Index cards

September 15, 2010 § 2 Comments

Vladimir Nabokov’s unfinished manuscript for the novel The Original of Laura was written by hand on138 index cards. This method of writing short paragraphs, fragments of dialogue, etc. on cards that can be rearranged, changed or discarded, seems to me to be a really good way to develop a storyline. I have been wanting to try out this method for myself, and as I recently came upon a box of old index cards, developing a story with the help of index cards will become my next project.

Some articles on The Original of Laura
The Nabokov Code: A first encounter with Laura, his last, unfinished work

In a Sketchy Hall of Mirrors, Nabokov Jousts With Death and Reality

Review: Vladimir Nabokov’s The Original of Laura

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§ 2 Responses to Index cards

  • namelessneed says:

    Y’know, I couldn’t wait for this long withheld, unfinished work to be published when I first read about it. Reading it left me mixed feelings, too disorganized themselves to go into, but I too found the index card thing intriguing. wrote a short story a long time ago,
    mostly using things only verbalized, to shuffle some after laying them all out on the floor, and then to let them lead the storyline. It was fun, satisfying, and I think it worked some.
    Burroughs’ much talked about “cut-up” techniques also were worth a go. why not?
    Did you proceed with yr index card project?

    • Maria says:

      Before I got it, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. When I at last got it, I knew it would probably be a fast read, so I prolonged beginning to read it, because I didn’t want it to be over too soon. But I’ve started reading it now, and it’s leaving me with mixed feelings as well. But I agree with you, the index cards is what really intrigued me about this. I love that I, as a reader, can get this close to Nabokov’s work process. It’s really interesting to see his meticulate hand-writing (which isn’t as prim as I imagined it to be) – and the fact that he makes spelling mistakes and that he crosses out parts. In my mind I’ve always thought of him as creating these too perfect sentences out of nothing.

      I’ve proceeded with my index cards, and I think they’re absolutely great for organizing the story and getting an overview. The finished story is going to be a graphic novel, so I’m at a halt now since I have to make a visual storyboard as well before I proceed any further.

      Burroughs.. I’ve read one book by him, it was absolute chaos for me, I wasn’t really sure what I was reading, couldn’t make it coherent for some reason. I liked Cronenberg’s “The Naked Lunch” though, so I should like the books as well, perhaps I just need to get into his style of writing. I’ll read more about his cut-up technique, it sounds like something I’d be interested in.

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