喜欢在浴室里创作的朱诺特•迪亚斯（Junot Diaz），到穿得跟小说人物一样的尼科尔森•贝克（Nicholson Baker），11位顶尖作家与我们分享他们如何写出惊世名作的方法。
理查德•鲍威尔斯（Richard Powers）会整天躺在床上，对着有语音识别软件的笔记本电脑大声说出小说的情节。凭借《奥斯卡•瓦奥短暂而奇异的一生》（'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao'）赢得普利策奖（Pulitzer）的朱诺特•迪亚斯每当要处理一段理不清的章节时，总会把自己关在浴室里，带着笔记本电脑坐在浴缸的边沿上。以描写英国都铎王朝的历史小说《狼厅》（Wolf Hall）获得今年布克大奖（Man Booker Prize）的希拉里•曼特尔（Hilary Mantel）一写不下去的时候，就会跑去淋浴。曼特尔女士说，我没法告诉你，我的小说里有多少页是被水浇出来的。
今年的文学界异常多产，一些响当当的作家都有新作问世。石黑一雄(Kazuo Ishiguro) 、奥尔罕•帕慕克（Orhan Pamuk）、鲍威尔斯先生和尼科尔森•贝克等一众著名作家均有新书面市。
当被问及他们如何写作的时候，有几个作家难掩怒气。理查德•福特(Richard Ford )拒绝透露自己的写作习惯，他在一封电子邮件中解释说，那都是些"我希望在读书会和演讲后没人来问我的"问题。还有一些作家则大谈细枝末节，甚至小到他们喜欢的钢笔品牌（阿米塔夫•戈什(Amitav Ghosh)非常相信牌百利金（Pelikan）钢笔）或者字体大小（安妮•赖斯（Anne Rice）通常使用14号Courier字体；美国国家图书奖（National Book Award）入围者科伦•麦克恩（Colum McCann）有时候会使用8号Times New Roman字体，迫使自己眯着眼睛才能看清）。现在，也有一些作家主动向粉丝提供关于自己写书过程的窗口，在博客和Twitter上报告自己的创作进展。约翰•欧文(John Irving)就在自己的网站上描绘，他总是先写出小说的最后一句话，才开始小说的开头部分。
土耳其作家、诺贝尔文学奖（Nobel）得主奥尔罕•帕慕克经常会把小说的第一句话写上50或者100遍。帕慕克先生说，"最难的事情莫过于第一句话──这很痛苦。"他基于伊斯坦布尔70年代一段爱情故事的新作《天真的博物馆》（'The Museum of Innocence'）刚刚于上个月出版。
石黑一雄已经出版六部小说，其中包括布克大奖的得主《落日余辉》（'Remains of the Day'）。他通常会为一部小说花上两年的时间做研究，然后用一年的时间进行创作。由于他的小说以第一人称叙事，叙事的腔调尤其重要，因此他会从不同人物的角度写上几个章节，对叙事者进行"试听"。在开始写草稿之前，他会编制笔记文件夹、流程图，不仅策划故事情节，而且也关乎情节展开后更为微妙的层面，比如人物的情感或者记忆。
《英国病人》（'English Patient'）的作者迈克尔•翁达杰喜欢使用8 1/2x11英寸大小的Muji品牌系列的笔记本。他通常会手写完成最初三四稿，有时候还用剪刀和胶带对段落、甚至整个章节剪剪贴贴。他的有些笔记本，里页叠着四层。
凯特•克里斯滕森在创作她的第一部小说《醉梦人生》（'In the Drink'）──讲述一位嗜酒的受雇写手的故事──的时候，开始并没有搞清楚这本书到底要讲什么。在写了两年，写下了150页后，她彻底颠覆了草稿，扔掉了其中很多章节，又重新开始。她说，这个过程在她写第二、第三和第四部小说的时候再次上演。关于她2009年的新作《麻烦》（'Trouble'），小说开头也卡住了。这是一部讲述两位女性去墨西哥冒险的故事。克里斯滕森女士说，她的许多写作时间都是花在"什么也不写"上的。家住纽约Tribeca的克里斯滕森女士在大多数早上都会收拾家务，写邮件，打电话，以免面对自己的工作。过去，她在打下第一句话之前，会玩上30次纸牌游戏。
有两次，阿特伍德女士在写了几百页之后放弃了整部小说，一次是在60年代，一次是在80年代初期。所幸，她从其中一部小说里拯救了一句话，由另外一部小说创作了两个短篇小说，其中一篇就是《急流漩》（'The Whirlpool Rapids'）
How To Write A Great Novel
[From writing in the bathroom (Junot Diaz) to dressing in character (Nicholson Baker), 11 top authors share their methods for getting the story on the page]
Richard Powers lounges in bed all day and speaks his novels aloud to a laptop computer with voice-recognition software. Junot Diaz, author of the Pulitzer-prize winning novel 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,' shuts himself in the bathroom and perches on the edge of the tub with his notebook when he's tackling a knotty passage. Hilary Mantel, whose Tudor drama 'Wolf Hall' claimed this year's Man Booker Prize, jumps in the shower when she gets stuck. 'The number of pages I've got that are water marked, I can't tell you,' Ms. Mantel said.
An unusually robust crop of books from some of the biggest names in literature has landed this fall. Kazuo Ishiguro, Orhan Pamuk, Mr. Powers and Nicholson Baker have new books out, along with a host of other prominent authors.
