Every writer is different. Each has his or her own way of working, a method for getting words down on paper. Some are procrastinators, some are methodical, some write in between juggling a daytime job and caring for a family.
John Ray Grisham, Jr. (born February 8, 1955) is an American bestselling writer, attorney, politician, and activist best known for his popular legal thrillers. His books have been translated into 42 languages and published worldwide.
John Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University before attending the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981. He practiced criminal law for about a decade and served in the House of Representatives in Mississippi from January 1984 to September 1990. He began writing his first novel, A Time to Kill, in 1984; it was published in June 1989.
As of 2012, his books had sold over 275 million copies worldwide. A Galaxy British Book Awards winner, Grisham is one of only three authors to sell two million copies on a first printing; the others are Tom Clancy and J.K. Rowling.
As a kid he never thought about being a writer or even a lawyer. His family moved around a lot when and in every town they went to the big question was how many books can you take out the library: “backward” towns would allow two, “progressive” towns would allow six or seven. He read a lot and mother would always read to them. When he was eleven years old he discovered Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Huckleberry Finn and the Hardy Boys. He was a big reader until law school killed the pleasure because there was no time to read.
When he first started writing, Grisham says, he had “these little rituals that were silly and brutal but very important.
“The alarm clock would go off at 5 a.m., and I’d jump in the shower. My office was 5 minutes away. And I had to be at my desk, at my office, with the first cup of coffee, a legal pad and write the first word at 5:30, five days a week.”
His goal was to write a page every day. Sometimes that would take ten minutes, sometimes an hour; ofttimes he would write for two hours before he had to turn to his job as a lawyer, which he never especially enjoyed. In the Mississippi Legislature, there were “enormous amounts of wasted time” that would give him the opportunity to write.
“So I was very disciplined about it,” he says, then quickly concedes he doesn’t have such discipline now: “I don’t have to.”
Nowadays, Grisham writes in an old building, five minutes from his home. There is no fax, no internet, and no noise. He turns up there every day arriving at between 6.30 and 7.00., uses same cup for his coffee and everything very structured. He spends four to five hours writing after which he needs a break because, as he puts it, his brain is fried. He still has a very rigid schedule but he enjoys it and finds it fun to do. He has very few interruptions and the room he writes in is very quiet and very dark – he even covers the windows to make it even darker. He uses an old word-processor he has used for 14 years, which, he says, is about to give up the ghost.
He is an outliner. Typically, he starts with one idea for a story and then outlines it into forty or so chapters before turning it in to his publisher for review. Then the rest of the story is fleshed out in subsequent sessions.
Grisham’s regime may seem brutal, but I suppose it’s a test of a writer’s ambition whether he or she puts in the hours. His books sales are testimony to the fact that hard work is one of the main factors in whether or not you succeed.