The Bartimaeus Trilogy

Bartimaeus Trilogy
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Writing the Trilogy

The Bartimaeus Trilogy took me about four years to write. Each book needed three drafts as well as endless pages of notes and scribblings. These notes are essential, since writing any novel requires a mix of forward planning and improvisation. New ideas appear all the time and they affect previous assumptions about how the story is going to turn out. You have to keep altering the structure as you progress.

This page gives a brief account of how The Amulet of Samarkand was written. You can also read one of the sequences that was cut out of the book during its construction by clicking here.


I got the idea for the book in October 2001, during a 20-minute walk home in the rain. As I trudged along, carrying heavy shopping and with the rain dripping down my neck, I took my mind off the dreariness of it all by thinking about fantasy books. And it suddenly occurred to me that an awful lot of fantasies feature heroic wizards battling against evil. I wondered whether it would be interesting to turn this upside-down and instead make the human magicians the villains.

I walked on, thinking. Next question: who would the hero be? Well, a lot of fantasies feature wicked demons and monsters, who pop up with leathery wings and horns etc to do battle with the good-guy wizards. Perhaps I could turn this round too. I could make a demon the hero… He has been enslaved by one of the magicians, and it is his voice that narrates the story.

By now I no longer noticed the rain. I decided that my book would be set in a recognisable modern London ruled by the magicians. The Prime Minister and all his government would be using the magic of enslaved demons to retain power, and keep ordinary people under their thumb.

I was so excited by these ideas that as soon as I got home from my walk, I threw my shopping in a corner, sat down at my desk and scribbled everything down before I forgot it. I decided that my book would feature a confrontation between my demon (sarcastic, world-weary) and his master, a young, cold-hearted kid-magician.

A few weeks later I decided to write a bit and see how it went. Within minutes, Bartimaeus’s voice burst out on the page. In two days I wrote the first 4 chapters of Amulet, pretty much as they are now. A lot of the key ideas (the pentacles, the summonings, the planes, Bart’s transformations, the footnotes) and central characters (Bart, Nat, Faquarl, Jabor, Lovelace) were invented in these two days.

I knew that this was the beginning of a great story, but I hadn’t yet got a clue what that story was going to be. I didn’t know what the Amulet was, what it did, why the kid wanted it, or anything else about where things were going. But I carried on for a while, writing the bits with Bart in Trafalgar Square, and him being attacked by a mysterious girl and her gang of children. Then I grew interested in this girl (whom I called Kitty) and started work on some chapters about her background. But now I began to run out of steam.

It was time to sit back and think about the book’s plot and structure.


Problems with the Plot

By now I had maybe 50-60 pages of text, but before I could continue, I had to get the story straight. This was easier said than done. I needed to uncover more about Nathaniel’s background, as well as working out what happened once Bart brought him the Amulet. Then there was Kitty – where did she fit in? For a long time I made notes and experimented with different chapter plans.

After a while I realised that it was simply too complex to have Kitty’s story crammed in alongside Nat’s back-story AND the events of the present day. The solution was to have more than one book. Kitty’s story would be moved to Book Two, and Book One would focus on Nat and Bart. This freed me up a lot, but it still took several months to wrestle the structure into submission.

These notes were made on the day I cracked the structure of Amulet. They show part of the chapter plan. Each box in the middle represents a chapter or two. The green numbers in circles are chapter numbers. The red numbers (without circles) mean that a chapter has already been written and indicate its number of pages. There are still lots of questions and problems remaining but the overall shape is getting clearer.

As soon as I had The Amulet of Samarkand under control, I went on to draw up plans for the next two books as well. It was important that I knew roughly where the story was heading, so that even in Book One I could include clues and hints about events to come. Early chapter plans of The Golem’s Eye and Ptolemy’s Gate duly appeared.

Selling the Trilogy

By mid-2002 I had written the first 100 pages or so of Amulet, together with the chapter plans for all three books. This was enough to show to some publishers, but to really whet their appetite, we decided to present the first 4 chapters in 'book form'. My wife Gina designed a natty pamphlet for this.

In June 2002 the UK rights to the Trilogy were sold to Random House, and the US rights to Hyperion/Miramax. The movie rights were also sold to Miramax/Disney. This was all great news, but there was one small problem – I still hadn’t actually written the books… Time for some hasty writing. I locked myself away for the remainder of the year and scribbled away at Amulet.


Once all the structural notes had been written, it took several months, maybe 4 or 5, to complete the first draft of Amulet. I tried to write chronologically, chapter by chapter, building up as much momentum as I could and waiting until I’d finished before going back and reworking. I’d completed this draft by late autumn 2002, but before showing it to anyone, went through it again and made substantial revisions.

The Books
Bart's Guide to London
Historical Notes
Writing the Trilogy
Bart's Journal
Book Covers
Bart's Home Page


I handed this second draft in to my editors in November 2002, then went for a lie down.

After a painfully short time my editors got back in touch with comments and suggestions and I was sent away again to ponder. I made various changes and revisions. In February 2003, the third draft was complete. This was pretty much the final article, though several subsequent rounds of copyediting and checking took place through the spring. The book was published in October 2003, just about two years after I got the original idea. 

While I was still writing, my UK publishers were busy working on the book cover. They wanted a description of the Amulet, so I drew them this. In the event, it wasn’t needed, since the Amulet wasn’t shown very big on the cover, but it was nice to get the image clear in my own mind.

To read one of the sequences that was cut out of the book during its construction, click here.