Most writers are interested in how other writers write. In their environments; in their habits; in their productivity. Not because they’re neurotics, worried that they’re doing it right, or working hard enough (or not only
because they’re neurotics), but because writing is a private process, and a mysterious one, too. In a piece for last Saturday’s The Week In Books
feature in the Guardian
(which the Guardian
doesn’t seem to archive online, any more, so I can’t provide a link), Philip Hensher noted that his friend Alan Hollinghurst ‘is a devotee of Ishiguro’s “crash” method. After a long period of planning and thinking, the author retreats into a cell and writes furiously for up to 12 hours a day.’ Hensher’s method, on the other hand, is slow and steady:
Writing my latest novel, King of the Badgers, I got up at 6:30, five to six days a week, and wrote until 10. I reckon to produce between 400 and 1,500 words a day, and then do a lot of crossing out.
There are other methods, of course - Vladimir Nabokov wrote sentences and paragraphs on index cards
, and then assembled them into the finished work. But it seems to me that the Crash and Slow and Steady methods are at either end of a spectrum that encompasses most common variants of writing methodology. I’m of the slow and steady school, although I don’t write within a set time but try instead to produce a fixed amount each day. I’m working on a second draft at the moment - rewriting, crossing out, inserting new material - and attempting to make a quota of around 2000 words a day. Yesterday I was writing so slowly that I could have used the blood sweated from my forehead for ink. Today I finished inside two hours. So it goes. I do have a plan before I start the first draft, but it isn't in any way detailed, and I certainly don't spend months thinking about the book before I start. As far as I’m concerned writing is a process of discovery. The trick is to keep moving forward.