‘The Writing of One Novel’ by Irving Wallace is the biography of a bestseller of his called ‘The Prize’, a fictional account of what happened during the course of a week before the presentation of four Nobel Prizes in Stockholm. The author famously took 16 years (on and off) to complete the novel which has over 40 characters in around 800 pages. Often dismissed as a ‘popular book by a popular author’ by critics and ‘tailor-made for motion pictures’, this book provides a fascinating account of the painstaking process involved in even writing a ‘popular book’. Calling the three stages of writing his book as Conception, Gestation and Birth, Wallace attempts to explain all the background work that goes into producing such an effort.
In Conception, he outlines how the idea of writing something around a potential scandal during awarding of the Nobel Prizes occurred to him and how he went about the process of doing the research before even attempting to write the book. Following that, he shared practices that he obsessively follows in his writing and that of other successful authors during that time.
In Gestation, Wallace explains the grueling process of editing by multiple people. Everyone from the lawyers to publicists to copy editors to literary agents to friends and family have constructive and not so constructive opinions on characters, scenes and plots. Each of them have to be carefully considered and then defended or dismissed. It was particularly interesting to read him talk about the process of selling the book to motion pictures. Arguably the most fascinating aspect of this book was Part 3 called Birth in which he explains how the critics and the readers received his work. He criticised the tendency of critics to question the motives of the author in writing a book as well as he felt that that was not a fair critique. If anything, the content in terms of characters and plots is what must be criticised.
Overall, a great way to get into the mind of one of the most successful authors in the history of English language publishing and lot of valuable advice for rookie authors.