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Joseph Conrad’s manuscript of Typhoon.

Do you write by hand?

I do – that is, I type my stories, plays and blog posts, but for notes, lists and brainstorming I use the good old method: pen and notebook. It makes for a good deal of scribbling – which I quite like, but you won’t find me ranting against word-processors.

Indeed, whenever I find myself moving around whole chunks of writing on an electronic page, or copying and pasting, or shuffling paragraphs, or trying out different versions of a sentence with a flick of a finger on a touchpad, I can’t help thinking in some awe of all the wonderful novels, plays and poems that were written by hand – and in many cases, largely by candlelight…

Ah well, it was another time, another world – on which it is easy to open windows. For instance, by perusing these images of manuscript pages from twenty-five famous novels, collected by Flavorwire.

Quite lovely to see, aren’t they? And I like to play guessing games on what can be gleaned of each author’s method and personality…

Always remembering that Dumas Père’s precise and very neat quasi-secretary hand, covering endless large, pale-blue pages – with no punctuation at all, to save time – is rather hard to reconcile with his exuberant personality and colourful writing style.

Guessing games work only so far, but they are great fun – or else, they are great fun, but only work so far.


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