The Weekend Journal section of today’s WSJ has a round-up of how various novelists crank out their words. It’s a comforting article, in some ways, since it turns out that many of the recent Booker and Pulitzer Prize winners dumped whole books and spent years getting nowhere in the process of creating their masterpieces. A good novel just takes time.
But you can still use that time as wisely as possible. For instance, Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Prize winning writer, writes in hand on graph-paper. This is simply the way that works best for him. He fills one side of the page with text, and leaves the adjacent page blank for revisions, inserting “dialogue-like balloons,” according to the WSJ. But rather than then sitting down at a computer to compile it all, he sends his notebooks off to a speed typist, who returns the work as a typed manuscript. He then makes revisions by hand on these pages, and sends them off again. This cycle can continue three or four times.
In other words, Pamuk has learned to separate out the writing of a novel into multiple tasks. He focuses on the task he is best at: creating a great story and telling it in beautiful prose. He also does this task in the way that works best for him: working by hand. Someone else who is good at typing can do the typing and splicing. When everyone focuses on his or her core competencies, a masterpiece comes together.