Friday, October 07, 2016


Vladimir Nabokov somewhat famously (among writers — other folks wouldn’t be likely to know) wrote his novels on index cards, simultaneously developing scenes and passages throughout his books, rather than sitting down and writing start to finish. The author compared this to the way a painter works, applying brushwork here and there until the work is finished.

It is not unlike the way I work, though I am not nearly so formal about it. Moreover, computers make note cards unnecessary; rather, I type out bits and pieces that will be plugged into the final work. I leave gaps as I build the narrative, knowing I can come back to write that scene or chapter — after all, I have my notes. I may write a synopsis of sorts for a chapter, an ‘argument’ as E.R.R. Eddison called it in his related approach, and return to it later.

I could not imagine just sitting down, starting at the beginning of the story, and banging it out. I am no Stephen King, disciplining myself to write thousands of words each day. Rather, my approach is more akin to that of Michael Moorcock. Once I have things worked out, whether in notes/outline or in my head, I can type up the whole novel in one frenzy of writing, working all day, thinking of little else for as long as it takes. Which can be a rather short time, really, a few days, a week.

At that point, the project gets my entire focus. I will do nothing else. I live it. This is what works for me. Maybe I could compare it to mounting a stage show. Weeks of rehearsals lead up to the performance itself. I have learned my lines and deliver them for you, my readers.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

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