Neal Stephenson started out writing on a typewriter, but when he began work on The Baroque Cycle, he decided to write the whole thing with a fountain pen. In an interview for Quicksilver, Stephenson said, “I’ve written every word of it so far with fountain pen on paper. Part of the theory was that it would make me less long-winded, but it hasn’t actually worked.” The plan didn’t seem to have worked out at all, as I believe the complete Baroque Cycle turned out to be his longest work yet:
|I’m currently reading books 4 and 5 (con-fused together) of the 8 books that stack of paper was eventually turned into. (Image courtesy http://www.nealstephenson.com)|
It would seem that writing with a pen worked out better than when he used a typewriter – at least better than when he used a typewriter to write his first novel The Big U. During a keynote speech in 2003, Stephenson told the story of how his first novel was created. He had written up an outline, character biographies, and a few sample chapters, which he sent out to a bunch of editors. One of them replied back with interest, requesting that Stephenson send along the entire novel. Stephenson was excited, but quickly realized there was a problem – he hadn’t written the novel yet. He was working a standard full-time job, so he used all his vacation days - and including the 4th of July - that gave him 10 days to write the novel.
UPDATE - May 2nd, 2011: Logan Cale on Reddit taught me something cool about Stephenson's manuscript for The Baroque Cycle: "It's pretty awesome, the Baroque Cycle manuscript is (or was at one point) on display at the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, along with all the ink bottles and cartridges he consumed while writing it, and what appears to be his blotting paper."
The Physical Writing Process: Franz Kafka - Quartered Onionskin Paper
The Physical Writing Process: Writing in the Bathtub - The Duality of Dalton Trumbo as Screenwriter and Novelist
The Physical Writing Process: Maxine Hong Kingston - From Drawings to Words Across a Multitude of Drafts