Maxine Hong Kingston: Physical Writing Process

"Instead of a woman warrior with a sword, I could create one with a pen who would be just as dramatic." - Maxine Hong Kingston From Drawings to Words Across a Multitude of Drafts Maxine Hong Kingston is such an accomplished writer that she has been awarded by two presidents. She's best known for her book The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, but I tend to associate her with the novel Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book. While we might not classify her as part of

Octavia Butler: Physical Writing Process

Inspiring Oneself Octavia Butler's groundbreaking writing continues to captivate readers as they rethink humanity and society through the lens of her work. She paved the way for those who would follow in her path, being the first science fiction writer to be awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant, the first woman to receive both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and the first African American woman to rise to prominence as a science fiction author. In 2008, the Huntington Library in Sa

Dalton Trumbo: Physical Writing Process

Writing in the Bathtub & the Duality of Screenwriter-Novelist Dalton Trumbo liked to write while he was in the bathtub. I wouldn’t say that he wrote while he was taking a bath because it was less about the bath and more about the idea that being there in the water was a comfortable place for him to sit and write all night. And at first I was thinking, maybe that’s not so odd—but the water mixing in with his papers and ink—and apparently he would have his typewriter in there w

Jack Kerouac's Original On the Road Scroll

The American Writers' Museum's First Exhibit Features the legendary scroll manuscript of Kerouac's classic American novel. I first read On the Road by Jack Kerouac in 2008. Then I started to get even more into Kerouac's writing, reading many of his other novels starting in 2009. But at that time, I learned I had just missed the chance to see with my own two eyes the actual, original, legendary, scroll manuscript of On the Road. Starting in 2007 and ending in early 2008, the s

George R. R. Martin: Writer's Block

"My dream chronology is that the books finish first, and I do have a considerable lead over them," George R. R. Martin said in 2013, according to this article titled "'Game of Thrones' Writer George R. R. Martin Thinks His Books Will Outpace the Series." He elaborated, "It's true that they're moving faster than I am -- the series has its own speed -- but I don't see us catching up for another three years or so, by which time another book will be out. That should give them ano

Donna Tartt: Physical Writing Process

Literary Talismans Literature as we tend to conceive of it exists in the realm of the mind, represented by little markings that are easily reproduced (the written word) and endlessly spread, whether on paper or electronically. But my goal in this series was always to explore the physical roots, the paper on which the words were originally carved. I'm also exploring what an English professor of mine once called "literary talismans" - tangible objects left behind by creatives.

Know Thyself, but be open to new ideas

Note: I’m part of a small writing guild called Scrawl. This is an excerpt from an issue of the Scrawl newsletter. For various reasons, I’ve recently been thinking of Emerson’s concept of Self-Reliance. Now, that’s not meant to go against the spirit of collaboration that this guild is founded upon – after all, our group perfectly matches Stephen King’s advice: “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open” – and the comments on this last round of stories seemed to be

Franz Kafka: Physical Writing Process

Quartered Onionskin Paper & My Own Blue Notebooks There’s an episode fairly late in Kafka’s life, September 1917 to April 1918, when his tuberculosis manifested and he took sick leave from his office job to rest in the countryside at his sister’s rural house in Zurau. While staying there, Kafka began to write The Castle (one of my favorite novels) and he also composed a tiny book that no one saw until after he died. We now know that book as The Zurau Aphorisms (although Max B

Joyce & Borges: Physical Writing Process

The Physical Writing Process: James Joyce & Jorge Luis Borges - Writing With Eye Trouble I have the impression that the most iconic images of James Joyce are those in which he's wearing an eye-patch, and the reason he’s wearing it is because he suffered from eye problems his entire life (iritis, conjunctivitis, glaucoma, episcleritis, synechia, and cataracts), which became worse as he got older. During the time he was living in Zurich he had to undergo several operations on h

Jonathan Franzen: Physical Writing Process

Destroy the Internet In a recent post I wrote, “I tend to type my novels directly into GoogleDocs so that they are constantly backed up on Google’s servers” and I realized that my writing process being so entwined with the internet is the exact opposite of Jonathan Franzen’s, who wrote (in his top ten rules for writing), “It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” The Time Magazine article “Jonathan Franzen: Great American

Neal Stephenson: Physical Writing Process

Fountain Pen and Malfunctioning Typewriter Neal Stephenson started out writing on a typewriter, but when he began work on The Baroque Cycle, he decided to write the whole thing with a fountain pen. In an interview for Quicksilver, Stephenson said, “I’ve written every word of it so far with fountain pen on paper. Part of the theory was that it would make me less long-winded, but it hasn’t actually worked.” The plan didn’t seem to have worked out at all, as I believe the comple

William Gibson: Physical Writing Process

The Cyberpunk Future was Written on Hemingway’s Typewriter In my abandoned, unfinished novel RPGs Aren’t Censored, a character says, “The cyberpunk future was created on Hemingway’s typewriter,” which is a direct allusion to William Gibson. Speaking of Neuromancer and the other books in his Sprawl trilogy in an interview with Playboy, he said, “The typewriter that I actually wrote that stuff on was a Hermes 2000, which is like a very Ernest Hemingway sort of war-correspondent

Jack Kerouac: Physical Writing Process

Whenever I encounter tales of the way writers physically sit down to write one of their books, I’m always fascinated. I like to imagine what the setting might have been like and what sort of instrument they actually used to get the ideas and images out of the mind and onto the page. I know that it probably has little bearing on the finished product of their writing, but I still find it fun to imagine what it might have been like when these works of art were created. I picture