Joan Didion on writing

There’s an interesting interview with Joan Didion in the most recent issue of the Paris Review in which she describes her writing process. Lo and behold, she does what every writing manual and writing teacher in the world would tell you not to (and what I like to do and constantly struggle not to): She goes over and over her sentences, editing and rewriting, before she even reaches the end of whatever she’s working on. In her words:

Every day I go back to page one and just retype what I have. It gets me into a rhythm. Once I get over maybe a hundred pages, I won’t go back to page one, but I might go back to page fifty-five, or twenty, even. But then every once in a while I feel the need to go back to page one again and start rewriting.
(Paris Review #176, p. 62)

Also in the interview…She says she wrote The Year of Magical Thinking in three months. She says writing nonfiction is like producing a sculpture (because you shape info and research into the final product) whereas writing a novel is more like painting (because “every stroke you put down you have to go with.”)

Anyway, this appears to be a part I of a two-part interview, so I can’t wait to read the rest.

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