Paul Cornell is one of the writers on the rebooted Doctor Who (and, alarmingly, Robin Hood). He wrote the DW episodes Father’s Day — the one with the church and the bat thingies and Billie Piper’s dad saving the day — and Human Nature/Family of Blood — the one with the doctor living as a human teacher in pre-Great War England. I reckon he’s one of the best writers on telly at the moment. A few moments ago, the BBC Writers’ Room newsletter appeared in my inbox with a link to an interview with Paul. Here are highlights.
If someone wants to write for a living, what advice would you give them?
I have one sentence. I have actually lots more but my one sentence is: It is your job as a writer to seek out harsh criticism of your work and change because of it.
I think there are two good books, but only two good books, on how to write. One is “Story” by Robert McKee, which is basically everything you need to know from top to bottom. And the other is Stephen King’s “On Writing” which is three-quarters an autobiography, but the little gems he has in the last quarter are worth the price of the book alone.
Tell us a little bit about your writing routine.
Well I never believe those writers who say I get up at seven o’clock in the morning, put on my business suit, go to my office and work an eight hour day, stopping only for a cup of tea at lunch time. I go for amount. I will write two thousand good words of prose, or five pages of comics, or five pages of screenplay in a working day. If I do that by lunch time then I can do what only writers can do and pop off to the cinema in the afternoons, which is the whole point of being a writer. It’s what it’s for. But if I don’t manage to do it during the day I may even be up until the early hours hacking it out.