HOW I WRITE MY BOOKS
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The following short article by Conan Doyle appeared in What I Think-- a symposium on books and other things by famous writers of to-day (ed. H. Greenhough Smith; Newnes, London, 1927). Here Conan Doyle makes references to some of the problems of 'Silver Blaze'. Although Conan Doyle did not enjoy such symposia, he appeared at several. He once told H. Greenhough Smith, the Strand's editor, '... I hate these Omnium Gatherum Symposia. I don't see what there is for the Author in them. You become cheaper the oftener you appear so why make fugitive and honorary appearances. I have the same objection to charitable scrap-book numbers which are a perfect plague.'
When I am asked what my system of work is I have to ask myself what form of work is referred to. I have wandered into many fields. There are few in which I have not nibbled. I have written between twenty and thirty works of fiction, the histories of two wars, several books of psychic science, three books of travel, one book on literature, several plays, two books of criminal studies, two political pamphlets, three books of verses, one book on children, and an autobiography. For better, for worse, I do not think many men have had a wider sweep.
In short stories it has always seemed to me that so long as you produce your dramatic effect, accuracy of detail matters little. I have never striven for it and have made some bad mistakes in consequence. What matter if I can hold my readers? I claim that I may make my own conditions, and I do so. I have taken liberties in some of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I have been told, for example, that in 'The Adventure of Silver Blaze', half the characters would have been in jail and the other half warned off the Turf for ever. That does not trouble me in the least when the story is admittedly a fantasy.
It is otherwise where history is brought in. Even in a short story one should be accurate there. In the Brigadier Gerard stories, for example, even the uniforms are correct. Twenty books of Napoleonic soldier records are the foundation of those stories.