I apologize that I’ve fallen off the face of blog-verse once again. Last week, I had my kanji test (more officially called the Japan Kanji Aptitude Test) and I was going for Level 2 (Level 1 being the hardest), so that was that. Given, it would have been cool if I actually passed. This time, despite my cram sessions, I don’t think I made the cut. I guess I just have to keep going!
Also, I got accepted into one of the colleges I’ve applied to! I’ll hopefully have more updates come March…
But enough about my academics. Today, I’ll wrap up my blog series, Stalking Authors, with the acclaimed Fyodor Dostoyevsky!
Dostoyevsky is the author of books like Crime and Punishment (my favourite!) and the Brothers Karamazov, as well as short stories like Notes from the Underground & the Double. His stories centres around themes like psychology, redemption, and theology. If you have not yet read him, I recommend you do.
So one disclaimer: It was exceedingly difficult to find information on Dostoyevsky’s writing habits. I think it’s partly because he’s a Russian author and because he’s from the 19th century. What I did find was some odd eating habits (Russian cuisines and specifically made strong black tea) and that he journalled.
The Drawings and Calligraphy of Fyodor Dostoevsky contains his drafting notes covered with his writings and drawings. There are mainly three aspects that helped him when brainstorming like this: Art, Penmanship, and Narratives.
Dostoyevsky was educated at the Military Engineering Academy, where he picked up his drawing skills. He was fascinated with architecture, and liked to draw motifs around that subject. One can find illustrations like oak leaves, fleurons, and Gothic architecture features (i. e. Windows, towers, arches, etc.). Some say that the vertical style of Gothic architecture is symbolic to his writings. After all, what better way than to brainstorm symbolism than by drawing them?
Along the lines of his art, Dostoyevsky liked to change his fonts depending on character, setting, and story. For stories like the Idiot and Demons, he used a lot of flowery calligraphy. For others, he would use sharp little fonts and scrawling letters. Other times, he would resort to simple longhand. But whatever fonts he used, he would use them accordingly. Which, by the way, totally resonates with how I like to change my fonts according to certain WIPs.
And here comes the most important aspect to his writing: He used his notes to brainstorm segments of his story. When I would look into his notes, I won’t be able to make heads or tails of his narratives and seemingly random arrangement, but to Dostoyevsky, the process was logical and vital to him creating masterworks of classics.
4 Authors’ Q & A
Before all the craze of journaling and storyboarding, people from 200 years ago were already on it. To conclude this series, I’d like to call back our previous guests we’ve stalked so far for a little Q & A session.
Q1. Can you tell us about your writing habits?
Lewis (CSL): I have breakfast around 8:00am, then start writing from 9:00 until lunch on an ideal day. Then I take a walk, have tea, and read or write some more.
Tolkien (JRRT): Habits? What are habits?
Lindgren (AL): I usually write or edit one of my books till lunch (often in bed), then go over to the publishers in the afternoon to work as an editor.
Dostoyevsky (FMD): I don’t know (since there isn’t much information).
Q2. What should aspiring authors write about?
CSL: People should write about the things they are interested in and love.
JRRT: I wholeheartedly agree with what Lewis says. My interest in languages and old tales began from an early age, and look where it evolved into!
AL: I agree, but would add that people should try writing for the child within themselves. That’s where the miracle happens.
(Lewis and Tolkien cheerfully agree.)
FMD: I would say the same. Except, any topic you choose to write, think about it on deeper levels. That really helps you get the bigger picture of the story.
Q3. Do you type or hand write?
CSL: People should never type. It tends to destroy the writing flow.
JRRT: And I fully disagree. My American Hammond Varityper (made in 1927) worked perfectly fine, except that it was kind of heavy. I’ve always dreamt of having an electronic typewriter that could type in Fëanorian script.
AL: Well, I began my career as a typist/secretary, so I may be biased…
CSL: (dismayed) You all are! And Tolkien, my friend, what about your wonderful long-hand?
JRRT: (grudgingly) It causes me great pain, but I do write my notes longhand.
FMD: Ahem, I hope I’m not intruding, but I write everything by hand. So what’s a typewriter? I’m afraid my Engineering school didn’t cover that topic.
REST: (smiling) Never you mind, dear sir. It’s been found people can both hand write and type, to certain extents.
Q4. How should people edit?
CSL: I don’t. But then when I must, I have my wife help me work out scenes that don’t quite fit. Or reading it aloud helps.
JRRT: Well,I kind of have my best editing partner here with me [refers to Lewis], and he does a fantastic job of it. When he would get bored at a section, I would try to revise it. He always told me I could “do better than that”!
AL: In case you didn’t know, I’m an editor and an author. So this comes to me naturally, I suppose. I write in the mornings–that’s when I have my writing cap on–then I go over to the publishers and put on my editing hat.
FMD: I can’t really say. My notes almost always helped me form my thoughts into a coherent enough story, and I was always writing on a deadline. If I had more time to edit, I would have been able to achieve a greater literary style!
Q5. How can authors improve their prose?
CSL: People should never use “big words” for the sake of it. That causes a big misunderstanding. Clarity is the most important thing when writing. We don’t want to be told the cake was tasty. We want to taste the cake.
JRRT: When you can’t work it into prose, write it in poetry. Poetry has a different flow from hard prose, and it really improves your writing. Oh, and creating new languages as well as maps also come in handy!
AL: If you can’t explain what you wrote to children, there’s a problem. Or better yet, have a child read your work (unless it’s not appropriate), and ask them about the parts that’s hard to understand. You’ll be surprised at how on the point they can be.
FMD: Notebooking every single idea that comes to you helps. Try adding little sketches, different cursive styles, etc., etc. Or, to drastically change things, you can be sent to an execution stopped at the last minute, then to Siberia. (Smiles diabolically)
JRRT: I like the idea of notebooks, which I sort of did. I don’t know about execution. Somme was enough for me.
CSL: Yes, wars, are a terrible thing. But it does help you rethink the world around you…I think we’re a little off-topic, don’t you think?
REST: That’s quite true.
CSL: I think that’s it, and thank you for having us!
Okay, so there we have it. A nice conclusion to our series, Stalking Authors. I hope you liked the series! Did you find any new perspectives about writing? Who was your favourite author in the series? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!