Paul Cornell on Writing

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.

On writ­ing:

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.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

2 thoughts on “Paul Cornell on Writing”

  1. Hi Ian, I’m just crash­ing in to see if you ever have any writ­ing-related dreams. I’m start­ing a writers’ dream depos­it­ory over on my blog. Care to drop off a dream or two?


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