A window on the writer

As I have said in a previous post, cataloguing a writer’s papers feels much like opening a window onto their world, looking over their shoulder as they work.  Seeing the original drafts can tell you so much about how a writer thinks, where their ideas come from, their creative process, and what else they might have been thinking about as they wrote.  The papers of all the writers represented in the Seven Stories Collection reveal a wealth of fascinating, and very varied, approaches to writing. 

Jan Mark, for example, seems to have had at least one ear tuned in to the cricket while writing – a note on the second draft of The Hillingdon Fox, written in 1990, reads “2nd Test England v. India.  A name to watch – Sachin Tendulkar, 119 not out”.  Philip Pullman appears to quite literally lose the plot at times – halfway through an early draft of The Tiger in the Well a scrawled note in the margin demands “What is the plot?”

So what am I learning about Enid Blyton from her papers?  One thing that has already become clear is that she wrote quickly, apparently without much preparatory planning or development.  Her books seem to have quite literally existed, complete, in her head, and then been put down on paper in largely finished form.  Several of the typescripts include notes in her hand, in which she explains “I do not write my books by hand, but type them straight out of my head.”  Her typescripts show this to be true – the first draft appears to be the only draft.

She is unique in this regard, at least in terms of the Seven Stories Collection.  I have catalogued the papers of numerous children’s authors, but she is the first I have come across who appears to have had her books fully formed in her head from the moment she started writing.  When she sat down at the typewriter, she was simply transferring the books from her head to the paper, exactly as she said.

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