10 Quotes by Agatha Christie on Writing

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie (1890 – 1976) drew on her observations of the world and people surrounding her to become the literary world’s “Queen of Crime.” Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)was written as a dare from her sister. This was the book that introduced the iconic detective character, Hercule Poirot.

Though she earned a place in The Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling novelist in the world with sales of over four billion books, writing didn’t come easily to Dame Agatha. In his post on The Writing Habits of Agatha Christie, Tony Riches explains:

“Reassuringly for anyone struggling to follow in her footsteps, after four years working on her first novel, even she was rejected by all the leading publishers of her day, before The Bodley Head press took a chance with her.

It seems the writing process was not easy, even for such a prolific writer.  When asked how she went about her writing, Christie said ‘There is no agony like it. You sit in a room, biting pencils, looking at a typewriter, walking about, or casting yourself down on a sofa, feeling you want to cry your head off.’”

Dessite these agonies, she persevered and has remained one of the world’s best-selling authors of all time, and remains an icon in the world of mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels. Here are 10 quotes by Agatha Christie on writing and the writing life for anyone who could use a bit of reassurance about the process.

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“Nothing turns out quite in the way that you thought it would when you are sketching out notes for the first chapter, or walking about muttering to yourself and seeing a story unroll.”

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“The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”

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“I’ve always believed in writing without a collaborator, because where two people are writing the same book, each believes he gets all the worry and only half the royalties.”

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“There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”

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Agatha Christie quote on being a professional writer

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“Plots come to me at such odd moments, when I am walking along the street, or examining a hat shop… suddenly a splendid idea comes into my head.”

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“There always has to be a lapse of time after the accomplishment of a piece of creative work before you can in any way evaluate it.”

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“I learned in the end never to say anything about a book before it was written. Criticism after you have written it is helpful. You can argue the point, or you can give in, but at least you know how it has struck one reader. Your own description of what you are going to write, however, sounds so futile, that to be told kindly that it won’t  do meets with your instant agreement.”

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Agatha Christie Stamp 125th anniversary Republique Centrafricaine

Agatha Christie Postage Stamps

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“There is a right length for everything. I think myself that the right length for a detective story is fifty- thousand words. I know this is considered by some publishers as too short. Possibly readers feel themselves cheated if they pay their money and only get fifty-thousand words- so sixty- thousand or seventy-thousand are more acceptable.  If your book runs to more than that I think you usually find that it would have been better if it had been shorter.”

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“When you begin to write, you are usually in the throes of admiration for some writer, and, whether you will or no, you cannot help copying their style.  Often it is not a style that suits you, and so you write badly.  But as time goes on you are less influenced by admiration. You will admire certain writers, you may even wish you could write like them, but you know quite well that you can’t.

If I could write like Elizabeth Bowen, Muriel Spark, or Grahame Greene, I should jump to high heaven with delight, but I know that I can’t, and it would never occur to me to attempt to copy them. I have learned that I am me,  that I can do the things that, as one might put it, me can do, but I cannot do the things that me would like to do.”

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On being asked whether she draws her characters from people she knows: “No, I don’t. I invent them. They are mine. They’ve got to be my characters – doing what I want them to do, being what I want them to be – coming alive for me, having their own ideas sometimes, but only because I’ve made them real.”

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Quote by Agatha Christie

You might also like: The Writing Habits of Agatha Christie


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