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Sidney Sheldon’s Writing Routine: “I could easily write two books a year.”

Sidney Sheldon was an American writer, director, and producer, best-known for his best-selling romantic suspense novels, Master of the GameThe Other Side of Midnight, and Rage of Angels.

No one knows where ideas come from. Any talent is a gift, and we can take no credit for it. I think we’re obligated to work as hard as we can at whatever talent we’re lucky enough to have been given, whether it’s writing or music or painting. We should just be grateful.

Author Sidney Sheldon talks about his new novel, “The Sky Is Falling” | CNN

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Before Sidney Sheldon became one of the best-selling fiction authors of time, he was a playwright and screenwriter for Hollywood films and television shows. Before he published his first novel, The Naked Face, in 1970, he had worked on 28 movies, 250 TV scripts, and 8 Broadway plays. Before his 18 novels had sold over 300 million copies across 51 languages, he had won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (1947) for The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxerand a Tony Award (1959) for the musical Redhead.

In 1970, after over 30 years in the entertainment business, production for the TV sitcom I Dream of Jeannie (which Sheldon had created in 1965) wrapped up after five seasons, the writer decided it was time to try writing a book.

“During the last year of I Dream of Jeannie, I decided to try a novel,” he recalled in a 1982 interview. “Each morning from 9 until noon, I had a secretary at the studio take all calls. I mean every single call. I wrote each morning — or rather, dictated — and then I faced the TV business.”

After publishing The Naked Face, Sheldon focused more of his time and energy on writing novels, keeping up a regular pace of publishing one book every couple years. A number of his published works were adapted into films or TV miniseries.

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Each week, we spend hours upon hours researching and writing about famous authors and their daily writing routines. It’s a lot of work, but we do it out of our love for books and learning about these authors’ creative process, and we certainly don’t expect anything in return. However, if you’re enjoying these profiles each week, and would like to send something our way, feel free to buy us a coffee!

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“It takes about two years,” he explained to CNN on how long it takes for him to complete a book. “I could easily write two books a year, but I prefer making each book as exciting as possible, or I feel I would be cheating my readers.”

Many of his books went on to top The New York Times Best Seller list, as well as influence future writers, like Dan Brown, who read Sheldon’s 1991 novel, The Doomsday Conspiracy, while vacationing in Tahiti and was inspired to write his own mystery book.

“I try to write my books so the reader can’t put them down,” Sheldon said. “I try to construct them so when the reader gets to the end of a chapter, he or she has to read just one more chapter. It’s the technique of the old Saturday afternoon serial: leave the guy hanging on the edge of the cliff at the end of the chapter.”

In a 2000 interview, with writing novels now his main focus, the author revealed his updated daily writing routine.

I start work at 9 o’clock in the morning, finish about six. If I can’t sleep at night, I will go into my office and work for a few hours. I do this seven days a week. When I start a book, I have no plot. I have no beginning, middle or end. I start with a character. For example, I will say to my publishers, I want to write a story about a female criminal attorney. At that point, those three words are all I know about the book. I dictate my books to a secretary, and as I talk, other characters come into my mind, the story begins to flow, and I finish a first draft. It can be 1000 to 1200 pages. When the pages are typed, I go to page one and start rewriting. Sometimes I throw out 100 pages at a time. I get rid of characters, and bring in new characters. That rewrite is typed up, and I go to page one and start it all over again. I’ll do that for a year to a year and a half, until the book is as good as I know how to make it. And then my publisher sees it for the first time.

Author Sidney Sheldon talks about his new novel, “The Sky Is Falling” | CNN

Before you go…

Each week, we spend hours upon hours researching and writing about famous authors and their daily writing routines. It’s a lot of work, but we do it out of our love for books and learning about these authors’ creative process, and we certainly don’t expect anything in return. However, if you’re enjoying these profiles each week, and would like to send something our way, feel free to buy us a coffee!

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