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Keep the ribbon moving

Stephen King calls Neal Stephenson ‘a god’, and I agree. He seems to have a good idea every paragraph – it’s practically Shakespearean, and frequently exhausting. Snow Crash is still one of my favourite books, although I admit I haven’t yet finished Quicksilver. The latter is so crammed full of interesting bits and pieces that I like to read it when I can concentrate, which means not late at night. And it’s bloody enormous (and only the first of a trilogy), so is taking a while.

I like the story of how his first novel came to be written:

It was a hot summer in Iowa City. Neal Stephenson had a regular job, and yet had a hunch that writing might be for him. He had written a “query” — a plot summary, the outline of a book, biographies of characters, and a few sample chapters — and started to send them to editors, which he picked at random from trade directories. Many rejection letters followed. Finally, one editor wrote that he was intrigued by the outline and the sample chapter and asked for the rest of the novel. After a brief exhilaration the reality set in: there was no novel yet. He had to write it. With all his vacation time and the 4th of July holiday there were 10 days, in which to write a novel. He rented a modern typewriter, secluded himself in his apartment and started to type. Soon a problem appeared: the typewriter had a modern plastic ribbon. The plastic mellowed and became sticky: it was July in Iowa City, and the apartment was hot. The only way to prevent the ribbon from getting stuck is to keep the ribbon moving. And the only way to keep the ribbon moving is to keep pressing the keys. That discovery did wonders for his productivity. He didn’t have time to think: he had to keep pressing the keys and write the first thing that came into his mind. He sent thus created manuscript to the editor. The latter replied that his publishing house can’t print that — but the work was interesting and should be published. Eventually, Neal Stephenson got an agent, a publisher, and his first published book, “The Big U”.

Now that’s a good way to motivate yourself. Via.

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