Beautiful Notes From Your Favorite Authors

There’s no way Ulysses was written on a whim. Likewise, from J.K. Rowling to John Keats, all the most novel ideas needed some structure before the ink hit the paper. All the character names, love triangles, plot twists, and existential crises had to be written down somewhere. While we think it’s safe to assume Dostoyevsky wasn’t jotting down ideas on pink sticky notes, all those unutterable strings of syllables that are actually Russian names had to get confusing.  The solution?  Notes – lots and lots of notes. When you peak beneath the fleshy prose, notes are the bones of a book. They ground a book, giving the reader some sense of gravity, and seeing them is pretty inspirational. Once you can make sense of the scribbles, that is. Here are a few of our favorites.


1. Jennifer Egan, from her short story “Black Box”

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Some authors, like Egan, opt for a tidy pragmatic layout. Box to box, scene to scene, everything is neatly contained. We can’t claim the same tidiness of her penmanship though…


2. James Salter, from Light Years

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Salter constructs his outline in a linear form. Between quoted lines and discrete plot scenes, you can see his lingering questions and frantic reminders… “Go through notebooks!”


3. Fyodor Dostoevsky, from Crime and Punishment

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The most beautiful… and most illegible writing.


4. Vladamir Nabokov, miscellaneous notes 

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Good luck deciphering this one. Even if you speak Russian…


5. J.K. Rowling, from The Order Of the Phoenix

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Month by month and chapter by chapter, Rowling keeps the chronology clean.


6. Joseph Heller, from Catch 22

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Outline or board game? You tell us.


7. Lewis Carroll, from Alice in Wonderland 

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Do these sketches look familiar?


8. John Keats, hand written poetry 

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Beautiful prose from the iconic Romantic poet.


9. Sylvia Plath, from The Bell Jar

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Looking a little more legible…


10. David Foster Wallace’s notes


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The smiley stickers are a nice touch.


In all of the featured notes there’s an intimacy that you just don’t get from typed work. Full sentences, scattered words, drawings, and stickers – you can almost envision the writers hunched over a desk and immersed in their ideas. Seeing their scribbled jargon is not only comforting to those of us with helplessly poor penmanship, but a testimony to the difficulties of writing. A glossy cover and clean font always seem to wipe clean all the snags and snafus of writing, but these outlines are a testimony to the long taxing process. Straight from the brain of a great to the closest piece of paper, consider these outlines creative justice. 

What’s your favorite?