Tuesday, November 3, 2009

'Dealing' a novel with index cards

Writers looking for a creative jump-start might take note of the new book from author Vladimir Nabokov, best known as the writer of “Lolita.”

Nabokov died 32 years ago, and there’s a question over whether this new work, “The Original of Laura,” should be published because Nabokov, a perfectionist had not completed it and wanted the manuscript destroyed.

Details are in this story by Robert McCrum of The Guardian.

Whatever the merits of the new book, some writers will be intrigued by Nabokov’s creative technique.

As McCrum describes it:

“Writing on index cards, in pencil, had become Nabokov's preferred method of composition.

“He would fill each card with narrative and dialogue, shuffle the completed pack and then, in the words of his editor, "’deal himself a novel.’"

Others have used the technique and recommend it as a way to get organized and start writing.

Stuart Brown in his article, “How to Use Index Cards to Write a Novel Outline,” points out that the cards are small, easy to carry around and update as new ideas arrive.

Index cards are easy to sort, Brown notes. And because rewriting and revision are so important, “They are easy to discard,” he writes.

“If you change your mind about an idea, you can throw it away without having to throw away the entire paper.”

- By John Strauss, jcstrauss@bsu.edu

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