Saturday, 10 November 2012
Ian Rankin documentary in #nanowrimo month #nanolondon #nanoscotland
I think I owe Ian Rankin something.
It's not as if I've been a great fan and read all of his novels (though I have read a couple and seen some of the Rebus series on television).
But the other night on television there was a documentary (click here for the iPlayer link) about him and his writing.
I found it quite fascinating. Rankin is one of the best-selling UK authors and has written many principally crime-genre books, most of which climb straight into the top of the charts.
During the documentary there was a sequence at a Waterstone's bookstore and the assistant there was saying how much Rankin novels help keep them and other bookshops going.
The fascinating and quite generous spirited part of the documentary for me was the relatively raw access to Rankin's writing process. He'd been given a little camcorder to make a diary of his start on the latest book. He talks to camera quite a lot and that gives the whole piece something of a conversational feel.
We see him collect various scraps of paper with ideas, sift them, start writing and sketch out a first draft. He makes various asides about how good (or otherwise) it is, whether he's really worked out 'whodunit' by the end of the first draft and so on. Even a glimpse that this is maybe a kind of a road trip disguised as a crime fiction?
There's long start-up times in the morning, involving coffee shops and newspapers.
There's quite a lot of self reflection about the quality of the piece. There's clearly an ego, like the shot as he passes Ian Rankin Court in his home town, but there's also a good amount of introspection and critical self doubt.
Ian Rankin is a millionaire writer, so his credentials and popularity can't really be questioned. Nor can the long lines at his book signings.
What made this a fascinating piece in NaNoWriMo month is how the human process looked so similar to the one that most of us rather more amateur scribblers must go through.
Rankin makes no bones about how additional television presence helps sales and that he'll look at 250,000 units from a new novel, maybe aided by some on-screen publicity. Acknowledging his pre-Chrietmas book launch, it was still a good decision to schedule this episode of the "Imagine" series during the Nanowrimo month.
I think I know what to do to say 'thank you' to Mr Rankin.