The write way for journalist

PUBLISHED: 12:06 15 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:20 06 May 2010

OVER 30 years ago Ken Follett decided to give up journalism because he was not a very good reporter. He had enjoyed his time on his home-town paper (he was born in Cardiff in 1949) but a move to London made him realise journalism was not the job for him

OVER 30 years ago Ken Follett decided to give up journalism because he "was not a very good reporter."

He had enjoyed his time on his home-town paper (he was born in Cardiff in 1949) but a move to London made him realise journalism was not the job for him,

Instead he decided to try his hand at novels and with almost 30 books now written and over 90 million copies sold worldwide, his decision appears to have been a wise one.

"My ambition was to be a hotshot reporter and later to be editor of The Times. I enjoyed working on a local paper but not so when I moved to London.

"I suppose the truth was that I wasn't that great a reporter so I gradually realised it wasn't going to be my future."

While working in London in the early 70s Ken wrote The Big Needle, his first novel.

Although he found it easy to get the book published he was disappointed that it didn't top the bestseller charts.

"I had a colleague on the evening news who had written a thriller and got it published. I sent my typescript to the publisher and they agreed to publish it.

"I was trying to write a big bestseller, I never had modest ambitions, and I was hoping it to be number one. I was quite disappointed when it wasn't.

"The books that thrilled me most were James Bond stories by Ian Fleming and when I started to write novels myself it was to try to create the same sort of excitement."

It was with Eye of the Needle in 1978 that things really took off. The book sold 10 million copies and was made into a film starring Kate Nelligan and Donald Sutherland.

Ken has never looked back.

These days he still writes at a rate of a book every two years.

"The subject matter isn't really difficult; there are lots of interesting things to write about. Once you've decided what to write about, then that is when it becomes hard work.

"The basic ideas do come easily. There are lots of places from which to get ideas; the world, newspapers, magazines, TV. Books are full of interesting ideas to do with science, viruses, genetic engineering, there are lots of things to write about.

"When you come to rack your brains - what are these characters like, where are they from, what do they want to do - that's more difficult.

"The difference is that you become more confident as the years go by."

The author usually wakes early and types up a few words before taking his dogs for a walk in Knebworth Park and then sitting down for breakfast.

He will then go back to his desk and stay writing until about 4pm.

Ken is currently working on the sequel to one of his most ambitious and successful novels, The Pillars of the Earth, in which during a time of civil war there rises a magnificent cathedral in Kingsbridge around which several lives intertwine.

"The Pillars of the Earth is the one I'm most pleased with and most proud of. It's a very ambitious book and very long.

"It's about the building of a cathedral and required me to know a lot about that subject. A lot of people thought it would be too long and boring.

"The book is going very well, I'm currently finishing the first draft and I've almost finished it. I've got 1,300 pages written already."

When the first draft is finished it will require a rewrite and Ken hopes it will be published next Christmas.

In the meantime Ken will be donning his thinking cap to take his place as one of the judges in The Comet's short story competition.

Is there any advice he can give to our readers?

"The key thing is that you grab the attention of the reader right from the start and you've got to say quite a lot in a very few words. You've got no time to draw things out, you have to get the story across quite briskly.

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