Behind the scenes, many of these writers say they struggle with the daily work of writing, clocking thousands of solitary hours staring at blank pages and computer screens. Most agree on common hurdles: procrastination, writer's block, the terror of failure that looms over a new project and the attention-sucking power of the Internet.
A few authors bristle when asked the inevitable question about how they write. Richard Ford declined to reveal his habits, explaining in an email that those are 'the questions I hope no one asks me after readings and lectures.' Others revel in spilling minute details, down to their preferred brand of pen (Amitav Ghosh swears by black ink Pelikan pens) or font size (Anne Rice uses 14-point Courier; National Book Award finalist Colum McCann sometimes uses eight-point Times New Roman, forcing himself to squint at the tiny type). Some now offer fans a window into the process, reporting on their progress on blogs and Twitter feeds. On his author Web site, John Irving describes how he begins his novels by writing the last sentence first.
Here is how a range of leading authors describe their approach to writing -- a process that can be lonely, tedious, frustrating and exhilarating.
Most days, Nicholson Baker rises at 4 a.m. to write at his home in South Berwick, Maine. Leaving the lights off, he sets his laptop screen to black and the text to gray, so that the darkness is uninterrupted. After a couple of hours of writing in what he calls a dreamlike state, he goes back to bed, then rises at 8:30 to edit his work.
Turkish novelist and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk often rewrites the first line of his novels 50 or 100 times. 'The hardest thing is always the first sentence -- that is painful,' says Mr. Pamuk, whose book, 'The Museum of Innocence,' a love story set in 1970s Istanbul, came out last month.
Mr. Pamuk writes by hand, in graph-paper notebooks, filling a page with prose and leaving the adjacent page blank for revisions, which he inserts with dialogue-like balloons. He sends his notebooks to a speed typist who returns them as typed manuscripts; then he marks the pages up and sends them back to be retyped. The cycle continues three or four times.
British novelist Hilary Mantel likes to write first thing in the morning, before she has uttered a word or had a sip of coffee. She usually jots down ideas and notes about her dreams. 'I get very jangled if I can't do it,' she says.
KAZUO Ishiguro, author of six novels, including the Booker-prize winning 'Remains of the Day,'typically spends two years researching a novel and a year writing it. Since his novels are written in the first person, the voice is crucial, so he 'auditions' narrators by writing a few chapters from different characters' points of view. Before he begins a draft, he compiles folders of notes and flow charts that lay out not just the plot but also more subtle aspects of the narrative, such as a character's emotions or memories.
The novel 'English Patient' author Michael Ondaatje's preferred medium is 8 1/2-by-11-inch Muji brand lined notebooks. He completes the first three or four drafts by hand, sometimes literally cutting and pasting passages and whole chapters with scissors and tape. Some of his notebooks have pages with four layers underneath.
Words come easily for the author -- the bulk of the work is arranging and rewriting sentences. 'I don't understand this whole concept of writer's block,' says Mr. Ondaatje, who says he is working on a novel at the moment but declines to elaborate. 'If I get stuck, I work on another scene.'
Mr. Ondaatje, who started out as a poet, says plots often come to him as 'a glimpse of a small situation.' His 1992 novel 'The English Patient' started out as two images: one of a patient lying in bed talking to a nurse, and another of a thief stealing a photograph of himself.
Sometimes he goes through an 'anarchic' stage, cutting out characters or rearranging scenes. 'Some writers know what the last sentence is going to be before they begin -- I don't even know what the second sentence is going to be,' says Mr. Ondaatje, whose most recent novel, 'Divisadero,' came out in 2007.
Richard Powers, whose books are often concept-driven, intricately plotted and stuffed with arcane science, wrote his last three novels while lying in bed, speaking to a lap-top computer with voice-recognition software.
To write 'Generosity,' his recent novel about the search for a happiness gene, he worked like this for eight or nine hours a day. He uses a stylus pen to edit on a touch screen, rewriting sentences and highlighting words.
Kate Christensen was two years and 150 pages into her first novel, 'In the Drink,' about a boozy ghostwriter, before she discovered what the book was really about -- so she dismantled the draft, threw out a bunch of pages and started over. The process repeated itself with her second, third and fourth novels, she says. With her 2009 novel 'Trouble,' a story about two women who go on a Thelma and Louise-like adventure to Mexico, the opening finally stuck. Ms. Christensen, who works out of her home in Tribeca, says a lot of her writing time is spent 'not writing.' Most mornings, she does housework, writes emails and talks on the phone to avoid facing her work. In the past, she's played 30 games of solitaire before typing a first sentence.
'Put your left hand on the table. Put your right hand in the air. If you stay that way long enough, you'll get a plot,' Margaret Atwood says when asked where her ideas come from. When questioned about whether she's ever used that approach, she adds, 'No, I don't have to.'
Ms. Atwood, who has written 13 novels, as well as poetry, short stories and nonfiction works, rarely gets writer's block. When ideas hit her, she scribbles phrases and notes on napkins, restaurant menus, in the margins of newspapers. She starts with a rough notion of how the story will develop, 'which usually turns out to be wrong,' she says. She moves back and forth between writing longhand and on the computer. When a narrative arc starts to take shape, she prints out chapters and arranges them in piles on the floor, and plays with the order by moving piles around.
Twice, she's abandoned books after a couple hundred pages, one in the late 1960s and another in the early 1980s. She was able to salvage a single sentence from one book, and carved two short stories out of the other, including one titled 'The Whirlpool Rapids.'