Crappy First Drafts of Great Books, Part II

More on crappy first drafts

Posted Apr 08, 2012


The other day I wrote a blog post on the crappy drafts of great books. It included pages from the actual drafts of great novels. My friend, the Nabokov scholar Brian Boyd, sent me another great example. This one is from Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading.This is the very first page of the novel, and if you are having trouble reading it, it's not just because the page is a mess. The novel was written in Russian—the language of Nabokov's first novels.I love these manuscript pages. They are artifacts of great minds at work. When we pick up a great book, we just see the finished product. We can't see all the struggle that went into it. These manuscript pages capture the messiness of the creative process. Nabokov is as talented a writer who has ever lived--and look how hard he had to work. I'm going to frame this and put it up on my wall as a reminder that the success of great writers owes as much to doggedness as talent. 


Jonathan Gottschall is the author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human.