So when I write I write like this: I picture what’s about to happen, like arranging the actors on a stage, squint, and then set it all in motion. And simply write down what happens. I stop seeing my fingers, the keyboard, even the screen, and instead stare through it, visualizing the action as it unfolds, live before my eyes. The faster I type, the faster the scene progresses, until I reach a natural break, and fall back, exhausted and satisfied. In such manner I can easily write a couple of thousand words in a go, or if things are really rocking, some seven, eight or even nine thousand. In such manner I write novels in two weeks, and thoughtless, headlong rush that explodes in a torrent on the page, like diving off a cliff and plunging into the ocean.
Now, I just read that Vikram Chandra writes about 400 words per day. Carefully, calmly, methodically, he pens about a page or so of his novel, and is then satisfied. While this is nowhere near as bad as James Joyce (12 words a day?), it still seems ludicrously slow to me, especially when you consider that his latest novel was about 900 pages long, and thus about contained about some 400,000 words. Suddenly I can readily believe it took him 7 years to write.
How different an approach! How steady and meticulous! The differences between his style and mine are like night and day (not discussing talent here, oh no), and you can detect the difference in the pacing, the level of detail, the asides and explanations, the sub-plots and sub-sub-plots. There is a nuance and level of detail that is lacking in my novels; while mine feels like an escaped bull tearing through a kabuki play, his feels like a leisurely stroll through the MET.
I think I’m going to try and write my next novel in his style. To be more deliberate with what I write, to consider each sentence and paragraph, to stop and examine what I am presenting, in how much detail and depth, and why.
Now, the danger in writing a novel in such fashion is that you might run into the dilemma that tripped Michael Chabon after the success of his first novel, in that he ended up writing an overly detailed and bloated monster of a book that he finally abandoned and then parodied in Wonder Boys. How to balance that detailed kind of writer with the narrative drive that moves a story inexorably forward? Ah, there’s the rub, and no doubt that’s where talent comes into play.
Still, if you’re gunning for verisimilitude, you can’t go wrong trying your hand at the same deliberate and thoughtful style that characterizes Chandra, Chabon, McCarthy and Faulkner.