Spike And Co

posted by Nick Hornby February 18, 2008 at 3:39 pm Books , ,

The best advice you will ever read about writing is to be found in Graham McCann’s terrific book ‘Spike And Co’, about the brilliant British comedy writers of the ’50s and ’60s – Johnny Speight, Galton and Simpson, Spike Milligan et al.  Milligan’s working method, according to McCann, was as follows:  “Once he had started work on a script he disliked ever having to stop; he wrote as he thought, and if he came to a place where the right line failed to emerge, he would just jab a finger at one of the keys, type ‘FUCK IT’ or ‘BOLLOCKS’, and then carry on regardless. The first draft would feature plenty of such expletives, but then, with each successive version, the expletives grew fewer and fewer, until by about the tenth draft, he had a complete, expletive-free script…”

This probably won’t work for everyone – Sister Wendy Beckett, for example, might want to try a different trick. But one of the things that frequently trips me up during the working day is the absence of one line, sometimes even a simple way of conjoining two scenes or ideas; the subsequent interruption of the flow (in my case, a thin trickle at the best of times) is when I check emails, or the BBC news, or go for a swim or a spot of book-browsing, or take a month off. Much better, then, to type an obscenity and carry on. Spike Milligan has just, you know, doubled my… BOLLOCKS.