How the Sausage Gets Made

Admit it. When some poor soul raises his hand at a book reading to ask a notable writer how she writes, you sigh or even groan audibly. Typewriter or computer? Pen or pencil? Caffeinated or medicated? All day or just a few intense hours? The poor wannabe writer is desperate for a clue as to how this writing thing works.

I sigh, too, but unfairly and hypocritically. The way people work is fascinating to me, especially in a field with no set parameters. Getting words on the page is the aim, but how you do it is up to you.

Perhaps that's why the Guardian's ongoing series, Writers' Rooms, is so appealing. Here you discover that historian Antony Beevor hung a Soviet-era anti-drinking poster to remind himself "not to touch a drink until dinner time." That Kate Mosse, author of Sepulchre and Labyrinth, writes very early in the morning and uses her laptop for novels only -- "no email, no journalism, no internet, no administration." That Roald Dahl didn't want to have to get up from his chair so he created a lap desk and kept a sleeping bag near at hand for his legs should they get chilly. Dahl wouldn't let anyone into his writing "shed"; he shut the curtains tight "so that nothing from outside came in to interfere with the story that he was imagining." Now that's a useful tip. Care to pass along any of your own?

By Rachel Hartigan Shea |  October 7, 2008; 7:02 AM ET Rachel Hartigan Shea
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