could go in 800,000 different directions and you’re lost!”
[in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine on May 3, 2019]

Deborah Moggach


Great advice. Deborah Moggach’s novels are well-loved and sell by the bucket load. Two have been turned into films – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Tulip Fever – and she writes screenplays, adapting Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate for the BBC, and being BAFTA nominated for her screenplay of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley. And I know what she means. I think all debut authors have made exactly the mistake that she warns against here. It’s a natural thing to do. You have a brilliant idea and just want to get the words down. But time spent preparing, exploring and just thinking, do pay off. My first novel was written over a long period of time, I had my key character Rose nailed but had neglected to give too much thought to anyone else. Mistake. The result was an enormous manuscript. I learned my lesson, and with my second novel I made sure to develop the character of Justine Tree first. I wrote loads of exercises, wondering ‘what if’ and ‘what would she do’. The first draft was still too long, but not in the directionless, side road leading to dead end sort of way as my first book.

It sounds boring, all this forethought and planning. We all love putting our words onto paper and just want to get on with it. But Moggach’s wise words about her latest novel The Carer come from long experience and I, for one, am heeding them. As I work on my third novel I view my writing process as an apprenticeship.

Read my review of The Careralso Something to Hide and Tulip Fever.

Check out my resources for writers.

See how these other authors write:-
AJ Pearce, on immersing herself in the 1940s for ‘Dear Mrs Bird’
I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Penny Vincenzi
Why Mary Gaitskill learnt to ride a horse

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Take time to develop your characters first, before you start writing, says Deborah Moggach #amwriting via @SandraDanby